Butterfly Bush Care: When Do Butterfly Bushes Bloom?

Learn when butterfly bushes bloom and how to prune and take care of a butterfly bush, plus why some varieties are not appropriate for every garden.

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

Butterfly Bush Care: Protection in Winter

“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. 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.

“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

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!

Read more: 8 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. Check out the top flowering shrubs that birds and butterflies love.

Tip: 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.

Find more alternatives to invasive shrubs.

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Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers is a nature and gardening writer whose specialty is attracting wildlife, especially birds, to the garden. She contributes regularly to the magazine Birds & Blooms, and lectures widely on creating gardens that please both human and avian visitors.