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How Do I Care For My Butterfly Bush in Fall?

By: Jessie Keith

“What’s the best way to care for my butterfly bush, now that all the flowers are gone?  I usually cut it all the way back in the spring, which usually makes for a beautiful bush throughout the summer.  This year, not so much.  It was not very full, although it did grow quite tall.  Should I be doing something to it in the fall?”  Question from Diane of Newark, Ohio

Answer: If you trim the seed heads off of your butterfly bush (Buddleia hybrid) now, you may get a new flush of flowers before season’s end, if the weather stays moderately warm. So, don’t give up on your shrub so early. There are lots of migrating monarchs that still need food for their travels.

There are different fields of thought regarding buddleia pruning time. Some say late spring; others say it does not matter. In my experience, when you hard-prune it back (I generally prune mine back to 1 foot) depends on your hardiness zone. I have pruned mine back in both spring and fall with no difference in summer performance, but my USDA Hardiness Zone 7 garden is milder than yours. So, for your Zone 6 garden, I recommend that you wait until after the last frost of spring to prune buddleia back.

For top flowering performance, I recommend that you feed your shrub with bloom-boosting plant food. It should also get full sun for most of the day. Butterfly bushes often don’t live past 20 years, and some of the newer varieties can be shorter-lived. This must also be taken into consideration.

Happy buddleia growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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