How To Deadhead Butterfly Bush

Pruning of old, dying, or fading blooms, otherwise known as deadheading, is one of the easiest ways to rejuvenate a tired-looking plant.

Most flowering plants benefit a lot from this. As well as giving the plant a new lease on life, it’s the best prep for fresher blooms and it significantly improves the optics.

In this article, the focus will be on how to deadhead butterfly bush and how to prune back stems and branches.

So ignore those nervous fluttering in your gut, pick up your garden cutter, and read on to discover everything you need to know about how to deadhead butterfly bush.

How To Deadhead Butterfly Bush

The butterfly bush (Buddleia or Buddleja spp.), also known as summer lilac, is a perennial plant that is often grown outdoors in hardiness zones 5 – 12.

They are prolific growers and are considered invasive weeds in some states. It is this invasiveness that makes deadheading and pruning crucial, especially in the growing season.

This simple and relaxing gardening chore prevents the seeds from spreading to and sprouting in areas they are not needed.

So, as well as encouraging new blooms and improving the appearance of the plant, deadheading summer lilac also protects nearby areas.

Butterfly bushes have a long blooming period that usually lasts throughout the summer right up to late fall in many species. Some of the newer species are known to bloom even in winter.

One of the biggest attractions for butterfly bushes lovers is the ease the blooms attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

As already stated, deadheading your butterfly bushes keeps them in good shape and promotes multiple bloom cycles throughout the growing season.

That said, when it comes to the butterfly bush, pruning the plant is also a huge part of proper plant care.

So as well as deadheading, we would walk you through crucial butterfly bush care and maintenance routines linked to pruning.

These include essential tips like when to cut back butterfly bush,  and how to overwinter butterfly bush so it comes back better and stronger the next growing season.

Let’s start with the focus of this article: how to deadhead all species of butterfly bushes.

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Some Key Considerations when Deadheading Butterfly Bush

  • The best time of the day to deadhead butterfly bush is early in the morning before the sun is up.
  • How often to deadhead butterfly bush? Several times a week or every other day.

It is recommended that you inspect the plant at least every three days for dried, faded, or dead blooms in the growing season.

  • You mustn’t allow the blooms to become dry. The dry flowers easily go to seeds that are then dispersed to grow in other places.

Best Way To Deadhead Your Butterfly Bush

When it comes to deadheading any butterfly bush, all you need are your cutters and time.

For cutters, a pair of garden snips would be enough to get the job done since the stems are not thick.

Before you begin though, sterilize the blades. One quick way to do this is to clean the blades with rubbing alcohol.

You could also wash them with a dishwasher soap solution. In both cases, rinse and allow the blades to dry, and you are ready to go.


  1. Identify the flower bunch or bloom you would deadhead. These have all or most of the flowers either dead or faded to a dull color. They are easy to spot.
  2. Make your cut just below the bunch of flowers. This ensures that new leaves below the bunch on the same stem are spared. These young leaves would produce the next generation of flowers.

You’d often find multiple flower bunches on a single stem branching off in various directions. Just snip off only the dead blooms as described above.

  1. Repeat step 2 until all dead blooms are removed.
  2. Gather up and dispose of the pruned blooms.

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Guide to Butterfly Bush Pruning

Most species of garden butterfly bush plants grow fast in the growing season reaching a height of about 8 feet.

Generally, deadheading and pruning are usually two peas in a pod when it comes to the care and maintenance of the plant.

In the following sections, we are going to provide answers to the most common butterfly bush pruning questions.

Pruning butterfly bushes in spring and summer

There isn’t a set time to prune butterfly bush. That said, you’d do it more frequently in the growing season than in fall or winter.

Pruning butterfly bush in spring and summer (the growing season) is mostly about aesthetics to keep the plant compact and bushier.

So how you prune it in the growing season depends on how you want the butterfly bush garden to look.

Mostly though, you want to cut stems that are either too long or have the more dead blooms on them. Essentially, that implies that pruning can also be a deadheading task.

That said, if you are going to prune in early spring, make sure the frost season is completely over and prune the plant almost to the ground, especially in areas with a temperate climate.

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Pruning Butterfly bushes in Fall and Winter

Fall is generally that time of butterfly bush circle when blooming is over or getting to an end.

If there are some faded blooms you missed while deadheading the previous month, simply cut back the plant from the main stems instead of deadheading.

A pair of snips wouldn’t give the desired clean cut because the stems and branches are thicker.

Instead, use a pair of sharp garden loppers to cut up to a third of the entire plant. In early fall, this might help produce the last round of blooms.

And in preparation for winter, you can do the following:

  • Prune the larger branches right up to the main stem
  • Alternatively, prune them to about 12 inches from the ground


How and when to Prune Butterfly bush in zone 7 and below

Zones 7 down to 5 are generally the coldest regions butterfly bushes are cultivated outdoors all year.

In addition to the general pruning procedure, the following tips are handy for these zones:

  • Generally, you should cut the branches to about 12 inches above the ground
  • But if the butterfly bushes are less than 15 inches tall, you don’t have to prune them
  • The best time to prune bushes over 5 feet tall is about 4 weeks into winter so you can check for new shoots lower down the stems or branches.
  • Ensure that each stem you cut has at least a side stem bearing shoot(s). The shoots would promote growth next spring.
  • To see the shoots clearly, schedule the pruning in late summer after the blooming period. In this case, you might have to cut back a little further down the stem.
  • Dispose of the cuttings properly to avoid the spread of pests and diseases

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Butterfly Bush Care in Winter

Caring for your butterfly bushes in winter depends on the severity of winter in your area.

In warmer areas with mild winters, simply pruning the plant and mulching the soil to keep it warm should be enough.

In areas with severe winters, leaf shedding is the norm with the onset of winter.

The topmost parts of the plant die off as your butterfly bushes enter the dormancy phase.

Towards the end of winter, you want to prune off the dead branches to prepare the plants for the growing season in spring.

Again, remember to mulch the soil after pruning.

For container butterfly bush, move the plants indoors where it’s warmer.

And ensure the soil is watered regularly just enough to keep it moist. This helps the plant to acclimate and go into dormancy without too much stress.

But, you’d have to gradually reduce the frequency and amount of water 2-3 weeks before freezing temperatures take over.

After the threat of frost in spring and when the soil warms up, you can move the plant outdoors.

Do this gradually so your plant doesn’t die from the shock of sudden introduction to a new environment and weather.

And if you chose to replant it in the soil, make sure there are no threats of frost.

Finally, If moving the container indoors is not an option, bury the container or pot in a deep hole until the threat of frost is over.

Wrapping Up

The perennial butterfly bush blooms prolifically throughout the growing season from late spring to early fall.

Pruning dead blooms or deadheading is necessary for the plant’s health while encouraging new flowers and growth.

Fortunately, deadheading butterfly bush is pretty straightforward with slight variations in methodology depending on the severity of winter in the region.

Pruning and deadheading butterfly bushes also help to protect nearby properties because they are considered invasive plants in many areas.

Old flowers allowed to dry out produce seeds that are easily dispersed and the sprouting summer lilacs can be very hard to control as weeds! This makes deadheading and pruning crucial.