So as gardeners, we are always on the hunt for the perfect plant. You know, the one that is drought tolerant, blooms it’s head off, grows fast, and loves poor soil? Well, we think we can solve those little issues for you. And if you are gardening on a budget, this plant is perfect for that too, because it grows quickly to fill empty garden space.  Butterfly Bush, (Buddleia) is one of our favorite all purpose plants for the garden, and it’s easy to grow.  (Like “perfect kind of plant” easy!) So let’s learn about Butterfly Bush care, pruning, and the best varieties to choose from.

 

 

 

About Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

  • Butterfly Bush is one of the easiest shrubs to grow. It is low maintenance, requiring little in the way of fertilizer, and is resistant to pests and disease. So you spend less on upkeep. Say that about a rose bush! The gray green leaves are the perfect backdrop for any garden, and they have a fine texture and arching shape that many gardens lack.
  • It grows fast. And we mean FAST.
  • Butterfly Bush will fill a corner, create a hedge or become the background of a large planting bed in one season. It grows 5-10 feet high and as wide, so it can make fast impact on your yard for little cash. Don’t bother with the $40 ten gallon size from the nursery. Buy them in four inch pots for $3, wait one season and have full size bushes!
  • It attracts, of all things, butterflies!
  • And occasionally hummingbirds, and the finches love to hang out there too. Forget a butterfly feeder, plant this shrub.
  • It has beautiful flowers perfect for cutting, and lots of them all summer long.
  • Butterfly Bush produces panicles of pretty flowers that range from a few inches to over a foot long depending on variety. The most common colors are pink and purple, but there are also blue, white and a yellow variety. The yellow happens to be fragrant as well, although the flower panicles are smaller. These all make great cut flowers on long stems, and bloom from June to September.
  • Drought Resistant means it saves water (and money!) too!

 

butterfly bush

 

Butterfly Bush Care

  • Butterfly Bush will grow in poor soil, although prefers a mid range loam. Do not fertilize much as that will produce too much green growth, and make it lanky with few flowers.
  • Give them room…ten feet across is not uncommon.
  • Water well the first year to develop a good root system, and they are moderately drought resistant after that.
  • Butterfly Bush pruning is easy. Cut back to 12-18 inches from the ground in early spring. That may sound severe, but this will create a more dense uniform plant with larger flowers. Trust us, it will rebound to its large size by June. This is the secret to attractive shrubs that make your garden look like a prize winning spot!
  • Don’t be in a hurry in the spring to see new growth, as Butterfly Bush is a late sleeper. It will put out new leaves a little later than a lot of other shrubs, so be patient, it catches up fast.
  • They do well down to Zone 5, and can be semi evergreen in areas that do not freeze. They are deciduous in colder areas, but since you cut it back to the ground in early spring anyway, it doesn’t matter.
  • Be aware, some varieties can be invasive. If you have that problem in your area, look for “sterile” varieties that do not self seed. We are aware there is a controversy in some states about damage the species can do to wild wetlands. Do your homework and plant responsibly for your area. We do list several Butterfly Bush varieties that are non invasive below.

 

budget garden butterfly bush

 

Our Favorite Butterfly Bush Varieties!

Tried and True, “Pink Delight” is still the industry standard and most common Butterfly Bush variety, with uniform growth and large, deep pink flowers. Another pink variety we love is called “Miss Molly”. Deep pink/ magenta, growing to 5 feet tall and wide, and hardy down to zone 5, this selection hummingbirds especially love. It is also a non invasive variety. Find this variety at ‘Bluestone Perennials‘. (One of our favorite online nurseries as well!)

 

If you love fragrance, try “Honeycomb”. Yellow flowers and a delicious scent.

 

A dwarf Butterfly Bush variety that is suitable for large containers is “Blue Chip” This is also a sterile variety that will not self seed. Grows 2 to 21/2 feet tall and wide. Find this Butterfly Bush also at ‘Bluestone Perennials‘ or ask at your local nursery.

 

“Purple Emperor” is a fantastic deep purple with long panicles of flowers, and for a sparkling white variety, try “White Ball” or “White Profusion”

 

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Grow Butterfly Bush! Here's Why (and How!)

There are dozens of varieties from local and online nurseries, even selections with variegated foliage. Butterfly Bush is a proven winner that will quickly establish an attractive, full garden for little money, and basic upkeep.  We think you will also love our posts on 10 No Fail Perennials for Low Water Gardens and How to Grow Lavender Like the French!

Image Credits: Bluestone Perennials, Bluestone Perennials

 


19 Comments

  1. Nancy Childs June 23, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Thanks for your great info……I didn’t see anything re sun or shade tolerance for the butterfly bushes. I have a secret garden that gets only a couple hours noonday sun, at most…..would love to have these there…..would they work? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 8, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Butterfly bushes prefer full sun, they will do with partial shade, but with only a couple hours of sun a day I think they would look scraggly and not bloom well. Hope that helps!Try Hydrangeas for your secret garden spot!

      Reply
  2. Vikki Teeman April 24, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I live in Scottsdale Arizona, were it’s very hot and dry. Has anyone tried to grow a butterfly bush here? I would really over to grow one, but it’s hard to grow some beautiful plant here, that will last our summers.

    Reply
  3. gwen sewell March 22, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Kathy

    I had a beautiful butterfly bush and the rabbits ate it. What can I get to keep them away?

    Gwen

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Rabbits are a tough one… the best defense is a dog, but readers? Best rabbit solutions?

      Reply
  4. Rebecca Hart May 7, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Is it to late to cut them back? I am in zone 8b

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 21, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Butterfly bushes bloom off new wood, so anything you cut back will limit the blooms you have… that being said, they also grow back like wildfire!

      Reply
  5. Amy April 4, 2015 at 5:34 am

    This is one of my favorite sites to go to, and I love your newsletter! I have a question about the pruning. My butterfly bush has already sprouted leaves. Should I cut it back now or wait until next year. It is rather gangly and didn’t have large flowers last year.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard April 10, 2015 at 8:12 am

      I would still cut it back… it will get more and more gangly if you don’t! It will rebound if you do it soon!

      Reply
  6. Mary March 4, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I have had at least 7 or 8 of these in my garden over the years, ranging in color from white, pale orchid color, and deep purple. I find that I like the white ones the best. They seem to be more prolific, where the blooms are concerned. They grow much bigger and fuller than the purple varieties. The purples are pretty, but the blossoms are thinner and smaller. The white ones are always full of butterflies and hummingbirds.
    I have discovered that these beautiful plants thrive easily, but after 8 or 9 years they suddenly stop growing, so I’ve had to replaced them a few times. They really don’t take any care except I cut mine back as suggested in the spring, and they always grew right up again. I also deadhead them when the blossoms are done and dried out. This makes the plant accelerate the additional growth of new buds and flowers. LOVE these!

    Reply
  7. Maria Acevedo March 2, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    I would love this plant to Add to all I have now, but I live in Puerto Rico and have not found the plant or seeds. Any info. On where I can get it? Would appreciate any feedback.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 12, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      You can order the seeds and plants online, but I don’t know about the availability in your area…

      Reply
      1. vicki July 12, 2015 at 9:49 am

        I live in zone 9 -fl. and I have tried and killed all of them 9 of them would love them as I have butterflies all the time , but they do not grow that easy for me. Will they grow here and if so what am I doing wrong? I even called my exchange to help and they still died. Help please would love them in my garden.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Woodard July 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm

          Can you give some more info on how they were cared for, and exactly how they died?

          Reply
  8. jason April 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Another huge bonus to this plant is how easily you can take cuttings and root them for more plants in a very quick period of time, i’ve had many root and grow into good size plants and flower all in the same season

    Reply
    1. Carolyn January 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      I will try using the cuttings in the spring to see if I can grow more plants. They have been so easy for me to grow. The first year my neighbor cut them all away to the ground without my knowledge. Lucky for “him” I had not cut them yet. He thought it was a weed. So, he really did me a favor without knowing what he was doing… LOL. As for my orchids, they are continuing to flower three to four times a year. I keep them in the East window but it is covered with the porch. So it is not in direct light for vary long. About 3 hours.

      Reply
  9. Hellie's Corner February 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I love my buddleia I have two and they are full of butterflies in the summer. It sounds very harsh, but I will take your advice and cut them back in the spring.

    Reply
  10. Carol February 1, 2014 at 5:55 am

    I have the dark blue and also the yellow one, but heard they were evasive so have grown them in pots. I have not had good luck with them not many flowers and the branches do well and then seem to die off. Not sure what I am doing wrong. They were so pretty when I purchased them. But I will not give up because I would love to have them flourish and be able to smell my yellow flowers I did not realize it smelled!

    Reply
    1. jeanne c. July 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Hi carol… My experience with these is that they do not do well in pots. I have tried it and decided that they really don’t like to be restrained. The way they spread is by seed not by runners so you wont have any problem there if you plant them. I just pull them up when I see them and I will probably plant the little starts for to sell!

      Reply

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