Every Reason the Butterfly Bush Would Have Yellow Leaves

If you love the beautiful, graceful motion of butterflies flitting around your garden but hate how often they’re eaten by birds and other animals, planting a butterfly bush is the perfect solution.

Butterfly bushes are tough enough to withstand animal predation and don’t require special care or maintenance. Plus, they bloom in shades of orange, yellow, and red to attract butterflies who will also pollinate these flowers.

You can’t go wrong with this flowering plant that’s easy to grow right in your backyard! Read on for some helpful tips on deciding when a butterfly bush is ripe for planting!

Why a Butterfly Bush Is Turning Yellow

Butterfly Bush Yellow Leaves

Unnatural Soil pH

The pH level of your butterfly bush’s soil may also change if you have added a chemical fertilizer or if the soil has naturally become acidic or alkaline due to other factors in its life. If this causes leaves on your butterfly bush to turn yellow and fall prematurely, you will have to adjust the soil’s pH level to be closer to neutral. That is done by adding a small amount of lime (or wood ash) into your soil.

Lack of Nitrogen in Soil

A lack of nitrogen in a butterfly bush’s soil causes its leaves to turn yellow and fall off prematurely. That means that too little fertilizer has been added to the soil or has not been added regularly enough to maintain a healthy nutrient level. Typically, a butterfly bush should be fed with a high nitrogen fertilizer twice per year in the spring and fall.


Overfeeding can cause deficiencies in the soil, damage to roots, and make the plant grow too fast and become uneven or unbalanced, which can cause stress on other parts of the plant. That can also lead to bending or breaking the stem, making leaves fall off too early or causing them to die from being broken too often.

Poor spacing between plants

If you have planted your Butterfly Bush plants too close together, they will compete for the same types of resources and light energy. That will lead to your plants going yellow and eventually going dormant.

Lack of sunlight

Butterflies need more than 6 hours of sunlight per day to maintain deep green leaves. If you have not been getting this much light, it could be causing your plant’s leaves to go brown and eventually turn yellow. That can also lengthen the time before flowering occurs.


For your plant to grow, it needs soil that is not wet. If the soil is too wet, there is a possibility that the roots will rot and die. When the leaves start to die, they turn brown or yellow and fall off the plant. After establishing a watering schedule for your plants, you should be watering around two times per week during spring and summer if you live in a hot region. The Butterfly Bush only needs extra water in the early spring, right after being planted.


The butterfly bush yellow leaves can also be caused by underwatering, which can cause roots to rot. If you don’t see yellowing of leaves or if you are giving it adequate water, your butterfly bush may still have roots that are rotting and causing quicker aging and death of the plant.

1. Select A Site That Provides Sunlight Or Filtered Shade

Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) prefer full sun, but they can grow in dappled or even full shade if the soil is moist. Choose a spot with well-drained soil and no competition from nearby shrubs or plants. Butterfly bushes grow quickly in their first summer, so plant them where they will have room to expand without crowding other plants.

2. Select An Early Spring Time For Planting

Butterfly Bush Yellow Leaves

Plant butterfly bushes during early spring in your area, when the ground has begun to warm up, and all danger of frost has passed. Butterfly bushes prefer the warm weather of springtime to develop their roots and become established. If you plant your butterfly bush in late summer, the plant may not have time to settle into its new environment before fall frosts hit.

3. Loosen The Roots And Soil Before Planting

Examine the root system of your butterfly bush carefully. Butterfly bushes are sold potted or planted in plastic containers, with a long stem attached to them (this stem is what will become the main stem of your butterfly bush). When you buy your butterfly bush, shorten this stem to about 6 inches if it is long. That will encourage root growth near the base rather than at the top of the plant.

4. Dig Up A Small Hole

Dig a hole about 2 or 3 times as wide as the plant’s width. Fill the hole with a balanced compost blend, peat moss, and sand. Mulch around your butterfly bush with 2 inches of soil and compost to have proper drainage. Push some extra soil into any crevices in the base of your butterfly bush to prevent future rot.

5. Prune Back The New Growth In Early Summer

Butterfly bushes produce a lot of new growth each spring, but if they are left unpruned, they will not produce flowers or fruit. Cut back the new growth on each branch by about half in early summer when it is about 2 feet tall. Hang your butterfly bush with a pot hook until it has grown tall enough to stand upright.

6. Prune In Late Summer Or Fall

When the plant begins to go dormant in late summer, prune back the branches you cut back in early summer. That will encourage blooms in the fall. You might also prefer to remove any dead flowers or foliage produced during early summer.

7. Give Your Butterfly Bush Strong Support

Butterfly bushes are heavy and may topple if a support stake or trellis does not adequately support them. Design a supporting structure that complements your butterfly bush, so you don’t have plain plants and twigs against an attractive background when blooming time for your butterfly bush.

Butterfly Bush Yellow Leaves

8. Water Your Butterfly Bush Regularly

Water your butterfly bush to keep the soil moist, especially in dry weather. You should not allow the soil to become dry or mulch to help hold moisture. Butterfly bushes will be happier if you keep them well-watered in drought conditions. If your butterfly bush is nearby a pebbled pathway, let the pathway absorb water that spills from the growing birdbath by placing a little mulch around it and your butterfly bush.

Butterfly Bush Yellow Leaves: Conclusion

Butterfly bushes are so pretty, but they require a bit of maintenance. They have delicate, thin leaves and flowers that die off quickly if neglected. These plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds, but they won’t survive in cold weather unless protected by a south-facing window. Choose a hardy butterfly bush in your climate and follow the above guidelines.

Related Article: Is Butterfly Bush Native to California?