Question about Butterfly Bushes

West Orange, NJ

One of our butterfly bushes is now 3 years old. This is the first year that it has not produced blossoms. Someone told me that if the bushes get too big, they need to be pruned down in the fall or else they will not produce blossoms the following summer. Is this true? Thank you.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

I have seen quite old Budleja producing flowers, but they have been pruned. I think they produce best on new wood.
This does not mean the whole plant has to be cut to the ground every year, though. You could rotate on a 3-4 year cycle. Prune 1/4 of the plant all the way down, and head back some of the others.
Keep it symmetrical.
You can also do some pruning right after flowering. Head it back just a bit, removing the old flowers. Mostly this is to encourage another crop of flowers and reduce reseeding, but you can do some minor shaping then, too.

If it frosts in your area you might have to time the pruning accordingly- Protect it through the winter, then prune in the spring, as early as you know there will be no more frost.
"In gardens and yards, flowers should be deadheaded
before they produce fruits to prolong bloom and prevent
seeds from establishing in undesirable areas.
In warmer climates (USDA zones 8Ė10) where the shrubs donít die
back to the ground during winter, the weeping side
branches should be pruned in the spring to encourage new
growth and larger, more prolific blooms.
In cold climates (USDA zones 5 and 6), mulch plants in the fall and cut
back to about a foot high in late winter. Cut branches must be disposed of properly (burned or composted)to ensure they donít sprout into new plants."

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Agreed, in colder climates, it's best to wait until spring to trim BB's, although they are still prone to suddenly dying for no apparent reason. Your non-blooming plant may just not be ready yet, still pretty early for them up there. There's no such thing as a BB that's too big to bloom. Once they start, they should bloom until frost with regular deadheading. Do you have a pic?

Holly Ridge, NC(Zone 8a)

I just keep up with the dead heading and have never had a problem with mine. I had one at a house I rented in MD around 10 years ago that was 12 foot tall easily and it had massive blooms for the 3 years I lived there.

Rolesville, NC(Zone 7b)

I'll also add that they don't respond well to excessive Nitrogen. Have you fertilized them (because it's best that you don't).

West Orange, NJ

Thanks everyone!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Ive past many old ruined buildings along the routes and railways and these plants seam to grow out the old stone/ brick work, no soil, no pruning, no one watering them, but get to the garden and all of a sudden some of those plants appear to have a problem, all I can add to this is I prunes one of mine to a foot above ground as instructed by so called expert and like someone else has mentioned, prune too short and the plant wont recover, that's the truth.
I just cut all the flowering stems by half now, each spring as I see new tiny buds / leaf nodules, that's the time to prune, after that, leave alone, no feed, just a leaf mould mulch after summer ends IFFFFFF I remember, it protects against the sever cold but to be honest, when they are a couple of years old, they almost look after them selves and need pruning to keep into a sizeable plant depending on what grows beside it.
Hope you get flowers soon Mine are JUST showing flowering BUDS now JULY.
Hope this helps you out and good luck. WeeNel.

Stroudsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I know this question is a bit old but I will put in my 2 cents anyway. I have about 8 different varieties of Butterfly Bush. I cut back every one in early spring to about 2 feet tall every year and in 15 years I have never had one not flower. I have never fertilized them, only mulch. They are pretty much care-free except for cutting them back.

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

I trim mine back in late winter to about a foot tall. It's about 6 feet tall now and blooming.


I have my teenage helpers wack them off to about a foot above the ground and sprinkle a very light feeding of an organic 4-2-4 fertilizer every spring. This is followed with a ground wood mulch about three inches thick. I have one fifteen year old shrub, two three year olds and one two year old. They started blooming early in July and will continue until killing frost. The oldest plant makes up to about a twelve foot fully blooming shrub. We pull and destroy half a dozen plants yearly that I believe are spread by birds eating fall seed.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Like tommy and doc, I prune mine down to a foot (maximum) at the end of March. They've always done well for me in either full sun or partial shade. They do self-seed, some more than others.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Mrs.Kelly, I wonder if more shade has developed around the non-bloomer, after 3 years? That can happen as a landscape matures. Other thought I had was wondering if you have a dog that may like to pee on that one? What else might be different about its' surroundings?

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