Butterfly Bush Isn't Happy

beckyjessie(z6 PA)April 1, 2006

Last year we planted a butterfly bush in a large wooden container on our deck. It did very well all summer & bloomed.

In the fall I cut the bush down & we put the container in our basement where it stayed very cool all winter. The bush got sun from the garage door window.

I watered it all winter. It has been slowly growing all winter & has branches on it.

Now the longer branches are falling over & the whole bush looks unhealthy. The leaf tips are turning black.

I am in Zone 6 & we can have frost up until May 31.

Does anyone know what I can do? Should I cut the branches off again? When is it safe to put the container outside? Why are the branches bending over & the leaf tips turning black?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

In the absence of good light, cells elongate (branches extend/grow) but there is not enough energy produced (marginal photosynthesis) to add layers of cells at cambial zone (branches don't thicken). Lignin production is low so branches remain herbaceous and soft instead of growing woody. The result is weak branches that cannot support their own weight.

This IS a problem. As the plant makes branches & leaves, it uses energy from the reserves stored last summer/fall. Your plant's energy reserves are just like a battery that is not being recharged, Sooner or later, it will run out of juice. If you remove ugly foliage now, the plant may not have enough energy left to push new foliage. An experienced gardener might know instinctively, but an experienced gardener would have chosen a colder spot for the plant.

The black leaves are likely an indication of root rot from over-watering, so the plant probably has multiple issues. I would not prune yet, but you will have to prune the weak and distorted growth soon. Move the plant outdoors in shade whenever temps are above 40*. Move it in when they are under 40 to a bright spot. If the plant recovers sufficiently, you can address the root issues & pruning later.

You also have the additional complication that the plant wasn't allowed a dormant rest. Usually, temperate plants deprived of a dormancy period exhibit very poor vitality in the next growth cycle or die outright. Unless the plant has sentimental value, you may wish to consider putting it in the ground and hoping, or discarding it outright & beginning anew.

Al

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 8:16AM
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dsb_22(7 VA)

Hi, we have a butterfly bush in a pot. It was left out all winter with nothing but an occasional watering (a roof overhang prevents it from getting much rain). Our winter was probably much milder than your's, but we did have a couple of snows and many freezing, windy days. The bush was looking a little straggly by end of winter, but was still green and never lost its leaves. I finally pruned it (heavily) about a week ago and it's putting out new growth quickly, so maybe spring is a better time for pruning these. But they're pretty hardy plants. I'd put it outside and see how it does. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 9:28PM
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pnwjoy(8b-Kalama,Wa.)

Al gave some good advice.
If your plant survives give it some protection next winter but leave it outside to go dormant.
Butterfly bushes are hardy to zone 5 so even in a pot it should have been fine to leave it outdoors in a protected area in your zone.
Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 1:46AM
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birdz_n_beez(z5-6 NY)

Well now, hardy for bb bushes is a relative term. lol
They are not as hardy as many think (saying with personal experience). If we get a rough winter they may not make it without some heavy mulch. Even then I have lost some, such as last winter. Not much snow, but it was bellow average temps most of the winter. This last winter wasn't awful though and I am expecting everything went fine.

As for the posters question, Al did give good advice, and I would say that would be your best bet as well. =)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 11:19AM
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beckyjessie(z6 PA)

Thanks everyone for helping me with this. We put the butterfly bush outside. Next winter we wonÂt bring it inside.

I hope it survives  keeping my fingers crossed!!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 3:50PM
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birdz_n_beez(z5-6 NY)

Fingers are crossed for ya. lol
Make sure next fall you cover the top (and sides if possible) with a good layer of leaves or such. =)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 8:17PM
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aktnyc(z7a NYC)

Also, if it isn't already clear, the big prune should be in early spring, not in fall. Don't know why exactly, but that's what I've been told.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 6:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

... but not THIS year - ok Becky?

Al

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 6:18PM
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