When and How to Cut Back Your Butterfly Bush - Backyard Boss
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When and How to Cut Back Your Butterfly Bush

The butterfly bush is one of the most popular flowering shrubs around. It’s hard to resist its beautiful blooms that draw in butterflies and other pollinators. However, it’s no secret that butterfly bushes can grow a little out of control. If your bush is starting to look a smidge too thick and unmanageable, it might be time for a haircut!

Learn all the information about when and how to cut back your butterfly bush so you can enjoy it all season long!

When to Cut Back 

Buddleja flower known as butterfly bush
Image Credit: Markus Winkler via Pexels

The best time to prune your Buddleja davidii butterfly bush is when it’s dormant (after all its leaves have fallen off and before any new growth begins). Pruning butterfly bushes in late winter or early spring (January to March) helps prepare the plant for the growing season.

However, pruning too soon in the winter can result in severe freeze damage, particularly if temperatures drop in January and February.

Flowering on a butterfly bush occurs on new growth, indicating the growth that develops throughout the growing season generates all the flowers. The suggested style of pruning for this bush is “rejuvenation,” which involves cutting back hard at the end of each season.

Note: There are different species of this stunning plant as well. The Buddleja salviifolia, more commonly known as mountain sage, sageleaf butterfly bush, or South African sagewood, blooms on previous year’s wood. Same with the Buddleja alternifolia (alternate-leaf Butterfly Bush.) For these varieties, you would need to prune right after flowering.

How to Cut Back 

Close view of a gardener’s hand pruning branches of a butterfly bush with pruning shears in spring.
Image credits: Tales by Pictures via Shutterstock

The butterfly bush is fast-growing and can get quite large if not correctly maintained. That means regularly cutting it back is essential to keeping it under control. A hardy pruning can keep your butterfly bush healthy and vibrant into the next season.

Start With Clean and Sharp Tools

To start, make sure you have a good pair of clean, sharp pruning shears or garden loppers handy. You’ll also need some gardening gloves for protection, as the branches can be pretty sharp.

Prune Diseased Branches Right Away

Once you’ve got everything ready, begin by cutting off any dead or diseased branches from the base of your bush. Doing so will help prevent the disease from spreading throughout the rest of the plant.

Remove these branches — and any others rubbing against each other — as they are causing damage to your plant.

Cutting Back Your Butterfly Bush

Carefully remove all the branches on your bush back to a height of approximately 1 foot. This will allow you to keep it neat and tidy year-round while allowing plenty of room for flowers in the summer. And since some varieties can grow up to 15 feet tall, this simple task will prevent them from getting out of control.

Once you’ve pruned your butterfly bush, it’s necessary to keep up with regular maintenance. Pruning this plant every year will ensure that it grows into a healthy, beautiful specimen and won’t become overgrown.


Deadheading is a great way to keep your butterfly bush looking its best. Simply snip off the old, faded flowers at their base to encourage new growth and flowering. This quick and easy task rewards you by keeping your plant clean, healthy, and beautiful.

What Is a Butterfly Bush and How to Grow One

Butterfly bush (buddleja)
Image credits: DominikRh via Pixabay

Native to China, Buddleja davidii are beautiful deciduous shrubs that attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden. These bushy plants come in assorted colors, including purple, white, and yellow. They are easy to grow and bloom for most of the summer until the first frost in the fall.

This plant grows vigorously and is known to be invasive. So much so that selling this bush in Oregon and Washington is considered illegal. In 2011, Oregon approved the sale of different varieties that produce fewer seeds. Some include ‘Miss Molly,’ ‘Asian Moon,’ and ‘Miss Ruby’.

Buddleja davidii has numerous varieties that are hardy in zones 5 through 9, making it suitable for growing in many climates. The butterfly bush does not winter well and is vulnerable to severe freezes and frosts.

To grow butterfly bushes, start by selecting a sunny spot in your garden with well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. When planting your bush, be sure to space it far enough apart from other plants so that it has room to grow.

Once your butterfly bushes are established and growing well, you must keep the plant healthy and looking its best, which includes regular watering and pruning.

Happy And Thriving!

Now that you know how to properly prune your butterfly bush, it’s time to get out there and give it a trim! Make sure to share this article with your friends and family who have butterfly bushes of their own. Enjoy the beauty of your well-manicured butterfly bush all season long.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to prune a butterfly bush? Leave a comment below!