When should I cut back my butterfly bush, chrysanthemum, and crape myrtles?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Wilma: The best time to prune your butterfly bush is during the late winter or early spring before it puts on any new growth. These plants bloom on new wood (current season’s growth) so they can be pruned back hard, but avoid removing any woody growth. Ideally you want to cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. When it is time to prune, make certain your tools are clean and sharp. Next summer as your plant blooms and the flowers fade, it is a good idea to remove the spent flowers. This will promote flowers throughout the season and into the fall. The best time to prune your crape myrtle is also during the winter or early spring months while the plant is dormant and before it puts on new growth. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle unless your intentions are to shape it or turn a shrub into a tree form. If you have suckers growing up from the base of the plant, you should remove these as soon as you notice them. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle in order for it to bloom next summer. As for your chrysanthemums it is hard to say if they will even survive the winter. There are some hardy cultivars but the majority of plants sold during the fall in garden centers are not considered winter-hardy. If these are plants you have had for a few years and are perennials in your garden they will die back to the ground in the winter and come back next spring. You can go ahead and remove all dead foliage at this point. For now make sure your plants are mulched with no more than a couple of inches to protect the roots from the winter weather.