The Q&A Archives: Caring for Butterfly Bushes

Question: Last summer I planted 2 Ellen's Blue Butterfly bushes. They bloomed nicely all summer. So far this spring, they are showing no sign of life. They are about 3 feet tall. Do I need to trim them way back? I did not trim the spent blossoms off last fall.
Is it alright to fertilize them with a generic 12-12-12 fertilizer?

Thank you,
Linda Stapleton

Answer: Butterfly bushes are slow in greening up in the spring but once they start to grow they really make up for lost time! As long as the root system survived the winter, the plant should start putting out new foliage. Butterfly bushes are often cut back to the ground to rejuvenate them and promote new flowering wood, so they can bloom in summer and beyond. Continue to care for your plant as you did last year and it should be fine. You don't need to prune off the spent flowers and you can prune them back now or you can wait to see where the new growth will begin - the root area if the plant died all the way down to the ground this winter - or the current branches if it did not. You can feed with a general purpose garden fertilizer once new growth begins this spring. Enjoy your garden!

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