Butterfly Bush Care Vs. Removal

Monarch on Butterfly Bush

If you have a butterfly bush, you may be wondering about the care vs removal of the bush. The butterfly bush is listed as an invasive species and you may discover why very quickly if you have one in your yard.

Invasive Butterfly Bush

Keeping your butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) contained can be a challenge since it is a highly invasive species. Butterfly bushes are yard hogs and will prevent beneficial plants from growing. One plant produces over three million tiny seeds that can be easily scattered by the wind.

Environment Problems With Butterfly Bushes

This Asian species has run rampant across North America and crowded out native plants. It has invaded ecosystems and other protected environments. It has destroyed many wildlife habitats by crowding out native food plants for the animals.

Butterfly Bushes and Butterflies

It's a common misconception that you should plant a butterfly bush to assist butterflies. The idea is to provide a friendly place for butterflies to lay eggs, grow larva into caterpillars and eventually cocoon into a beautiful pollinating butterfly. This doesn't happen with a butterfly bush.

Not a Nurturing Host

The ideal plant choice is one that supports butterflies as a host plant. Unfortunately, butterfly bushes don't provide this type of hosting to butterflies. The only positive this plant has for butterflies is large spiral blossoms full of nectar.

How to Remove Butterfly Plants

According to the Whatcom County Noxious Weed Board, the best way to remove invasive butterfly bushes is to dig the entire plant up. You have to make certain that you get all the branches and especially the root ball.

Digging up a large bush

Disposal of Plant

Don't leave any part of this plant since it is so resilient it will replant itself with the least bit of plant material left behind. The only way to ensure this plant isn't going to find a new home is to burn it, unless your city has a specific disposal program for invasive plants.

Seedling Removal

If you have seedlings, which most likely you have volunteer plants in the surrounding area, you can hand pull these. Just make sure you get all the plant.


If you want a less labor intensive way to control the spreading of your butterfly bush, you can use a herbicide. Weigh the environmental impact before going this route. Herbicides can be sprayed on seedlings to control volunteer plant growth.

Care of a Butterfly Bush

If you decide you're going to keep your plant, then you must make sure it doesn't spread. This will require a little diligent care and the removal of spent blossoms.

Prevent Volunteer Seeding

Once your butterfly bush has bloomed, you need to remove the blossoms. Clip the spent blooms and dispose of them. It's always safest to burn the blossoms to prevent any possible seed disbursement.

Proper Disposal of Dried Blooms

Ideally, don't wait until the blooms have dried and seeded. However, if the blooms have dried, you need to make sure you don't disperse any of the seeds. It's recommended that you bag each blossom then cut to keep the seeds from spreading. Burn the blossoms and seeds.

Pruning Alternative to Removal

If you don't want to get rid of your butterfly bush, you can take steps to prevent it from spreading. You can possibly control the spread of your butterfly bush with fall pruning.

How to Prune Your Butterfly Plant

This will require a pruning of the long branches either close to the ground or to about one foot of growth above ground. Pruning will cause your plant to grow back shorter in the spring. It will also cause the plant to grow more compact.

Northern Climates

If you live in the northern part of the United States, your butterfly bush should naturally dieback in the winter. If you have any doubts, just prune your plant all the way to the ground level.

Sun and Soil

If you've decided to plant a butterfly bush and can take proper care so it doesn't spread, you'll want to choose a sunny or partially shaded area. Make sure your soil drains well. This plant doesn't have wet feet and root rot can easily set in.

Budleia flowers

Water Requirements

You may want to water a young plant in the spring and while it is producing its first blooms. The rule of thumb is to provide one-inch of water per week. Most plants won't require watering unless your region suffers a summer drought.

Compost and Fertilizer

Your butterfly bush will benefit from a new layer of compost, no more than an inch, each spring. However, a butterfly bush doesn't require fertilizing. Remember it's an invasive plant that thrives everywhere.

Better Host Plant for Butterflies

A better host plant for butterflies to encourage their growth as a habitat for procreation is a milkweed plant (Asclepias tuberosa L.). This versatile plant can be grown in your lush home garden and prairie gardens.

Deciding on Butterfly Bush Care Vs. Removal

Once you understand why a butterfly bush is invasive, you may decide to remove it. However, if you decide you can control its growth and seed production, you may end up with a nice plant that provides visiting butterflies with nectar.

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Butterfly Bush Care Vs. Removal