My Butterfly Bush Looks Dead – How To Revive A Butterfly Bush

pruned butterfly bush
pruned butterfly bush
(Image credit: Charlotte Bleijenberg)

Butterfly bushes are great assets in the garden. They bring vibrant color and all kinds of pollinators. They are perennials, and they should be able to survive the winter in USDA zones 5 through 10. Sometimes they have a harder time coming back from the cold, however. Keep reading to learn what to do if your butterfly bush is not coming back in the spring, and how to revive a butterfly bush.

My Butterfly Bush Looks Dead

Butterfly plants not leafing out in the spring is a common complaint, but it's not necessarily a sign of doom. Just because they can survive the winter does not mean they will come bouncing back from it, especially if the weather has been particularly bad. Usually, all you need is a little patience. Even if the other plants in your garden are beginning to produce new growth and your butterfly bush is not coming back, give it some more time. It may be long after the last frost before it begins to put out new leaves. While your butterfly bush dying may be your biggest worry, it should be able to take care of itself.

How to Revive a Butterfly Bush

If your butterfly bush is not coming back and you feel like it should be, there are some tests you can do to see if it’s still alive.

  • Try the scratch test. Gently scrape a fingernail or sharp knife against a stem - if this reveals green underneath, then that stem is still alive.
  • Try gently twisting a stem around your finger - if it snaps off, it’s probably dead, but if it bends, it’s probably alive.
  • If it’s late in the spring and you discover dead growth on your butterfly bush, prune it away. New growth can only come from living stems, and this should encourage it to start growing. Don’t do it too early, though. A bad frost after this kind of pruning can kill back all that healthy living wood you’ve just exposed.
Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.