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Planting Butterfly Bushes

Author Teresa Odle 7-6-2020

Butterfly bushes (Buddleia or Buddleja) are butterfly magnets that are easy to care for and need little watering once mature. Although established as an invasive plant in some regions of the United States, this beauty is not invasive in dry areas like the Southwest. And most new species of the plant have been bred as seedless and are not a problem. The shrub comes in dwarf or large varieties and several flower colors and is an easy-care low-water choice for a garden. Once planted in full sun and kept healthy, they will bring beauty and butterflies to the garden all season long.

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What You Need To Plant a Butterfly Bush

Grab a shovel to dig a hole for the shrub that is about double its plastic container width and a few inches deeper. Use the shovel to loosen the soil in the hole and add some organic compost to ensure the soil drains well once the plant goes in. A pair of scissors or clippers can be handy for carefully cutting a side of the container if the shrub does not loosen easily and to remove any tags attached to branches.

Where to Plant Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bushes need full sun (at least 8 hours a day) to thrive and flower fully. Look for a loamy, well-draining soil if possible. If a yard has only clay soil, the butterfly bush can survive with a few care adjustments. The shrub should rest with its base just above ground level so water flows away from the plant's center.

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Butterfly Bush Spacing

Bring the most butterflies with several of the bushes planted in the same area of the yard. They make a stunning and natural border or hedge. The plant's spread and spacing depends on the variety—larger butterfly bushes usually grow to about 5 or 6 feet wide, and smaller ones less than 2 feet high and wide. Look at the plant tag for its mature size and plant the shrubs a foot or more further apart (from center to center) than the plant's spread. Be sure to leave a few feet of space between the plant's center and any nearby structures such as walls or fences. It needs some space to grow and air circulation, plus a change for butterflies and birds to get to all the rich blooms.

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Steps To Plant Butterfly Bush

After locating a sunny spot, dig a hole about twice as wide and a few inches deeper than the plant's root ball. Loosen the soil around the hole edges. Don't amend the soil except for adding some organic compost to keep the soil around the plant loose and fertile. Carefully remove the shrub from the container by holding the plant at its base and squeezing the container. If it does not come out easily, water it and let it sit for an hour or so, then try again. Or cut a side of the plastic pot to make it easier to pull the butterfly bush out without damaging it.

Once the plant is out of the pot, gently tease the roots if they are wrapped around. This also is easier to do when the soil inside is damp. Next, place the shrub in the hole, resting its base just above ground level. Backfill the hole evenly, pressing gently to firm up the soil. Make sure all roots are covered and then water slowly and deeply.

Step 1 - pick out the perfect location

Step 2 - dig a hole about twice as wide and a few inches deeper than the root ball

Step 3 - Remove the shrub from the container and gently tease the roots

Step 4 - Place the plant in the hole with the base just above ground level

Step 5 - Backfill the hole with dirt and press gently around the base of the plant

Step 6 - Ensure all roots are covered then water the plant slow and deep