Butterfly Bush Care: When Do Butterfly Bushes Bloom?

Updated: Jun. 12, 2023

Learn when butterfly bush blooms and how to prune and care for the flowering shrubs. Plus learn if you can grow butterfly bush in containers.

Butterfly Bush Care: Protection in Winter

Eastern tiger swallowtail on butterfly bushCourtesy Janine Burke
Eastern tiger swallowtail on butterfly bush

“I have difficulty overwintering butterfly bush (Buddleia) and end up replanting most of them each year,” says Deanna Frautschi of Bloomington, Illinois. “Any tips for better success?”

“For butterfly bush care, patience is the key,” Melinda Myers says. “Allow your plants to stand over winter to increase their winter hardiness (you’ll enjoy the winter interest, too). If you choose to add some winter mulch, wait until the soil freezes before covering the base of the plant with evergreen boughs or straw. Consider enclosing the mulched plant with a cylinder of hardware cloth to keep the rabbits and voles out. In late winter or early spring, cut the plants back to 4 to 6 inches above the ground. Then wait.”

Butterfly Bush Growing Zones

“How can I keep butterfly bushes alive through winter in Zone 6a? I have lost one per year for the past four years,” asks Connie Mason Etter of Martinsville, Indiana

Melinda says, “Keep trying! I am a Zone 5a gardener and have had success with butterfly bushes, both in a small city lot and now in a more brutal, open rural location. Grow these plants in a sunny, well-draining spot. Avoid late-season fertilization because it promotes growth that is likely to be winter killed. Leave the plants standing to increase hardiness and provide winter interest.

Cut them back to 4 to 6 inches above the ground in late winter or early spring, before growth begins. Then be patient. Mine have sprouted as late as mid-July after an extremely cold winter and cool spring. The bushes quickly reached full size and were covered with blooms and butterflies by early August. Well worth the wait!”

Find more super fragrant flowers pollinators love.

When Do Butterfly Bushes Bloom?

After a harsh winter or cool spring, you may not see signs of interest until June or even early July. But if the roots survived, they will quickly generate new growth and blooms for the butterflies to enjoy from August until frost.

Is Butterfly Bush Invasive?

Butterfly bush is invasive in some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest. Avoid growing it, or try planting seedless varieties like Lo and Behold Lilac Chip.

Check out the top flowering shrubs that birds and butterflies love.

How to Grow Butterfly Bush in Containers

Inspired Violet Buddleia4035Courtesy of Proven Winners - Provenwinners.com
Butterfly bushes can grow in containers with extra winter protection

“I can’t seem to find information about growing butterfly bushes in containers. How do they fare, and is it worth trying?” asks Emily Rumpf of Cato, New York.

Melinda says, “Butterfly bushes, as well as other trees, shrubs and perennials, can be grown in containers. You’ll have the greatest chance at winter survival growing plants that are at least one zone hardier than your region. In cold climates, you will need to provide extra winter protection.

Move the plants into an unheated garage and water any time the soil is thawed and dry. Or cover the roots with wood chips and surround with bagged soil or some other type of insulation. Another option is to sink the pot in a vacant part of your garden that is sheltered.”

This Inspired Violet butterfly bush (pictured above) is a seedless noninvasive variety that attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Next, find more alternatives to invasive shrubs.