Fertilizing Butterfly Bushes

Author Teresa Odle Last Updated 5-4-2020

Normally, butterfly bushes do not need to be fertilized. One reason is because the shrub already grows so rapidly each season after pruning close to its base. With heavy fertilizing, the plant can grow too quickly and the stems become weak. Fertilizing too heavily also can force more energy into producing leaves at the expense of good flowering. If growing a butterfly bush in a container, it can benefit from one balanced feeding a year after its first year in a fresh potting mix (the mix should provide all the nutrients it needs that first growing season).


How to Fertilize Butterfly Bushes

Butterfly bush grows best in native garden soil. The shrub is not too particular about soil pH, although it favors a slightly acidic soil. It is best not to amend the soil to try to balance its nutrients or pH. Adding a layer of compost at the time of planting or each spring can improve nutrients slowly and gradually instead of forcing even more rapid growth. Using a slow-release fertilizer for container-grown butterfly bushes in the second and subsequent years of growth can help keep the plant flowering but not growing too rapidly.

Best Time To Fertilize Butterfly Bushes

Fertilize established container-grown butterfly bushes in the spring as new growth just begins to appear near the base of the plant. It is best not to fertilize again and to avoid adding fertilizer on a hot day. 

Best Fertilizer For Butterfly Bushes

Well-draining soil is better for butterfly bush than is feeding the shrub with fertilizer. For container-grown butterfly bushes it will help more than plants growing in the ground. Or if you have poor soil, fertilizer might be helpful. Choose a granular, slow-release fertilizer or mix in a new layer of organic matter like compost and water. We recommend using an organic fertilizer on these hardy plants to help ensure the shrubs don't get damaged.

Butterfly Bush Fertilizing Tips

  • Avoid fertilizing butterfly bush.
  • Container-grown butterfly bushes need fertilizing once a year only.
  • Fertilize butterfly bushes in pots in early spring.

-Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.
-Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.

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 Author Teresa Odle - Published 7-06-2020