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Pruning Russian Sage and Butterfly Bush


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#1 John Blair

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 07:13 PM

I grew Russian Sage and Butterfly Bushes for the first time this last summer and would appreciate advice on; 1)When to prune and 2) How to prune each of these plants here in SE Michigan. Thank you for any advice you have :-)



#2 Dsmith74

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:42 PM

I cut my Russian Sage down to less than 2" in early spring. I always plan to do it before the buds start to swell, but end up looking out the bedroom window one morning when I open the shades, notice little blue-green sprouts, say "Holy cow! I gotta get those cut!" and go do it then. 

 

I also always cut them, then impatiently wait for them to start growing, the whole time thinking "You've done it this time! You've cut them too short and they're not coming back." But they always do. 



#3 John Blair

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:50 PM

Thank you for the help with the Russian Sage. I'll keep a close eye on those buds and try to do the pruning before they open up :)

 

Can anyone help me wqith the Butterfly Bush?



#4 Margaret Thele

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:21 PM

Butterfly bush is a woody stemmed perennial much like the Russian Sage. I don't cut the ones in my care as severely as Dsmith but I do cut them down to about 6" with a few buds on each stem


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#5 John Blair

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:08 PM

Thank you, Margaret :)



#6 Steven Nikkila

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 06:48 PM

We usually cut the Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) down close to the ground in the fall because the plant looks too shaggy in the winter for our tastes. It has always come back and performs well, maybe too well because it tends to travel more (run and sucker more) when it is cut. If there is a good background for the grey stems, we may leave it up but prune out many of its smaller stems to give it a cleaner look than the plant below.

RusSage6213.jpg

 

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) we tend to leave up because it looks good in the winter. Then we cut it down to about 4-6".



#7 John Blair

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 11:26 PM

Thank you, Steven!



#8 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 01:38 PM

It's tricky to explain about butterfly bush. It doesn't HAVE to be cut back. But it CAN be, and we do cut it. We also cut it hard rather than to just cut it back to lively wood (like a hybrid tea rose) because we happen to like it more as a clean-lines, vase shaped 5-6 foot plant that blooms a bit later in summer than it would be otherwise. Uncut plants or those cut back only to remove dead wood become more branched and taller by bloom time. Sometimes people look at them in spring and don't cut them back much at all because, "Woo hoo, look, it's alive all the way to about 12" from its tips!" Then in summer they say, "What can I do about this butterfly bush? It's like 10 feet tall!"

 

Steven's being a little cautious in his description. As he often is in the garden. _I_ cut Buddleia back to almost invisible -- an inch tall, maybe two inches. I don't want to deal with an accumulation of dead stubs there year by year. (Those who volunteer with us at the zoo stand back and smile as newcomers cut the butterfly bush because they've all been there to see me come through and say, "Nope, lower, cut it, don't worry!")  If the plant's in a good place it comes back just as well from a single bud or two at the base of a branch, as from buds higher up.

 

If you go to this article and scroll to the end, you'll see Tom Theoret who is not shy about pruning butterfly bushes, cutting back some of ours at the Detroit Zoo. Notice the size of the plants before cutting, compared to mad-cutter Tom, then look at the limbs he cut stacked against the split rail fence a few minutes later. There wasn't much left after that cut but the plants grew to 5' that summer.






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