butterfly bush in distress

treeinnj(6)June 9, 2008

About 7 - 10 days ago, my avidly-growing butterfly bush looked absolutely beautiful.

Now, it has several yellow leaves @ the bottom & the leaves on top are very puckered & distressed looking - not all, but several.

Is this a soil deficiency/extreme? or a virus? bug? any ideas?

(There are some leaf holes, but I'm ok w/that b/c I assume those are benes who need to eat :)

Thanks & All the Best, Tree (Soil/compost forum regular)

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Maybe to much or to little water? Has it been watered a lot or little?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 9:28PM
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I don't think it is unusual for buddleias to lose their older leaves from time to time but if it is the new growth that is yellowing then that is a different matter altogether. As far as the buds are concerned we get budworms out here which I believe are larval leaf hoppers and they sew the bud leaves together and feed on the bud itself. I regularly go out and separate the leaves by hand and remove the little pests. They can come in great numbers some years like the past two years.

If you think the problem is nutritional, I recommend putting a nice layer of compost around the bush at the base or a good general fertilizer. Keep us posted. Murray

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 1:27AM
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onafixedincome(z8-9 CA)

One swear word for that around here:


Little bustards are swarming the bushes at night, and I've resorted to sevin laid around the base of the plants to try and keep them off. Then I go out at 2am or so and shake the bushes, they fall off in droves and hopefully meet the lethal sevin on the way back (evil laugh).

I hate using the stuff in the garden at all, but it is imperative because my poor bushes are looking like lace!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 2:43AM
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I agree with MissSherry, too. Mine are yellowing, but producing new foliage in leaf axils, which is green. So, I'm not going to worry about it right now. I've been top dressing with her famous Chicken Manure. My 'White Profusion' is blooming nicely right now.

I'm thinking about replacing that Joe Pye Weed with the Butterfly bushes I now have. Sandy gave me a cutting of a yellow cultivar, and I have two 'Pink Delights' that I have in pots right now that are ready to be taken up a pot size. Their roots grow quickly.

Spider mites can yellow foliage, too. Just put a white piece of paper beneath a leaf, shake the leaf, and if you have them, they will show up on the paper. Butterfly bushes, I'm told, are susceptible to spider mites.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:02AM
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I think my buddleias are the only plant that the earwigs don't bother, knock wood! I just found my first this morning, in some tender new milkweed leaves :(

Would it happen to be a yellow flowered buddleia? I grow quite a few buddleias that have never had any pest or disease problems (Black Knight, Royal Red, Pink Delight, lilac, white), and the only one I had yellowing on was my Sungold. Although I couldn't see any bugs or pests, the shrub appeared to be dying off, with yellowing leaves. Someone had suggested some sort of mite, which I never confirmed, but was told to give it a daily dose of harsh spraying, especially the underside of the leaves. Wouldn't you know, it worked, and the shrub rebounded beautifully. But it only affected the Sungold, not the lilac one right next to it. This happened the following year as well, and then I decided to simply get rid of it and replace it with a different color.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:03AM
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SB - I actually thought it had been watered "fairly" well - some rains last week, heavy watering by me on Sat a.m. (in anticipation of very hot 90s days - today is the last 90 day, then back to 80s/70s) - although it did get a huge dose of N (in the form of grass clippings as a "mulch") a couple weeks ago. Then, when the leaves wilted (but still looked healthy), I gave it a lot of water (and moved the grass clippings) to get rid of some of the extra N, and the leaves bounced back to their normal firmness. So, this puckered leaf (and yellow interior bottom leaves) development is since then.

Murray - hmmm, you may be on to something b/c today's inspection revealed some otherwise healthy looking leaves "stuck" together - and I discovered some sort of almost invisible webbing. [The yellow leaves are the small leaves @ the base of the tough stems, so that may be normal - what concerns me more is the new growth leaves @ top of branches which were completely happy looking, and are now looking twisted or completely puckered or tough w/small brown spots.]

onafixedincome - Wow! Those earwigs don't stand a chance against you! I haven't seen a lot of those around the butterfly bush (although I did see several small winged ants on it today). I don't have lace leaves (yet), but do have some holes.

I'd be ok w/the holes if the leaves weren't looking puckered & twisted - and they're the leaves near the bud-end of the branch which makes me concerned that the blooms might not develope properly.

Thanks, and All the Best, Tree

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:08AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

My neighbor nearly kills her small dogwood every year by piling grass clippings (in large amounts) on them. It's partly a smothering effect, but also the heat generated by the decomposition process. It's grand to use the clippings, but in small layers at a time.

The nitrogen available in clippings only becomes available as soil microorganisms can digest them so you need never fear of too much N due to clippings.

Spider mites can certainly cause deformed leaves, as can aphids. Do you know how to look for those nearly invisible mites?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Some of my butterfly bushes look a little distressed too, but I figured it was because it feels like a blasted oven outside in Houston. Get a spatula and turn me over!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 1:02PM
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rhizo - thanks for the great info - and, no, I don't know how to look for spider mites - except that, on other plants (golden flame honeysuckle) I've seen nearly-invisible one-string weblike stuff - is that it? I haven't seen any of that on the bb.

Thanks, Tree

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 3:07PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hold a piece of light colored paper under a branch of your BB and tap-tap-tap the leaves (onto the paper) with your other hand. A close examination of the paper afterwards should result in some minute specks....which MOVE!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 3:16PM
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I have those mites on one of my houseplants but I am going to spray it because it is only an ornamental for the house. It got them when I put it outside for awhile last summer.

Speaking of buddleias, I have to say that I have noticed that my three Buddleia 'Cornwall Blues' are the definite preferred nectar source by the butterflies (especially the tigers and the other swallowtails. And yesterday I saw the first Lorquin's Admiral in my life and it stayed on that buddleia while I followed it from window to window with my ID books in hand.

I hate those earwigs and today I came in from the yard and looked down and on my shirt there was a big one just resting an inch or so below my collar. It is now gone forever. But the horrid things are all over my Ascepias speciosa on the growing tips. They just fall into the tall grass if I try to 'get' them. I don't know what to do because I have Aristolochia vines growing under the milkweed so I can't spray. Murray

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 1:02AM
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I have never seen earwigs (thank goodness) in my garden so far - knock on wood!

I mentioned spider mites earlier in this thread:

"Spider mites can yellow foliage, too. Just put a white piece of paper beneath a leaf, shake the leaf, and if you have them, they will show up on the paper. Butterfly bushes, I'm told, are susceptible to spider mites."


    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 7:10AM
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onafixedincome(z8-9 CA)

Murray, that seems just to be 'the way' with milkweeds. Long as I can remember (even as a kid!) it was a great and reliable spot to look for fishbait....

Try a soft veggie brush, one of the 'bottle scrubber' kind and knock them off into something that has loosely crumpled, damp newspaper in the bottom--which has been liberally dusted with Sevin. They fall in and go hide..and not-so-incidentally get a nice tasty dose of Sevin and DIE.

Can you tell I just LOVE earwigs??? *snarl*

You can also set up traps of cut-up garden hose tubing lightly buried and moistened. Collect in very early morning and dump as above, then reset. I've also heard that dampened newspaper layers are also helpful as trap areas.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 11:00AM
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I will have to try those ideas because the earwigs and the snails are driving me nuts and let me not forget those horrid wasps. Has anyone tried those zappers that look something like a tennis racket? Murray

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 12:43AM
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Update -

First, thank you ALL for your suggestions & comments. I certainly learned alot (I always do @ GW!). Anyway, further inspection indicated probably not a massive infestation of spider mites (a honeysuckle on other side of yard had 'em & I'm constantly pulling off webs), but jusst in case I sprayed the heck out of the under-side of the leaves w/the hose sprayer.

Also, I fed it some fish emulsion plant food.

THEN, a friend of ours who is a garden-specialist type (yes, there's a label, but I forget it - maybe landscape architect? I'm not sure) - was over for dinner tonight & he said ... doesn't look like a pest b/c no brown spots (except a couple leaves - so he compared them for me) ... and it does look like HEAT distress & lack of water.

He said the yellow bottom leaves look like normal leaf drop.

But, the top, newer growth that looks like "spinach" (my new term for the very puckered mangled look), probably got heat distress during that heat wave and/or just before it.

He said that pests can cause that, but given the condition of the bush & how it looks, it was probably just heat & lack of water.

Just thought I'd share the info & update in case anyone in the future does & search & is wondering. :)

He said it should bloom ok.

All the Best, Tree

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 9:21PM
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rexedwardfairy(Zone 11)

Treeinj, that info is great. I'm in Australia and just experienced EXACTLY the same as you. Happy green butterfly bush one day....a week later, yellowing leaves, burn-on the end of the leaves, small web (could be spider, could be mite) and confusion about whether I overwatered (same I watered it, then we had rain-rain-rain) so I stopped watering...but we had a heatwave for a day or two, so now I've done the spidermite paper test (nothing dropped to the paper) and have decided that it not watering it daily (as I had been before the rain) isn't it's favourite. I think the heatwave is what distressed it. So now i'm resuming daily watering. We'll see if that stops the yellow leafing... Thanks for your info everyone.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I lost 2 of my BF bushes for no apparent reason, also! Green & thriving & then yellow leaves & now they are dead! I think they were distressed due to heat & then I overwatered them to compensate & they don't like soggy feet! The ones I lost were new this year & the other plants...I have had for several years...weren't affected. I am planting a few new varieties & have been debating on whether to plant them in the same locations where I lost the 2...I have decided to plant them in another location that gets watered regularly by my irrigation. I had planted them this spring & with our Texas heat...probably didn't have time to get their roots established well before our 100+ temps for weeks...months set in. I am planting them now before winter & hopefully, they will survive our next summer's heat!
Good luck,

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 9:41AM
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