Butterfly Bushes definitely live up to their name. I have a dozen of these bushes scattered through out the backyard and my children and I love watching the butterflies flit from bush to bush.
How to Grow Butterfly Bushes
How to Plant Butterfly Bushes
Plant Butterfly bushes in the spring or fall. They need full sun and well-drained soil. Think carefully about the location when planting they will grow to be over 4′ wide and 4′ to 6′ tall. Make sure you space butterfly plants 5 – 8 feet apart.
Dig your hole, twice large as the root ball, loosen the soil, mix in compost. When placing the plant in the hole, the top of the rootball should be level with the soil surface. fill in with soil that has been mixed with compost and water thoroughly.
Caring for Butterfly Bushes
In the summer, water if your rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. You can water freely during periods of growth, but you can cut back on your watering during periods of dormancy.
Each spring, apply a thin layer of compost. Other than that, you don't need to worry about fertilizing your butterfly bush. Too much fertilizer supports leaf growth instead of flower production.
Each spring, apply a thin layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. In cold climates, spread mulch up to 6 inches deep around the trunk to protect it through the winter. Remove the excess mulch in the spring, add a thin layer of compost and reapply a thin layer of mulch.
They will die back to the root in cold winters. Butterfly bushes are very late to break dormancy, so do not try to assess winter damage until very late spring.
Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood, so even if there is no winter die-back, cut them back to within 6 – 12 inches of the ground every spring to stimulate new growth on which flowers are produced.
Growing Butterfly Bushes
I think I would enjoy these hardy plants even if they didn’t attract so many butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. They require very little water, do not mind poor soil, are unfazed by 100 degree heat, and can survive –20 degree winters. Around here they are known as easy keepers!
The bushes in my backyard, die back to the ground in the winter. I have a microclimate which is a little warmer in the front yard and the bushes there remain green year round. I advise putting at least 6 inches of mulch around the plants in the fall if you live in zones 4 – 6, to help them weather the winter.
I have bushes with pink, white, and lavender flowers, though none of the white flowers have opened yet. They remind me of lilacs with all of their little trumpet flowers. They differ from lilacs, in that they do not have a short flowering season. They will bloom from spring to fall, unless they are under unusual stress. Once the temperatures reach the mid 90’s my Butterfly Bushes stop producing new flowers. They resume once the temperatures drop back to the 80’s.
In the picture above, is a spent flower, flanked by two blooming spikes, with another flower beginning to form lower on the branch. I think the spent flowers still look pretty, so I leave them for a while. However, removing spent flowers does encourage new shoots and flower buds.
The flowers start opening from the base and work their way to the tip of the spike. They do not drop their blooms once they are done flowering, so they must be pruned. I don’t think there is any agreed upon way to prune Butterfly Bushes, though most gardeners agree that they are very forgiving and will survive just about any pruning they receive.
To save money on landscaping our yard with butterfly bushes, I bought 1 gallon sized plants. They grow fairly quickly and within in 2 years our bushes were over 4 feet tall. If you buy small plants, keep in mind the fact that they will 6 feet high and 3 – 4 feet wide when you are planning where to plant them.