The Right Place
Butterfly bushes are not fussy. They like sun, which encourages flowering, and they like basically well-drained, soil of just about any type as long as it has some organic material in it to drain well and hold moisture. They can handle either alkaline or acid soil and transplant extremely easily. In the North plant this shrub in the spring so that it has a full season to become established before cold weather sets in. In the South plant anytime.
Planting Nursery Stock
While shrubs usually come through the mail in “bare root” condition, those purchased at the local garden center or nursery are typically in a container. If you have a choice, the best size for this shrub is 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall. Keep the soil moist until planting time. Then gently remove the shrub from the pot. Spread roots that are matted or coiled from confinement in the pot to encourage them to grow outward into the surrounding soil rather than around the root ball.
Dig a saucer-shaped hole wide enough to accommodate the spread roots and just as deep as the container. Rough up the sides of the hole to encourage lateral root growth, but do not put any loose soil at the bottom of the hole. Set the butterfly bush in the hole, checking to be sure that the surface of its rootball is level, or even slightly above the surface of the surrounding soil. Fill the hole with just plain soil, firming it periodically around the roots to eliminate air pockets.
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
Don’t water until the shrub is planted, then water generously. Water weekly for several weeks if it does not rain. Do not fertilize at this time. Spreading a layer of mulch on the soil over the newly planted roots will help keep the moisture in the soil at this critical time. If planting more than one butterfly bush, space the shrubs at least 4 feet apart.
Butterfly bushes grow comfortably in containers. Use a container that is at least two gallons (at least 12 inches across and 12 inches tall) and has drainage holes. Use a soilless potting mix to minimize potential soil-borne disease problems and weight. Add some slow-acting granular fertilizer before planting or plan to water regularly during the growing season with a dilute solution of liquid general-purpose fertilizer. After frost when the ground freezes, wrap the container with some sort of material such as bubble wrap or burlap to insulate the roots and soil from extreme fluctuations of soil temperatures during natural winter freezing and thawing cycles.