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Pruning: Prune in spring, after the new growth emerges. The warmer your climate, the more you should cut back your butterfly bush each spring. Left unpruned, large butterfly bushes can become “second story” plants: their flowers form way up at the top so you can’t enjoy them unless you have a second-story window.
Soil: Butterfly bushes need perfect drainage. Their roots are sensitive to rotting, and if they spend any amount of time in wet soil, they can be set back or even die. They can grow in clay soil, but need to be planted a few inches above soil level. This creates a small “hill” that encourages water to drain away from the plant rather than settle around it.
Planting: Never amend the soil when planting a butterfly bush. Amending the soil, particularly clay soil, can cause drainage problems. Avoid mulching directly around your butterfly bush. Mulch is a great idea for other plants, but in clay soil, it can hold too much moisture. Go ahead and mulch your beds, but give your butterfly bush a bit of clearance, and never mulch all the way up to the main stems.
Dormancy: Butterfly bushes tend to be one of the later plants to leaf out in spring. Even if everything else in your landscape is turning green, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your butterfly bush. If you're worried, try the scratch test. Lightly scratch at a few beaches with your fingernail. If there is green underneath, the plant is still alive.
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