Butterfly bush

Butterfly bush

Want to learn more about Butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii

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The name of the Butterfly Bush speaks for itself! It is a true magnet for pollinators such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

The butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii, is native to Tibet and southern China. It is hardy in USDA zones 5-9, if kept in well draining soil. They won't tolerate growing in heavy and dense soil types that retain too much water. It can also be grown outdoors in pots to decorate your patio or balcony. Growing your butterfly bush in a pot is also a clever way to enjoy it even in colder climates, where it isn’t considered to be hardy.

Butterfly bush Buddleja davidii


The key to succeed with growing your butterfly bush in pots is to choose a large pot, so its root system will have space to grow. This will also protect the roots from frost damage and ensure that the soil is draining well.

These plants are very sensitive to cold temperatures so in lower climate zones USDA 5-6, the vegetative parts above soil will usually fully die back during the winter and then start to grow back again in spring. In these types of growing environments, the plant will more like an herbaceous perennial than a shrub, in the garden. 

Depending on how cold your winters, get there’s 2 ways to store your potted Butterfly bush during the winter.

If you live in a climate where the temperature doesn’t get below 32 °F (0 °C), you can keep your butterfly bush outdoors in a sheltered spot, protected from rain and harsh weather. Wrapping up your pot with bubble wrap and/or burlap and covering the soil with mulch can help protect your plant's roots from freezing.

If you grow it where the winter gets colder, the best way to overwinter your plant is to store it in a cool, frost free spot. Ideally temps would be between 40-50 °F (+5 - +10°C). As it is a deciduous plant you won’t need to supply it with any grow lights. So a cool area in your garage, basement or shed will be perfect.

Before you move your plant to storage you can slowly cut back on watering it so the soil is able to dry up. Wet soil can cause root rot during its dormant period and the pot will be heavier to move.

Buddleja davidii butterfly bush pruning


Butterfly bushes can be pruned in fall, but the best time to do a large pruning is in early spring. Since they are fast growing and flower from the same year’s growth you don’t have to be afraid of cutting away any dormant flower buds in the spring. 

You can prune your bushes during fall but keep it should be less drastic than you would do in spring by only to removing spent flowers and seed heads. This also minimizes the risk of the plant spreading in areas where it’s invasive. Keeping as much vegatative parts on your plant during the winter will protect against frost and drought damages so it’s better to wait to do heavy pruning it until the there’s no longer any risk of frost.

The butterfly bush responds well to heavy pruning, so when pruning it back in spring you can cut it above the first nodes on its stems. Leaving a woody lump. They are vigorous growers and by not pruning them you’ll eventually get a 10 foot high shrub with only a few solitary flowers at the tips. If you are unsure of how much your plant will tolerate, you can fully cut back just a few of its stems the first time to see how it repsonds.