How To Prune Butterfly Bush: The Right Way

The butterfly bush is a tall beautiful plant that attracts all manner of pollinators to your garden. These plants are helpful to the little creatures around you and look amazing while they do it. 

If you have one of these beauties in your garden you most likely will need to know how to prune them as they can easily grow out of control. 

You are in luck because in this article we are going to cover when you should prune your butterfly bush as well as a simple guide on how you can prune these plants. So, without further ado, let us dive right in. 

How to Prune Butterfly Bush

A Bit About The Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bushes are deciduous shrubs that grow in temperate climates, and they have leaves with 5-7 lobes on their upper surface.

The flowers of the plant are usually white or pinkish. They bloom from early spring through late fall.

Butterfly bush is a very popular flowering ornamental herbaceous perennial plant. There are many varieties of butterfly bush available today but most of them were developed in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

Some of these cultivars include ‘Alba Rosa’ (1923), ‘Butterfly Bush’ (1928), ‘Cosmos’ (1966), and ‘Gulf Stream’ (1973).

Other common names for this plant include butterfly flower gardenia, butterfly honeysuckle, butterfly bush, and honeysuckle rose. 

However, there are other names used to identify the species. One such name is Philodendron bipinnatifidum.

It has been known by this scientific name since 1832 when it was described as new by William Roxburgh in Flora Indica. Its original native range was South America.

But more than 50 years ago, it was introduced into other parts of the world including Africa, Australia, and Europe.

In fact, the plants can be found as far north as Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, and Northern France. This plant is easy to cultivate and propagate from cuttings and seeds.

When Should You Prune A Butterfly Bush?

The general rule of thumb for pruning is: when the new growth is ready, and it’s not too wet. The plant does this by releasing white flowers that attract pollinators.

After about six weeks after you’ve planted your bush, look at the flowers in order to determine how far along they are growing, and whether their color indicates that the flower has begun blooming.

If so, then it’s time to start pruning.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Prune A Butterfly Bush

There are two ways to prune your bush; one way involves removing all the leaves on each branch, while another method only removes the outer layer of leaves around the base of the branches.

It really depends on what kind of shape you want your bush to take. Regardless of which technique you choose, make sure that there is no damage done to the plant itself.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Prune A Butterfly Bush

For example, if you remove the entire leaf from each branch, be careful not to cut off any of the stems and roots (the part of the plant that goes into the ground). 

Also, be gentle with the bush as any sudden pressure can easily knock the bush down. Once you decide to begin cutting back your plants, try to keep these steps short so that the plant doesn’t suffer unnecessary stress.

When you’re done pruning, remember to water your plant. This will help prevent dry soil, which could lead to disease and more problems in the future.

Below we have a simple step-by-step guide that details how you should prune your butterfly bush:

Step 1 – Your first task is to make sure that it is the right season to be pruning your butterfly bush. Early spring is the best time to begin as the plant enters its time of growth with the changing season. 

With a sharp pair of garden clippers, you will need to trim the top growth of the plant. Cut off about half of the plant. One reason for this is so that you can see what you are doing more easily. This is especially the case when you need access to the base of the plant. 

Step 2 – Using a sharp pair of loppers or even a pruning saw you will need to cut through the butterfly bush’s stem about twelve inches above the ground.

If it is possible, you should cut just above a bud or new shoots on the plant. If you want your butterfly bush to grow taller than nine feet you should leave about two feet of the stem. 

Step 3 – Your next task is to cut off any dead branches or stubs with your sharp pruning saw or loppers. Make sure that you cut flush with the butterfly bushes trunk.

This is so that there is less chance of dieback happening. While you are doing this, keep an eye out for any twiggy growths that are sprouting from the base.

These plants are very hardy and grow exceptionally quickly so you do not have to worry about being too aggressive with your cuts. 

Step 4 – Your aim of pruning a butterfly bush is to leave five to six main branches for your plant to grow from. If you cannot see any green shoots you don’t have to worry, these plants grow from under the bark.

Your last step is to use a gardening fork to alleviate the compact soil you have walked on and finally to add some mulch to the soil to help your butterfly bush keep moisture and stop weeds from sprouting underneath the plant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s that? Do you have some questions about butterfly bushes? Well, why didn’t you say so? Below we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about these amazing plants.

So, without further ado, let us begin.

Should I Cut the Dead Blooms Off Your Butterfly Bush?

Yes – After blooming has ended it is important that you remove the spent flowers from the plant, so they do not become pests. The easiest way to do this would be to simply pull them away from the bush.

You could also clip the individual petals if you prefer. Remember though, the longer the petals are left on the bush the greater chance there is of your butterfly bush spreading the virus over to other plants.

Removing the spent blossoms after flowering helps avoid this problem. To completely get rid of the virus you will need to spray the plant to kill all remaining vegetation. 

Why Does My Butterfly Bush Need Mulching?

Mulching is used to help retain moisture in the soil. Plants require good drainage to survive properly. A well-established butterfly bush will generally not need much water once established.

It requires watering at least twice per week but can often go without a lot when it is growing strongly. 

However, you may find if you overwater your butterfly bush it starts to take up to three times as long to recover from the stress.

When planting your butterfly bush make sure you dig it into your chosen spot deep enough, so water does not pool around the root zone. Also, make sure your planting hole is large enough so that roots can develop easily.

Will My Butterfly Bushes Need Repotting?

No! Butterfly bushing only requires repotting every few years to increase its size and encourage healthy growth. If you notice any sign of root rot then it is time to give your plant a new home.

For more information on how to care for a butterfly bush, we recommend checking our How-To Guide.

Is There Anything Special That I Should Know About Planting Butterfly Bushes?

The best type of soil is a moist acidic sandy loam; however, if you live somewhere that gets cold and wet during winter you must pick a site where there is adequate sunlight.

When deciding your location, it is advisable that you pick a sunny location that receives full sun throughout the day.

The soil should be kept level with flat stones or gravel placed on top to prevent erosion, especially in windy areas.

Make sure there are no roots growing below the surface to ensure the pot doesn’t sit too deep. Don’t forget to give your plant plenty of room to breathe!

How Long Does My Butterfly Bush Take To Grow?

Most types of butterfly bushes can reach heights of between two and three meters (6½ft – 10ft) given sufficient space. As previously mentioned, you can grow your butterflies indoors year-round.

Many people keep theirs inside through the coldest months of the year. However, remember that they don’t like sudden changes in temperature and must be kept consistently warm.

They need about 14 hours of light each day, with an additional hour each night. 

Depending on the variety of butterfly bush you buy, they may flower continuously throughout your entire lifetime. In colder climates, some varieties will bloom all year round while others have periods where they will not bloom.

Flowers usually start appearing in spring, last until autumn, and then stop flowering. Some people love watching their plants blossom for weeks.

Others just want to see a bloom here and there. Either way, a butterfly bush gives you something nice to look forward to each season.

What Color Flowers Do Butterfly Bushes Have? 

The butterfly bushes’ flower color varies a lot depending on the variety of plants. As a general rule blue flowers, purple flowers, and pink flowers are most common.

The best thing we can advise when it comes to the flower color of these plants is to check the packaging and what color they are advertising or to wait to purchase a fully grown plant when butterfly bushes will be in bloom. 

But, to answer your questions, butterfly bushes have blue flowers, various shades of purple flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, and white flowers. So, you have a wide variety to pick from when you get your butterfly bush. 

Final Thoughts

That is all for this article, we hope that you learned everything you need to know about pruning butterfly bushes and more.

You should now know just about everything you need to know about this topic. So, what is stopping you from getting out there and starting? 

We wish you good luck and a fantastic day. Happy Gardening!