The first week of March usually marks the start of the spring scramble in this house. All the dreams of garden projects we wanted to get done by spring are now facing a reality of being put off for next year, as we ready the garden for spring. Id already cleaned up the perennials and the roses, and all that was left to tackle was the butterfly bush. Its been a warm winter here as in much of the country, and the shrub still had as much foliage as it did in late fall....until I channeled my inner Edward Scissorhands and gave it a good pruning... from around 8 feet to just under 1 foot.
Butterfly bushes are some of the most commonly used landscape shrubs in our area, and rightly so because of their beautiful blooms that keep coming all summer. But with any widely-used plant, some people buy them without learning how to correctly care for them. The key to keeping your butterfly bush full and healthy year to year is to cut it back with some sharp bypass loppers to about 1 foot in the spring when new growth emerges.
Now, you do not have to cut a butterfly bush back in the South, as the stems stay alive year round here, but be warned: they will grow to almost 20 feet in this area if not pruned! That and the pruning increases flowering dramatically, and gives the bush a cleaner shape. The most common mistake with this shrub is to cut it back too early (in the fall or early winter) leaving its hollow stems vulnerable to frost damage. Even in the early spring I make sure to make my cuts at least 1/2 inch above a growing point (i.e. a new leaf) in case temperatures drop.
And now all there is to do is throw down some all-purpose fertilizer (I prefer organic products and love the "good stuff" in Espoma's Plantone to give the border a boost in the spring) and just wait for summer blooms!