How To Prepare Your Butterfly Bush For Winter - Backyard Boss
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How To Prepare Your Butterfly Bush For Winter

Butterfly Bush is a hardy perennial that is a garden favorite due to the riots of color it produces. It is a deciduous shrub that blooms stunning, vivid flowers in the warmer months and goes dormant during winter, dropping all its leaves. 

The cold-hardy plant can easily survive outside down to zone 5 and up to zone 9 and thrives in full sun. It is also quite easy to maintain, making it quite attractive for growers. However, you may need to take some steps to prepare your plant for the upcoming colder months to sprout back to its glory come spring.  

Prepare Your Butterfly Bush for Winter

Image credits: beauty_of_nature via Pixabay

Butterfly Bush or Buddleja is a resilient plant that can tolerate the colder season, yet it may struggle to withstand a particularly wet and cold winters. Waterlogged soil can make the roots rot and cause the plant to fail, even though it’s a perennial.

To ensure that your beloved butterfly bush lives through the winter to bloom again in the warmer months, you need to take certain measures depending on your regional climate. For certain zones, your butterfly bush may need more then a little preparation. If you live in zones below four, leaving your plant in the ground unprotected in risky.

Materials Needed

Tree in pot is wrapped in fleece for the winter
Image credits: Tanja Esser via Shutterstock

When it comes to overwintering your butterfly bushes there are some materials you’ll need.

  • Fleece 
  • Twine
  • Pots
  • Shovel
  • Potting mixture
  • Mulch

Preparing For Extreme Winter

Butterfly Bush covered with snow
Image credits: Sandra Lorenzen-Mueller via Shutterstock

If you expect an unreasonably cold winter or a cold snap, you can cover your butterfly bush with a suitable material. Fleece is an ideal choice to protect the shrub against winter damage since it is flexible and breathable. The quality makes it easy to handle the fabric, while also ensuring the plants are not suffocated.

Now, take your twine and secure the material in place. Remove the covering when there is a forecast of an extended period of mild weather to prevent trapping too much heat and probable rotting. Make sure to replace the fleece when the temperature drops again.

Pro Tip: It never hurts to mulch around the base of your gorgeous shrubs in preparation for winter. Keep reading for more tips on mulching your butterfly bush.

Overwinter in Zone Four and Below 

House entrance with Buddleja davidii flowers in large plastic pots surrounded by green trimmed bushes
Image credits: Alonia via Shutterstock

It is best to move your tender or less hardy butterfly bush plants to a greenhouse or sheltered area for the duration of the season. Dig gently around the roots to avoid damage, and unearth the plant. Place the plant in a pot with the correct potting mixture and move the container to a cool, sheltered, and frost-free area. You can also bring them inside if you choose. 

The best time to transition the butterfly bush is in late summer or early fall to allow the plant to adjust to the new conditions. Water the plant routinely at the beginning of the process. Gradually reduce the watering frequency as the temperature drops so the plant can prepare for dormancy. Water only about once a month in winter.

You can plant the butterfly bush back into the soil in your garden once temperatures are warm enough and there are no chances of frost returning. 

Overwintering in a Temperate Zone

mulching garden conifer bed with pine tree bark mulch
Image credits: ronstik via Canva

In temperate zones, the butterfly bush acts as a herbaceous perennial. These plants die down annually, except the roots and other underground parts. Therefore, to protect the roots and provide insulation from the cold, you need to add some extra mulch around the root region. The layer of mulch should be approximately six inches deep and can consist of leaves, straws, and other organic materials. 

Wait until the ground is frozen before you spread the mulch around the trunk of the butterfly bush. If you mulch the soil too early, it may delay the ground from freezing and invite the rodents to make a cozy lair. The mulch also maintains the soil temperature and prevents root heave. This step is especially beneficial for newly planted perennials that require extra care to survive the colder season. 

Should You Prune Before Winter?

Pruning a butterfly-bush
Image credits: Thijs de Graaf via Shutterstock

As with most flowering shrubs and trees, pruning helps ensure the continual and prolific growth of the plant. Typically, butterfly bush has new growth in late spring, and it blooms during the summer. Therefore, the best time to prune the butterfly bush is in late winter or early spring, ideally between November and March. If you prune before or during winter, the hollow stems can accumulate water that can subsequently freeze and split the wood. Keep your plant safe from cold damage!

The correct way to prune the butterfly bush is to trim all the branches and limbs until the plant has a height of about 1 foot. The reason for such drastic pruning is that the butterfly bush tends to bloom on new growth. Thus, severe pruning can promote abundant growth of flowers that only appear on new wood. 

Trim, Fertilize, and Cover!

The butterfly bush is an easy-to-grow plant that requires minimal upkeep and some protective measures during the winter. Depending on your region’s climate, you can prepare your plant by covering it with fleece, moving it indoors or in a container, and adding mulch around the roots.

What steps do you take to overwinter your butterfly bush? Share in the comments!