pruning a butterfly bush - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 10-17-2006, 04:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I live in zone 5 and have a butterfly bush (well, butterfly garden) and am told because its an invasive plant I should cut it back to the ground after summer flowering. It does appear to to be loosing its flowers now, it hasn't frosted yet though. When is the best time to prune this bush to the ground?
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#2 of 11 Old 10-17-2006, 06:35 PM
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Also a zone 5, I don't prune until the spring. You do need a severe prune of Budellia, 8-12 inches from the ground before buds appear. I usually pruned in March sometime.

Martha Stewart has a fabulous plant encyclopedia of plants, trees, shurbs and flowers. All sorts of very useful info - pruning, sowing, ph levels, general care and appearance.
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#3 of 11 Old 10-18-2006, 02:13 AM
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I've never heard of butterfly bushes being invasive. I planted 3 in my yard this year (I'm also in zone 5). As far as I can tell, the plants will die back to the ground on their own with our winters, and you shouldn't prune them until spring.

Growing Butterfly Bushes in the Home Landscape (ISU)
Butterfly Bush Lives Up To Its Name (ISU)
Frequently Asked Questions (
Buddleja (Wikipedia, which says that B. davidii can be invasive.)
Buddleia: Butterfly Bush Extraordinaire (

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#4 of 11 Old 10-18-2006, 02:22 AM
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I had 4 butterfly bush plants in my yard in Seattle (we just moved) and they all were hardier than heck. Seattle is sometimes called zone 5 and sometimes called zone 7, depends on where you look as there are different groups who categorize differently. My butterfly bushes were not the kind you see on the side of the freeway. Those are invasive. But, they were the kind that will grow taller than the house in a few months and then flop over on the rest of the yard if you don't prune them hard. I had them for 10 years and I would cut them back to at most knee height in late summer and again in mid spring, just to control the growth. Mine were in a sloping back yard and they blocked everything around them if I did not prune them twice. IF they had been on the side of the yard, I would probably have pruned them once in fall only. I cut them in late summer, before they went to seed, because otherwise they made my allergies horrible! Really, they are so hardy you can pretty much do what you want to them and they will never have a problem. They are not delicate like lilacs. They are practically indestructible. You can also prune them mid-summer, after they bloom, and they will rebloom. I did that often to part of the bushes as the butterflies in our area always came late summer.
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#5 of 11 Old 10-18-2006, 03:07 AM
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Hack it. Hack it good.


You can MOW these down and they'll be eight feet tall next summer. My mom does it every year. They will also prolifically self-seed (I swear -- we had volunteer buddleias in a completely different part of our yard), so cut 'em hard and cut 'em now. Take out your aggression on the buddleia. Really, they won't care.

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#6 of 11 Old 10-18-2006, 04:31 AM
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I have seen some weak looking butterfly bushes. The strong, lush, healthy ones I saw were regularly chopped down--to the ground--and grew back within...oh I'd guess six months? Maybe faster. Apparently they prefer a heavy pruning.
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#7 of 11 Old 10-18-2006, 03:43 PM
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I've been wondering about this with our butterfly bush. When we moved here, it was apparent that no one had pruned it in a long time. It didn't get all its leaves until June. The blooms were amazing and it drew all kinds of critters I'd never even seen before ( like the hummingbird MOTH ) So we should chop it to the ground? Ok, will do
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#8 of 11 Old 10-19-2006, 02:09 AM
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Okay, I don't know what zone I'm in (I'm in the SF Bay area) and I just planted 2 butterfly bushes this year. Would I need to prune them this year? Or wait a year or two? They were about 18" tall when I got them, now they are about 4-5 ft tall.
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#9 of 11 Old 10-19-2006, 09:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey Boongirl--

I lived in Seattle until last year when we moved here, LOL! I'm in Ohio now. I still miss those lovely mountains and mild climate. My friends here always laugh at me when I say its just too sunny here too. I guess I am a PNW girl at heart.

Well, a couple of interesting things I learned. We were stuck in an apartment for months when we first moved here so to kill time I took all these gardening classes at our local aboretum. I'm still learning! Trust me. But I did learn tons about organic gardening, composting, butterfly gardens, etc. Interestingly they told me its recommended not to have butterfly bushes in the PNW because they are too invasive out there. They will take over your entire yard because the climate makes them super hearty. SO this probably explains why they do that to your hard, Boongirl. Not sure if they will do that in the bay area, but I'd probably trim them back, because its climate is so similar to Seattle. I hadn't heard of these plants until we moved to Ohio.

Yes, they are supposed to be a somewhat invasive plant in Ohio, meaning if you don't trim them back they can reseed and populate new bushes and grow and grow and grow...exponential effect. However, if they are pruned here they are supposed to be quite manageable. Honeysuckle is supposed to be the most invasive plant here or so I am told. They also gave me a list of all the other invasive plants to avoid (like burning bush shrubs). I think the big thing with the invasive plants are they are also not good for native wildlife and wildflowers. They are supposed to be so hearty they are overdone and can rob the area of natural diversity, i.e. not leaving things for other wildlife like deers, squirrel, etc. to eat. So its an environmental thing too. I wish I had more info--but I've misplaced the handouts they gave me. I had no idea either, but it made a lot of sense.

Thanks for the suggestions guys!
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#10 of 11 Old 10-20-2006, 09:58 AM
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I cut mine back to nothing in the spring,and it grew back very well.There was enough growth in the summer that I took a few cuttings to root for other parts of the yard. Mine is not invasive,but it could use something to hold it up.
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#11 of 11 Old 10-21-2006, 11:45 PM
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I'm in 5/6...I prune my butterfly bush hard in the fall. I know you're supposed to do it in the spring, but every time I wait until spring, they die over the winter. When I prune it hard in the fall they come back in spades in the spring. *shrug* Maybe it's just me?...

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