Q: What is the best time to trim butterfly bushes back and how far should I trim them? They are so large now and I would like to make the best of this season's growth without harming the plant. Jeanna Vinai, Dallas, Georgia

A: Late winter and early spring, like right now, is a great time to prune the vast majority of butterfly bushes (Buddleia sp.), because they bloom on the new season's growth. You can take them down to within a foot of the ground if you like. They'll respond this spring with plenty of new vigorous growth, lots of flowers, and will recapture their former size by late summer. Two rather uncommon types you should prune after they finish blooming in summer are fountain butterfly bush (B. alternifolia) and orange butterfly bush (B. globosa). They bloom on the previous year's growth. Wayside Gardens ( is a good mail-order source.

Useless Fact You Won't Find Anywhere Else Butterfly bushes, or buddleias, are named for the Reverend Adam Buddle (1660-1715), an English botanist and vicar of Farmbridge in Essex.

BONUS USELESS FACT!!!! Although butterfly bush is well-behaved here, this native of China and Japan just loves the English countryside (England being so quaint and pastoral and all) and is among that countrys most invasive plants. Among its favorite haunts are the slopes running alongside train tracks and the 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.

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