Sunday, March 11, 2012

Deer Country: Butterfly Bushes and Flurries

Time to prune butterfly bushes
I gave our three butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii ‘Pink Delight’), one of the shrub species our local bambits have never nibbled, let alone browsed, their annual pruning on Tuesday.

Cutting back butterfly bushes is important because they bloom only on growth of the current year.  They are fast growers, so cutting them to one foot or so means that this year’s blooms will be close to eye level and they won’t crowd nearby plants.

In his “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants,” Michael A. Dirr says of Buddleia davidii, “[I]n many respects better pruned to the ground in spring since it flowers on new growth of the season; … even the compact types like the Nanho series reach 6 to 8’ … high unless restrained; in the Dirr garden, butterfly-bushes receive lots of play, on occasion plants were pruned to 12 to 18” of the ground, at other times untouched with only a tip prune here and there; … unpruned plants produce flowers sooner in the growing season than heavily pruned plants.”  And, later: “Attracts an amazing array of butterflies and bees.”

Showing their age, but aren't we all?
If our three butterfly bushes were located in a less congested part of our landscape, I might experiment with pruning them to varying heights to see if they would flower at different levels and times.

Our three plants are showing their age—but aren’t we all?  I planted them in 1998.  Now their main stems are gnarled and show signs of dieback.  In another year or so I probably should replace them.

Early Tuesday the temperature was 28°F.  When I began pruning it was 44°.  Then the overcast day darkened, a breeze picked up from the north, and the temperature dropped noticeably.  As folks in south Jersey would say, “Suddenly it felt raw.”  And then snow flurries began.

I stacked my prunings and will cart them to our woodside compost heap on a nicer day—perhaps one of those 60° or 70° days forecast for later in the week. 

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather, just stick around for a few minutes.”
A well-named shrub


  1. I did the same with my butterfly bush. It does attract butterflies and other insect and smell so nicely when it blooms. However, I heard that it is considered an invasive plant and therefore ....

  2. I don’t find butterfly bush in lists of the Maryland sources I usually consult, including those in the University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener Handbook (Chapter 12, Invasive Species) and the Maryland Native Plant Society, but I see it listed many places elsewhere on the Internet with warnings to observe closely and deadhead to keep seeds from forming if you have suspicions yours has invasive tendencies. In 11 years, our three ‘Pink Delight’ specimens haven’t produced even one new plant, even though I haven’t deadheaded them. If in doubt, don’t buy and plant this species. If you have one that seems to be invasive, rip it out. Please post addition Comments to add to this discussion.

  3. These are great information regarding butterfly bushes! A lot of gardening enthusiasts will surely find these tips helpful in dealing with this kind of bush. Thanks for sharing.