Butterfly bushes coming back?

aklindaApril 12, 2011

I posted this first on the southwest forum but there's not much activity there so will post it here as well. Has anyone in zone 7 seen any signs of life in their butterlfy bushes? I am in central New Mexico and we had an unusually cold winter. I have 4 butterfly bushes and none are showing any signs of life. I remember them being kind of slow to get started but don't remember when they started showing some green last year. I hope I don't have to add them to the list of this winter's casualties.

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I'm in Z7, but in TN. Mine are up about a foot now, but this is really early. Everything is early this year. We're not even past our last official frost date (April 15), and four of my irises varieties have already bloomed! They usually bloom in May.

So, I'd give them a while longer. We're just experiencing a very early spring here!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 5:45PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i lost many of them in my z5 ... i should say.. all of them ...

i do not consider them z5 tolerant..

did you have z5 equivalent temps this winter???


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:49AM
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we had a week or two where temps were under 10 degrees every night and some below zero - MUCH colder than usual. One of the butterfly bushes is about 5 yrs old - the others I just planted last year. All were black knight. I'm going to check again today for any signs of life.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 5:01PM
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According to my notes, my butterfly bushes didn't send out new growth last year until May 2 and we had 90-degree weather the first week of April 2010. This spring has been a lot colder so I'm just going to wait and see. I have about 10 plants in various beds and altho' all are full sun during the growing season a couple are in colder spots on the property.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 5:49PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have a big Buddleia Black Knight in the front garden that was planted 6 years ago. Just checked it earlier today and it's sending out lots of new green shoots, but they aren't very big and I haven't cut it down yet. The new growth is pretty close to the ground this year, which means it had more die back than usual. It was a long cold winter, with a low of -12F, but we had a ton of snow in January and February which probably helped insulate them, or I think it would have been worse. Did your plants have mulch or snow to protect the roots this winter?

You could try a scratch test on your plants - scratch the stalks especially near the base, and if you see green, they are still alive.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 8:19PM
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Like ken, I have had no luck growing butterfly bushes in my Zone 5 garden. They are supposedly hardy to zone 5 but I have yet to have one survive the winter - I pruned them to the ground (or close to it) as recommended, and to the ground is where they remained. :-( I gave up planting them since the results were consistent, yet there are always plenty for sale at the local nurseries. Someone here must be having luck with them or perhaps other folks are lucky enough to have an area in their yard with the right microclimate.

Hopefully your winter was not as cold as those in a zone 5 area, (though it was actually relatively mild here this winter) and it didn't remain cold long enough to have killed yours off, aklinda. Give them a bit longer and remain hopeful. If they have been thriving for a few years, theoretically they should have a good enough root system to recover.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:20PM
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Holly, when did you prune them back? I read not to cut them back until spring, and only when you start to see some green growth coming - either at ground level, or on the branches. Some years I haven't seen anything green showing up until May, but other years it's earlier. Also, the "Nanho" varieties seem less hardy. I've not been able to keep them going here in zone 6.

Last year, I had very little die back. They greened up on the branches so quickly, I decided not to cut them back, but just to prune off any dead areas of branches that did not leaf out. All of my butterfly bushes were almost too big, since they didn't have to start from the ground up. This year, I'm just starting to see some tiny green leaves showing, but they are all getting pruned back as soon as I see green on each one. I have a lavender seedling given to me by a friend, a NOID - here when we moved in, Royal Red, Pink Delight, Black Knight, and a Dubonnet.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Linda - I believe I pruned them when they were dormant, but I don't really remember - it's been a few years. I am thinking now, after reading through this aricle: How and when to prune a butterfly bush and from reading your comments, that I should indeed have waited until spring so that I knew I wasn't pruning off all of the buds. Perhaps I should try growing one again!


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:46AM
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They are incredibly easy to grow from seed via winter sowing. Last year I WS seeds I got in trade and had more plants than I knew what to do with. Gave lots away, planted the rest and even had a few blooms. I still have some harvested seeds if anyone wants to try growing them.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 6:48AM
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luvahydrangea(Albany, NY 5)

I've never had a problem growing them in Zone 5, but I don't hack them to the ground. I leave them intact until spring, then I prune them to about 24-36" just to stimulate growth. They always seem dead until the end of May or so. Then they start to send up shoots.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 7:26AM
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All of the butterfly bushes were well mulched - I mulch everything to preserve moisture since it's so dry here. I don't usually prune them until spring, which I just did. I'm going to give them a little while longer, especially the 5 yr old one. I have some Russian Sage and Caryopteris Dark Knight waiting in the wings to replace them if they don't come back - a caryopteris that I planted the same time as the 3 smaller butterfly bushes is completely leafed out now so seems the cold did not harm it. The three smaller butterfly bushes are the centerpiece of an ornamental grass bed so they are very visible. I appreciate everyone's comments. I had been a lifelong Alaskan until moving to New Mexico 5 years ago and to say the gardening is different would be a vast understatement. I have killed alot of plants during my learning process but finally a nice garden is coming together.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 9:22PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Butterfly bushes are just short-lived plants, on average. Occasionally, you'll get one that lives for many years. I have a love/hate relationship with them because of this, and always think of them as temporary. I have grown them in OH and AL, and they seem to die equally well here in AL as they did in OH, so I don't think it's just about cold. I've always had several at a time, and have never had them all die.

Every spring when I trim them, I stick the cuttings in various spots in the yard & beds. You want woody twigs from last year's growth. I've had very sparse results trying with new shoots. Pieces that are as big as a pencil or bigger are also less likely to take root. Try to get the stick as deep as you can, burying at least 2 nodes. If they keep wilting too fast, remove most of the foliage, and/or shade with a lawn chair for a week or 2. Yes, it's that easy. Most of them live if I remember to water them occasionally. When something is so easy to propagate, it can be forgiven if individual plants die quickly. I agree with those above who wait until they see signs of growth to trim these. No need spending time shaping a dead bush.

There is no need to worry about trimming off the blooms. BB's bloom on new growth, and will continue to bloom all summer if you keep trimming off the dead flowers. As soon as the new ground shoots have a few pairs of leaves, pinch the tips for more branching (more flowers.)

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 10:37AM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

In upstate New York, it depends on the bush. I've had several and have lost several. Right now I have a very tolerant butterfly bush that is white. Don't know the name. Up here, they don't bloom until July. I find it hard to believe they would die in zone 7 if they can survive up here, but we do get the snow cover to protect them. I cut mine back in late April and wait. When you start pruning if you see green then it's still alive.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 12:56PM
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LindaMA(MA z5)

I've had my Butterfly bush for 4 years now and so far it has come back every year here in zone 5. They stay pretty much covered in snow for a good part of the winter so that is probably helping them out a lot. Last year I cut them back to about a foot in November and it came back just fine. It did take a while to start showing new growth last year. I remember being quite concerned but finally in May is started to show new growth.

Hang in there and give it more time, they are usually late to begin growth.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 1:22PM
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I have new growth on mine near indianapolis but haven't cut it back yet. Good luck! :)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 9:57PM
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Well yesterday I got impatient with these butterfly bushes because they are in a prominent location so I started digging them up. The largest one had some clearly visible growth so I left it where it was. The smaller two I scraped away the mulch - managed to break one in half - and they were both showing the tiniest bit of growth so I planted the one I didn't destroy in a less visible location and put the spirea in their place because it seems to leaf out sooner. The oldest biggest one isn't doing anything yet but I already destroyed one in my impatience so will let it go awhile longer. Thanks to everyone for your input and advise.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 2:38PM
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I'm also in Z7 and just north of you in ABQ at 5500 ft elevation. My butterfly bushes came out almost 3 weeks ago
and are about 1.5 ft. I deadheaded the bushes as soon as I detected active growth on the various branches.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 3:15PM
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I cut mine back a little later than usual as our spring was practically non-existent this year. Cold and wet until June! I cut back probably last week in April. It is definitely green and healthy but the bush will not grow tall! It almost seems stunted. It looks very healthy, but very short, and it is now July and still no flowering.
I am not sure if it will flower at all this year. Anyone with that problem? Thanks!!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 8:29AM
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I live in Kansas and my blue one just bloomed and 2 on north side of house in sun blooming the other hasn't yet. This has been a funny year,we have had rain like ever other day,heat,humid,today its 100. and I guess all week. Just starting to see the larger butterflies. My daughter lives in Wichita,Ks area and they are begging for rain,no rain there for about a month. It's sad it couldn't be even. Oh! I don't cut my BB till Spring when I see the new growth.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 5:58PM
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i'm zone 6 i cut mine back late fall and this year i lost one big lavender purple one
and the pink delight is really going good
and the white frost is ok and the dark knight and red royal and another red is not going good.
about 2 ft tall but is sparse looking last year they were big and full 5 ft x 5 ft each one this year is the pits. the weather was really cold here for long periods , will only replant with the pink delight that one is the only one doing extremely well. holly

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 7:04PM
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