The Q&A Archives: No experience with a Butterfly Bush

Question: i fell in love with a butterfly bush in cape may and bought it. it did beautiful last year but since i had no experience with it, i have done nothing to it last year or this spring. It looks very dormant, it is in a big wooden container and i have been reading ur viewers questions and ur responses. Should i cut it back now and see how it does and feed it and place some mulch around it and will it come back? Or is it too far gone. Pls help. Maria

Answer: Unfortunately, butterfly bush is not reliably hardy in zone 5, and according to your zip code you are gardening in zone 5A or the coldest part of zone 5. Depending on your microclimate it might actually be as cold as zone 4. So I doubt that it is still alive, especially if it is in a container where the roots are not as well insulated -- both from cold and also from the freeze/thaw cycles that happen when temperatures oscillate -- so that is especially stressful on plants. Usually one would trim it back to live wood when the buds begin to swell in the spring. If you are not seeing any signs of life, not even down on the lower parts of the plant near the soil line, then it is probably gone. I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging.

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