My Butterfly Bush is Out of Control: Pruning Tips and Tricks

If you’ve planted a butterfly bush, also known as buddleia, in your garden, chances are you’ll need to prune it back from time to time. These fast-growing shrubs can look great in bloom, but if left unchecked, they can quickly get out of control and take over your garden. 

My Butterfly Bush is Out of Control

What is a butterfly bush and why do I need to prune it?

Understanding the Butterfly Bush

The butterfly bush is a popular landscape shrub that can grow up to 6-12 feet tall and 4-15 feet wide. 

It’s called a butterfly bush because its fragrant flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. 

The most common varieties are the black knight butterfly bush and the hydrangea butterfly bush.

Benefits of Pruning your Butterfly Bush

Pruning your butterfly bush has several benefits. 

  • It helps to control its size and promote new growth. 
  • It can improve its overall health by removing dead or damaged stems. 
  • Pruning can help to increase its blooming capacity by promoting the growth of new wood.

When to Prune a Butterfly Bush

The best time to prune your butterfly bush is in late winter or early spring before new growth appears. 

This allows you to see the plant’s overall structure and make any necessary cuts before it starts to bloom. Late fall is also a good time to cut it back. 

Don’t prune it in summer, as this can cause the shrub to put all of its energy into producing new growth instead of blooming.

How do I prune my butterfly bush?

Tools You Will Need

Before you begin pruning your butterfly bush, it’s important to have the right tools on hand. You will need a pair of pruning shears, loppers, and a pruning saw. 

You may also want to wear gloves to protect your hands from thorns and other debris.

Steps to Prune Your Butterfly Bush

  • To prune your butterfly bush, start by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased stems. Cut them back to healthy wood using pruning shears or loppers. 
  • Cut the remaining stems back to a height of around 2-3 feet, leaving a few inches of old wood to help support new growth. 
  • For heavy pruning, you can cut it back to the ground, but this should only be done in extreme cases. 
  • Remove any suckers or new growth emerging from the base of the plant.

What to do with the Pruned Material

Once you’ve finished pruning your butterfly bush, you can dispose of the pruned material by throwing it away or composting it. 

Just make sure to remove any diseased or damaged material to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.

What should I expect after pruning my butterfly bush?

New Growth Expectations

After pruning your butterfly bush, you can expect to see new growth emerge from the remaining stems within a few weeks. 

This new growth will help to thicken up the shrub and promote more blooms in the coming season.

Blooming Capacity after Pruning

If you’ve pruned your butterfly bush correctly, you should see an increase in its blooming capacity in the following season. 

By removing dead or damaged stems and cutting back the remaining stems, you allow the plant to put more energy into producing new wood and flowers.

How to Deal with Die Back

If your butterfly bushes die back during the winter, don’t panic! Cut them way back to the ground in late winter or early spring and they will grow back in the coming season. Just be patient and give them time to recover.

Butterfly Bush is Out of Control

How to care for your butterfly bush after pruning?

Mulching and Fertilizing Tips

After you’ve pruned your butterfly bush, it’s important to help it recover by providing adequate soil moisture and nutrients.

Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. You can also apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring to promote healthy growth.

Watering and Drainage Requirements

Be sure to water your butterfly bush deeply and regularly after pruning, especially during the hot summer months. 

Make sure the soil has good drainage to prevent root rot. Overwatering can be just as damaging as under watering, so be mindful of your watering habits.

Attracting Butterflies to Your Pruned Butterfly Bush

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, prune back your butterfly bush in early spring to promote new growth and more blooms. Butterflies are attracted to the bright, fragrant blooms and will often feed on the nectar. 

You can also plant other native plants and flowers to provide food and habitat for butterflies and other pollinators.

What are the common problems that can arise when pruning a butterfly bush?

Vigorous Growth and How to Deal with It

Butterfly bushes are fast growing shrubs, and sometimes pruning alone isn’t enough to control their growth. If your butterfly bush is growing too vigorously, you can cut it back more frequently or even trim it during the growing season to keep it in check.

Dealing with Damaged Stems

If you encounter damaged stems when pruning your butterfly bush, cut them back to healthy wood to prevent the spread of disease or pests. If the damage is severe, you may need to remove the entire stem.

Pruning a Dormant Butterfly Bush

If you have a dormant or deciduous butterfly bush, you can prune it back in late fall or early spring before new growth appears. This will help to promote new growth and more blooms in the coming season.

Pruning your butterfly bush may seem daunting, but with these tips and tricks, you’ll have a beautiful, healthy shrub that will attract butterflies for years to come. 

Remember to prune your butterfly bush in late winter or early spring, provide adequate care and maintenance, and enjoy the beautiful blooms!


Q: What is the common name for buddleia?

A: The common name for buddleia is butterfly bush.

Q: My butterfly bush is growing out of control. What should I do?

A: Butterfly bushes can get very big if not pruned regularly. It is best to prune them back in late winter or early spring to keep them to a manageable size. You can cut it back as much as 12 inches from the ground.

Q: When is the best time to prune butterfly bushes?

A: It is best to prune butterfly bushes in late winter or early spring. They bloom on new wood, so pruning them back at this time will promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Q: I accidentally cut my butterfly bush back too much. Will it come back?

A: Butterfly bushes are very resilient and usually respond well to pruning. If you cut it back too much, it may be set back for a season, but it should come back beautifully the following year.

Q: Can I prune my butterfly bush in the middle of summer?

A: It’s generally best to prune butterfly bushes in late winter or early spring. However, if your bush is getting out of control, you can cut it back in late summer to promote new growth before the cooler temperatures of fall and winter.

Q: How do I prune a butterfly bush?

A: To prune a butterfly bush, use sharp, clean shears to cut back the branches to about 12 inches from the ground. This will help promote new growth and abundant blooms.

Q: My butterfly bush is taking over my garden. Can I plant a smaller butterfly bush?

A: Yes, there are many varieties of buddleia that grow to a more manageable size. Look for a smaller butterfly bush, such as the dwarf butterfly bush, which grows to only a few feet tall and wide.

Q: My butterfly bush lost its butterfly appeal. What can I do?

A: If your butterfly bush has lost its butterfly appeal, it could be due to pruning it at the wrong time, or it could be due to overcrowding. It’s best to prune it back early in the spring to promote new growth, and make sure it’s not competing with other plants for nutrients and sunlight.

Q: Can I cut a butterfly bush back to the ground?

A: Yes, you can cut a butterfly bush back to the ground if needed. It may take a season for it to fully recover, but it will send out new growth and bloom again.

Q: What is buddleia davidii?

A: Buddleia davidii is the scientific name for the butterfly bush. It is a deciduous shrub that grows in full sun and is known for its abundant blooms that attract butterflies.

Q: My butterfly bush is a tree bush. Is this normal?

A: Butterfly bush can be pruned into a tree form, but it is not the natural growth habit of the plant. If you prefer a bushier habit, prune it back to encourage new growth from the base.

Leave a Comment