How Do I Remove Butterfly Bush?

“I just moved into a new house and will be removing a butterfly bush. How much of the root ball do I need to remove so it doesn’t come back?” Question from MaryAnn of Portland, Oregon

Answer: Though beautiful, standard butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) tend to be very weedy and invasive, which is why gardeners often remove it. Remove the whole root system to make sure that it does not come back. The process will require sharp hand pruners or loppers, good garden gloves, and a sharp, heavy spade. Cut back all of the top growth, so you don’t have branches in the way when you start digging. Then dig deeply around the rootball, and pull it up when it’s fully loose. It should not be too difficult. Butterfly bushes don’t have very dense, deep root systems, so they are fairly easy to remove. Let me know if you want any ideas for replacements!

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist



When is the Best Time to Prune Buddleia in California?

“When is the best time to prune Buddleia?” Question from Angie of Fort Bragg, California

Answer: In your coastal Mendocino County location, I would cut your butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.) back when your cool, wet winter hits. Butterfly bush does not look its best when chillier temperatures hit, even though it remains evergreen to semi-evergreen where you live, so prune it back by 1-2 feet once it stops blooming well, and its leaves start to flag. This will also make your garden look tidier during the chillier months and result in a more compact shrub. And, because it blooms on new wood and grows post-pruning quickly, you can feel confident that the shrub and flower buds will not be harmed.

Another factor is that butterfly bush self-sows prolifically and is considered invasive in your area. Pruning it back and removing its old buds before seedset will also reduce the chance of spread in your garden and beyond.

I hope that this information helps!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


How Do I Care For My Butterfly Bush in Fall?

“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.

Butterfly Bush Pruning Time

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.

Butterfly Bush Fertilization

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