Butterfly Bushes - Advice, please

sweetmagnoliameApril 11, 2009

Hey y'all!

Hope everyone ie well! I've been hanging out in the background as usual, having fun reading and learning!

In the spring of 2007 I asked y'all for advice about two butterfly bushes that were leaning further and further away from a fence as they grew, dug them up, shored up the sloping area in front of the bushes and replanted them a bit further from the fence. The advice was right on, but my technique lacked something - namely, I waited too late...they were just breaking dormancy. Between something I did and a super cold snap, neither of them did anything last summer except send up a couple of spindly branches.

This spring, a few of the stems in the now-wide base of one bush are sending up shoots. Other appear to be completely dead. The other bush has only 2 or 3 green shoots and the multiple stems of old wood at the base appear dead.

Should I concede defeat, dig up these now 3-4 y/o plants and start over? I'm pretty patient, but I'd prefer not to go another summer without the flowers/fragrance!



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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Mags,

I'd give them another year--or at least a couple more months--to see how they do this year. If they get going, they grow fast. I would go thru and trim out all the dead wood, the same as you would with rose bushes, but it's still early, and it sounds like there may be hope for them if they're already getting new growth.

Gotta go,
Good luck,

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:51AM
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phloxy_mary(5 Lafayette)

Mags, I've had mine for about 5 years and I'm here to tell you that they take a long time to get going in the Spring, and they don't bloom until August. I've been cutting them down each year thinking that's what I was supposed to do. Then last year my girlfriend from PA said her mom's are huge compared to mine and she never cuts them back. This year I'm going to leave them and cut out the dead stuff once they green up. As you said you waited too long - I think you should give 'em another season - it often takes an extra year to bounce back after a shock. I think they'll be back! Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:35PM
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Watch out for flea beetles early in the spring - it's pretty obvious.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 6:28PM
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conace55(z5 CO)

David, My butterfly bush grew nicely last year and then was hit very hard by flea beetles which left it looking quite ugly. Is there anything that I can do now to prevent them again this year? Or do I just have to deal with them if/when they come this year? What treatment have you found successful?

Thanks for any advice. Connie

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 1:43PM
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I always think my butterfly bush is dead until mid-July, so I would give it at least until the end of summer. Then make sure when you transplant a new one it's not budding yet! I made the same mistake with a lilac and it has been barely limping along for nearly 3 years now.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 2:20PM
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Connie, I have at least 50 buddleia of assorted colors in my border. I've tried all kinds of approaches, going from least toxic gradually up the scale, and settled on using a single dose of a systemic pesticide just as soon as I see any damage on any one of them - I just mix up a gallon of spray, hit them all once - because if one has them, they all seem to - and thats enough until next year.

I've been using acephate, but I dunno if that's still on the market.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 6:07PM
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conace55(z5 CO)

Thanks David. I plan to have something on hand because I'm pretty sure it will be a when rather than an if. And with 50 bushes, you are the expert in my eyes.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 11:19PM
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The only problem with the systemic insecticide is that it will kill all the butterflies and bees that eat off the butterfly bush , so I don't think this is a good idea. Please consider not using it. thanks

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 9:54AM
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Here, flea beetles are a major pest in the early summer - first few weeks of June. I spray acephate on the buddleia then, when they are between 6" and 18" high.

Acephate has a relatively short half life, 3 to 6 days, and is no longer effective on much of anything by august when the buddleia is 6 foot high and blooming.

Not that you'd want to spray it on your food.

Please don't have the impression that we slosh the stuff around all summer long.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 9:39PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Acephate is Orthene, AFAIK still available. It is a mild systemic (lasting about 2 weeks-ish) because of the foliar application - working in systemics to the soil usu ensures they persist longer.

I'd recommend against it as dani wrote above. I had a wonderful 'Pink Delight' in Sacramento that would crawl with predators and I never sprayed-injected-worked in any insecticide for fear of killing the predators or the other critters that I enjoyed. (Aside, I used to go out at night to the shrub with my red-light flashlight to enjoy the colors reflected in various species of moths' eyes [/geeky])

Here in Aurora, we have a solitary Buddleia that gets loads of ambush bugs, which delight the kindergartner. Any defoliation from critters is too bad for the plant, as the attractant for predators outweighs any defoliation. We don't get flea beetles on that shrub, altho I have a problem with them in the veggie garden.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 12:11PM
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In the over-all scheme of things, I live on a corner of two county roads and planted a noise/wind/visual border consisting of a few hundred Scots Pines, green ash, lilac, honeysuckle (thanks, Soil Conservancy!) and propagated myself a few hundred assorted shrubs. The buddliea were planted years ago, and most of them are now in the shade of the trees and don't do well at all. There are a few of them that are spectacular, along the outside fence, that I spray when I spray the Scots Pines for bark beetle.

Which, by the way, is a real mess - at least half my pine trees are essentially dead, with the beetle damage causing an hourglass shape. That and the blue stain fungus has me replanting an assortment of baby trees of different species to replace them, because they're all going to be dead over the next few years.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 10:36AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

That's likely why you are getting flea beetles, David - the shade isn't allowing optimal growth & they are unhappy. We're starting to see pine bark beetle and ips down here in the lowlands on this side as well. You are a few years ahead of us, but we're catching up. We also have some lilac ash borer which is a real pain.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 11:27AM
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