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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Refresher course on beautiful butterfly bush

Friday, April 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

Would you like a guaranteed bee, butterfly and hummingbird magnet in your garden? Or maybe you already have one or more of these beautiful plants and wonder what you should do to cause it to become fuller and bloom more profusely this year.

My column today will hopefully answer some of those questions about this wonderful native plant, the butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii.

•The butterfly bush needs to be planted in a full sun location in your garden.

•Remember this shrub is a native, so it doesn't mind whether the soil is alkaline or acid. But when you plant it, you should dig a large hole giving the roots plenty of room to expand and grow, especially if your land is mostly clay.

•If you find a lot of clay at the dig site (Allen County soil is mostly clay), keep a wheelbarrow handy and, instead of throwing the clay away, amend it. Clay is a crystal and naturally holds moisture, so by amending it, you will help the plant site to hold moisture at the root zone during dry spells.

•To amend clay, add lighteners such as sphagnum, a little sand (not much) and lots of compost. I also mix in a handful of slow-release fertilizer and a heaping shovel or two of composted manure. Stir well, then scoop some in the bottom of the hole to set the plant on and fill the hole around the plant roots with the soil mixture.

•Plant in a well-drained area of the garden. Water it often when newly planted, but once the shrub is established, rainfall is all that's needed unless we are having drought.

•Each year at the start of the growing season, work in some new amendments and scatter a little fertilizer at the root zone. After that, do not add a lot of high-nitrogen fertilizer (the first number in the series on the bag or box of fertilizer, such as 10-10-10) or you will have little bloom and a lot of leaf growth.

Purchase a fertilizer for all your flowering plants that has a larger number in the middle, or mix Epsom salts in the watering can. This adds magnesium and will encourage bloom.

•In our climate, the butterfly bush is considered an herbaceous shrub, which just means it will die back to the ground during our cold winters and will bloom on new growth (wood).

It should be cut back to the ground each spring (now is a good time to do that).

If you notice that there is sprouting already when you get ready to prune, cut the bush off above the new sprouts.

•This shrub is late in coming to life in the spring, so don't assume it is dead — you will more than likely be happily surprised later on.

•Even a newly planted shrub will bloom the first year. To make certain the plant continues to bloom all season, prune off spent blooms.

•It can be susceptible to spider mites, so for this shrub or any of your plants, an organic product is best. Here is a link to Growers Trust for such a product, and there are several good reviews to read before buying: www.growerstrust.com/products/spider-mite-killer?gclid=CKTc34OL4bYCFSNqMgodjQwABA.

•The butterfly bush makes a lovely, fragrant hedge so, if you are adding this to your landscape this spring, make sure you plant the shrubs at least five to 10 feet apart.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@fron tier.com. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.