How to Prune a Butterfly Plant


Butterfly bushes attract nectar loving insects including butterflies, which find their flowers irresistible, and hummingbirds. These plants are sometimes called summer lilacs as their flower bracts resemble lilac flowers. Butterfly bushes (buddleia) are rampant growers that quickly take over their allotted space in the garden. By the end of the growing season butterfly bushes can look unkempt with branches going every which way. Pruning transforms the unkempt growth into a tidy mound of beautiful foliage and flowers. Hard pruning isn't a problem for these hardy shrubs as they can grow 2 to 3 feet every month.

Step 1

Prune butterfly bushes in spring just as their leaves begin to unfurl by cutting them back to 3 to 5 inches above soil level or just above the lowest set of leaves. Use loppers or a weed whacker to do this.

Step 2

Use pruning shears or scissors to cut 2 to 3 inches off the tips of every branch. Do this when your butterfly bush is 3 feet high and again when it reaches 5 feet high. Doing this produces a bushier plant with more flowers.

Step 3

Remove crossing branches as soon as you see them. Use pruning shears to remove the weaker or smaller of the branches. Make cuts as close to a main stem as possible.

Step 4

Prune off broken, dead or diseased branches as soon as you notice them. Use pruning shears to make cuts as close to a main stem as possible.

Step 5

Use pruning shears or scissors to remove faded flower bracts. Snip the flower stems as close to the branch as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers or weed whacker
  • Pruning shears or scissors


  • North Carolina State University Extension; Pruning Shrubs
  • University of Missouri; Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
  • Mountain Valley Growers; Pruning and Growing Butterfly Bushes

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension; Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • Ed Hume Seeds; Butterfly Bush
Keywords: pruning butterfly bushes, pruning buddleia, pruning shrubs, growing butterfly bushes, butterfly bush, buddleia