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I Have A 3-year-old Butterfly Bush; I Cut It Back…

Sandra Asked

I have a 3-year-old butterfly bush; I cut it back last year and now it is not blooming. What do I need to do?

The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Sandra: Butterfly bush (buddleia) are summer bloomers so it is too early to have any blooms yet this year. As long as your plant is putting on new growth and looks healthy it will be full of blooms shortly. It is good that you pruned your plant last season and you should continue to do so since this woody shrub has a whimsical growth habit that can become unruly if not managed. These shrubs will benefit from annual pruning, removing all dead, damaged, diseased, or crossing branches as soon as you notice them. Buddleia are very forgiving, tolerant of being mistreated, and hard pruning is encouraged. The best time to prune these shrubs is while they are dormant during the late winter/early spring, before they put on any new growth. Cutting them back in the late summer or fall will make any new tender growth very susceptible to frost damage. Pruning our plants encourages them to put on new growth. Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood (current season’s growth) so they can be pruned back hard; you can cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. Before you prune, be sure that your tools are clean and sharp. Later on in the summer as the flowers fade, you can remove them; this will promote blooming throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. These sun lovers will flower best when given a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight.

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