Growing Butterfly Bushes
Butterfly bush, Buddleia, or commonly called Summer Lilacs, is a deciduous shrub that blooms in early summer to late fall. They are attractive to butterflies for their nectar but they are not a host plant for butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Horticulturists recommend planting milkweed, black cherry, willow, apple or blueberry bushes nearby to provide the necessary food for caterpillars for your pollinator garden. They produce bushels of spire shaped flowers that drape gracefully from the ends of the arching branches that range in color from white, yellow, purple, red, and pink, and bloom from new wood, oftentimes in the first year after planting. They
are a fast growing shrub, reaching mature size up to 10 feet tall in just one to two seasons, depending on the variety.
Buddleia davidii is native to the Sichuan and Hubei Provinces of China, and also Japan. It has been naturalized in much of the United States due to its tendency to spread and become invasive. Responsible gardeners will learn to deadhead spent flowers to prevent this lovely shrub from becoming a nuisance. Although cold hardy, growing in Zones 5 to 10, it is deciduous and may die back to the ground each winter, only to regrow in spring and produce flowers the same year.
There are about 180 davidii cultivars plus dozens of hybrids available, giving home gardeners a wide choice of colors and overall sizes to select from for their landscape. Some popular Butterfly Bush varieties include Black Knight, Pink Delight, Miss Ruby, Royal Red and Blue Chip, just to name a few. With their dramatic colored flowers and their upright habit, Butterfly Bushes make great specimen plants as well as lending themselves to make a great privacy screen.
The Best Way to Use Butterfly Bushes
Perhaps the best way to utilize Butterfly Bushes in your home landscape is to determine how much space you want to devote to it. It can spread out up to 10 feet wide and grows to about 10 feet tall for some varieties, so you decide what you can handle. If you have lots of space and wish to have a summer privacy screen, mass Butterfly bushes out in a line or staggered for a colorful border. If your space is more restrictive, use one bush in a central, full sun location for a spectacular specimen plant.
Butterfly Bushes are hardy in Zones 5 and upward, although they may die back to the ground in colder climates. Since they bloom on new wood each year, consider cutting your shrub back in the late winter, early spring before new growth appears. It will rebound and give you loads of blooms again in early summer. Plant these shrubs in full sun for best performance, especially in colder regions. They will appreciate some light shade in hot summer regions as well. A Southern or Western facing location will give you the best results.
Locate your Butterfly Bush where you can appreciate the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds that are sure to visit it. An easy maintenance shrub, it will benefit from supplemental watering when natural rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
Six week long bloom time summer to fall
White, pink, red, purple and blue flowers
Great for garden borders
Can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide
Winter hardy from Zones 5 to 10
Landscaping Tip: Butterfly Bushes are fast growing, vigorous shrubs and will quickly fill in that area in your landscape that needs the right ‘something’, giving you bright flowers and lush green foliage and attracting pollinators to your garden.