Tips from Olle Garden Bed: How to Prepare Butterfly Bush for Winter

Butterfly shrub is a kind of hardy perennial plant, which has become the favorite of the garden because of its color chaos. It is a deciduous shrub. It blooms amazing bright flowers in warm months and sleeps in winter, dropping all its leaves. The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.

This hardy plant can easily live in Zone 5 and Zone 9 outdoors and thrive in sufficient sunlight. It is also easy to maintain and very attractive to growers. However, you may need to take some steps to prepare your plants for the coming cold months so that they can be rejuvenated in spring.

raised garden bed

Prepare your butterfly bushes for winter

Butterfly shrub or Buddleja is a kind of elastic plant, which can endure the cold season, but it may be difficult to withstand the especially wet and cold winter. Soaking soil will rot the roots and lead to plant failure, even if it is a perennial plant.

In order to ensure that your favorite butterfly bushes spend the whole winter in warm months and bloom again, you need to take some measures according to the climate of your region. For some areas, your butterfly shrubs may need more preparation. If you live in an area below four, there is a risk of leaving your plants underground without protection.

Materials required

You need some materials when you are wintering in the butterfly bush.

Kink line
Potting mixture

Prepare for extreme winter

If you expect unusually cold or cold weather in winter, you can cover the butterfly bush with suitable materials. Wool is an ideal choice to protect shrubs from winter damage because of its flexibility and breathability. The quality makes it easy to handle fabrics, while also ensuring that plants do not suffocate.

Now, pick up your hemp rope and fix the material in place. When sunny weather is forecast, please remove the cover to prevent excessive heat capture and possible decay. Make sure to replace the wool when the temperature drops again.

Professional tip: It will never hurt to cover the bottom of gorgeous shrubs for winter.

raised garden bed

Overwintering in Zone 4 and below

It is best to move your tender or less cold resistant butterfly shrubs to the greenhouse or refuge area during the season. Dig gently around the roots to avoid damage, and then dig for plants. Place the plant in a pot containing the correct potting mixture and move the container to a cool, shaded, frost free area. You can bring them in if you want.

The best time to transition butterfly shrubs is in late summer or early autumn, so that plants can adapt to new conditions. Water the plants regularly at the beginning of the process. As the temperature drops, the frequency of watering is gradually reduced so that plants can prepare for dormancy. Water only once a month in winter.

Once the temperature is warm enough and there is no chance of frost, you can plant the butterfly bush back into the garden soil.

Overwintering in temperate zone

In temperate regions, butterfly shrubs are perennial herbs. These plants die every year, except for the roots and other underground parts. Therefore, in order to protect the root and provide cold protection, you need to add some additional cover around the root area. The covering should be about six inches deep and can consist of leaves, straw and other organic materials.

Wait until the ground freezes, and then spread the covering on the trunk of the butterfly bush. If you cover the soil too early, it may delay ground freezing and invite rodents to make a comfortable nest. The mulch can also maintain the soil temperature and prevent the root system from rising. This step is particularly beneficial for newly planted perennials, which need extra care to survive in cold seasons.

raised garden beds

Should you trim before winter?

Like most flowering shrubs and trees, pruning helps to ensure continued and productive plant growth. Generally, the butterfly shrub has new growth in late spring and flowers in summer. Therefore, the best time to trim the butterfly clumps is at the end of winter or early spring, preferably between November and March. If you prune before or during the winter, the hollow stems will accumulate water, which will then freeze and split the wood. Protect your plants from cold damage!

The correct way to trim a butterfly bush is to trim all the branches and limbs until the height of the plant is about 1 foot. The reason for such drastic pruning is that butterfly shrubs tend to bloom when they are newly growing. Therefore, strict pruning can promote the rich growth of flowers that only appear on new wood.

Pruning, fertilizing and covering!

Butterfly shrub is an easy to plant plant, which requires minimum maintenance and some protective measures in winter. Depending on the climate of your region, you can prepare plants by covering them with wool, moving them indoors or into containers, and adding mulch around the roots.


  • Thank you for your information. I have a dark purple butterfly bush in a 3 foot container. For 3 years it produced long branches and plentiful blooms that hung over the fence. This Spring 2022 it turned into a short squat bush and still had the blooms. What is going on with this beautiful plant? I live on Vancouver Island, BC. What do I need to do with this plant? It is getting close to freezing here and bringing it indoors is not an option. Thank you!

    Cidnee Elise Johnson
  • Thank you for the valuable information. My purple butterfly bush for2 years had long branches and plenty of purple flowers. Last spring 2022 it turned into a small tight short-stemmed bush with flowers. I don’t know what happened! It is planted in a 3 foot container and gets plenty of sun. It just shrunk down to a short stemmed bush! What do you recommend. I live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It’s getting around freezing levels here now. I don’t know what to do. Please advise. Thank you!!

    Cidnee Elise JOHNSON
  • Learning about butterfly bushes

  • So grateful for info! My bushes were massive. Pruned in fall basically in half as they consumed fence area and glower garden in fall. Nothing what so ever has begun to grow on 3 bushes in different areas of garden all full sunshine exposure. What’s happening?

    Wands Zm Levy

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