Judy Eisenberg: Pruning the butterfly bush; getting ready for the garden

Judy Eisenberg

Q. I’ve heard that in late winter you should cut back a butterfly bush to 12 inches from the ground. My butterfly bush is about 8 feet tall. I’m afraid if I do this the bush won’t grow back. Is this true?

A. I used to think the same thing; if I cut back my tall butterfly bush so severely, it wouldn’t grow back. Now that I know better, I cut the bush down to about 12 inches every year in mid-March before new growth appears.

The normal life cycle of the butterfly bush, or Buddleia, is to go dormant during winter in zones 5 and 6. Giving the Buddleia a severe spring pruning in March to about a foot from the ground gets rid of most of the dormant branches and stimulates growth. You can even cut the Buddleia down to the ground and it will re-emerge from its roots in spring. By midsummer, the shrub will attain its original height.

The Buddleia produces blooms from midsummer until mid-September. The fragrant blooms, which are purple, pink, white or golden yellow, attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Q. While there’s still snow on the ground, are there tasks I can do now to prepare for gardening this spring?

Even though snow covers your garden beds, there are some garden-related tasks that can be taken care of during early March.

- If you haven’t cleaned your outdoor planters, scrub and sterilize them now with a solution of 1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts water. Then rinse them thoroughly with clean water.

- Gardening tools that haven’t been cleaned can be washed and sterilized with this bleach/water solution, or with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

- Get your pruning tools, spades, garden bed edger and mower blades sharpened if needed.

- Get your lawn mower and other garden equipment tuned-up.

- Draw up a plan for your vegetable garden so that this year’s crops will be rotated and not planted in the same place as last year.

- Contact gardening and lawn care professionals to get scheduled into their calendar as spring is a busy season for them.

- Join a garden club or take a gardening class to get new ideas and meet other gardeners.

Wicked Local Somerville contributor Judy Eisenberg of SunandShadeGardening.com has been gardening and consulting professionally with a personal touch for more than 10 years. She is a member of the Ecological Landscape Association and member of the Somerville, Mass., Garden Club. She can be contacted at SunandShadeGardening@comcast.net.