Tips For Transplanting A Butterfly Bush

Tips For Transplanting A Butterfly Bush

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By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

We see them from about the middle of summer throughout fall — the arching stems of the butterfly bush plant filled with cone-shaped flower clusters. These beautiful plants not only attract our attention with their eye-catching colors, from purple and pink to white and even orange, but they are notorious for attracting butterflies to the garden as well, hence its name — butterfly bush. While their care if fairly simple, transplanting a butterfly bush requires a bit of know how to ensure its success.

How to Transplant Butterfly Bushes

Transplanting a butterfly bush requires some preparation of the new location. Butterfly bushes prefer moist, well-drained soil in partial to full sun. For best results, amend the soil with compost prior to planting. After transplanting, there is little in the way of maintenance for butterfly bushes’ care.

Transplanting is much the same as for any other shrub or small tree. Gently dig the butterfly bush plant up from its current location. When transplanting a butterfly bush, carefully dig up as much of the root system as possible and move to its new location for replanting. Lift the plant, roots and soil from the ground and move it to the prepared hole in the new location. Backfill the hole around the root ball. Tamp down the soil to make sure that no air pockets are in the soil.

Once in the ground, the plant should be watered frequently until the roots have had time to take hold. When they do, the butterfly bush plant won’t require as much watering, growing to become quite drought-tolerant.

Since it blooms on new growth, you should prune the butterfly bush plant back to the ground during its dormancy in winter. Alternatively, you can wait until early spring. Pruning will help to encourage new growth.

When Can You Transplant Butterfly Bushes?

Butterfly bushes are quite hardy and can transplant easily. Transplanting a butterfly bush is usually accomplished in either spring or fall. Transplant prior to new growth in spring or once its foliage has died down in the fall.

Keep in mind that the region in which you live typically dictates when you can transplant. For instance, spring is a more suitable time for transplanting a butterfly bush in colder regions while in warmer areas of the south, transplanting a butterfly bush is best done in fall.

Butterfly bushes are great plants to have in the garden. Once established, the butterfly bush plant pretty much takes care of itself, other than the occasional watering and pruning. They make exceptional additions to the landscape and attract a variety of butterflies as well, which is also good for pollination.

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Butterfly Bush Sun Requirements

Like many perennials, butterfly bushes are versatile when it comes to sun preference and can grow in partial shade to full sun. But the more shade the plant receives, the fewer of its trademark flowers it produces. For best flower production, the planting site for your butterfly bush should receive full sun, which is at least six hours of sun or more per day. You can enhance the planting site's sun exposure by cutting back overhanging tree branches and thinning out nearby shrubs.

5 More Questions

Ask a Question Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

Question: Transplanting and Pruning a Butterfly Bush?

If I plan to transplant my butterfly bush in the spring, should I prune before I transplant or transplant and then prune?


Butterfly bushes do best when pruned before transplanting. You want to chop it back as much as possible, dig up as much of the root ball as possible, and replant very soon. It may take a year or so to grow back to full size, but that isn't usually a problem. You can cut them back whenever you need to, but definitely every fall/early winter so they don't get storm damaged. If you don't prune them, they get way too big for the space!

Question: Transplanting a Butterfly Bush?

I transplanted a 6 foot, 2yr old butterfly bush today. Now I am wondering if I should have waited until spring. It was over-crowding everything in my garden. I feel that I got a substantial root-ball and I will mulch it very well. I do not intend to cut it back before spring. Any suggestions or re-assurance would be very welcome.


Most important is keeping it watered and letting the root system get going again. If you normally cut it back before spring you can still do so. As a matter a fact it may help the plant get established to cut it back. Buy trimming the branches up top you will generate growth in the root system.

Question: Pruning a Butterfly Bush After Transplanting?

I just transplanted a butterfly bush that was about 2 years old. I didn't read until today that I should have pruned it back before I transplanted it. Is is too late for me to do it now? It's about 6 feet tall and now I'm worried about the possibility of damage over the winter.

Answer #1 ·'s Answer · The best time to transplant hydrangeas or butterfly bushes is when they are dormant after they've lost all or most of their leaves during the cool season. If you're in zone 8, this would mean mid to late November at the earliest. Before digging up your hydrangea or butterfly bush dig the planting hole for where you will transplant it to. This way you can quickly move the plant to it's new home.

When digging up the plants, try to dig up as much of the rootball as possible. This will reduce shock to the plant. I always start digging at a point outside the perimeter of the branches and then work my way under the root system. Since hydrangeas prefer shade in warmer regions, replant these in an area that provides morning sun with shade during the afternoon. Butterfly bushes prefer full to mostly sun.

If you transplant during the dormant season, give them a good, deep soaking just after planting. You could also mix up some Root Stimulator with water and pour this around the roots as well. If there's average rainfall during the winter you might not have to water them again until spring, when the temperatures start to warm up and soil might start to dry out. If there's a drought during winter, water them every two weeks or so during this period. Just keep the soil damp so the roots don't dry out and to protect the roots from being freeze-dried from severe cold. You might also want to add an inch or two layer of mulch around the plant for extra protection. Avoid over-watering. Hydrangeas and butterfly bushes do not like consistently wet or over-saturated soil. These wet conditions could lead to root rot or other diseases.

Regarding pruning butterfly bushes, you can prune them up to half way back during the active growth season or down to 6" stumps during the dormant season. So, taking off a foot or two at any time of year should not be a problem.)

What are the critical points to consider when transplanting a large perennial like a butterfly bush? These bushes have been in the ground for one year how late in the year can I transplant them?

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is grown in Michigan as an herbaceous perennial, since many years we can expect our cold winters to kill back upper parts of the plant’s stem system. The good news is we can usually trust that new leaf buds will emerge low on the stems or from the root system, producing new main stems and flowering buds that will bloom in late summer.

Knowing that the butterfly bush is a marginally hardy plant in Michigan, it is wise to wait to cut back or transplant until spring. In fall after the leaves have fallen, the plant completes its annual cycle by relocating starches (energy that is produced by the leaves and moved down to the root system for storage), which will be used as energy to begin spring growth.

It is helpful to prepare your bushes for winter this fall by keeping them well-watered and supplying them with a slow-release, organic nitrogen fertilizer that will be available in the soil during spring when the roots need it the most.

How to Prune a Butterfly Bush

Last Updated: March 29, 2019 Approved

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

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As the name might suggest, butterflies absolutely love Butterfly Bush for its showy, fragrant, nectar-rich flowers--and so will you! The flowers of this tall bush make a gorgeous addition to any garden. However, to keep these bushes blooming beautifully, you will need to know how to prune them properly. Scroll down to Step 1 to learn how you can properly prune your Butterfly Bush.

Watch the video: How Do I Plant u0026 Care for a Butterfly Bush?: Garden Savvy