Waving atop foliage like magic wands, the slender panicles of the butterfly bush beckon pollinators as if by magic. The spikes, ranging from 5 to 12 inches long depending on the cultivar, consist of tightly packed, star-shaped flower petals clustered up and down the panicle.
Flower colors are bright and vibrant, in shades of pink, red, violet, purple and blue.
‘Miss Molly’ Butterfly Bush (Buddleia x) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 – 5 feet tall and wide
Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is sometimes called ‘summer lilac’ for its sweet fragrance.
Combined with its rich colors and stately panicles, usually three per stem, its perfume is the calling card that invites pollinators to dine. In fact, it’s not unusual to see two or three butterflies foraging on one panicle.
Lo & Behold® ‘Blue Chip Jr.’ Butterfly Bush (Buddleia x) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 – Up to 2 feet tall and wide
That’s because each petal is like a shallow bowl filled to the brim with sugar-water. This sucrose provides busy pollinators with energy fuel.
With short, straw-like tongues, having abundant nectar within easy reach is especially important to monarch and swallowtail butterflies, which spend a large part of their day in flight. It is also an important energy source for busy bees, moths, ladybugs and other insects, as well as hummingbirds.
Black Knight Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 – 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide
Loma Vista Nursery grows several butterfly bush cultivars for independent garden centers, landscape contractors and wholesale distributors. Noninvasive, all produce long-lasting blooms and are resistant to deer and rabbits.
They are heat and drought tolerant and low maintenance. In a variety of sizes from small and medium to large, butterfly bush offers many unique opportunities for planting in the home and commercial garden and landscape.
Flutterby Petite® Tutti Fruitti Pink Butterfly Bush (Buddleia ‘Podaras#13’) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 10 – 3 feet tall and wide
Plant butterfly bush in mixed perennial borders and cutting gardens, as accent on slopes and embankments, as hedges, en masse and in larger containers. Good companion plants include Rudbeckia, Salvia, Asclepias, Monarda and Coreopsis. In addition to beautiful applications out-of-doors, for unique florals in the home place cut panicles in a vase.
Depending on the variety, this deciduous shrub has varying shades of foliage, ranging from hues that are slightly silver or gray to sage and dark green. Leaves have serrated edges and a coarse texture.
Pugster Blue® Butterfly Bush (Buddleia x) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 – 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Bloom times vary depending on the variety of butterfly bush, but its flowering season is generally mid-to-late spring through fall. It is not necessary to deadhead panicles. Pruning during the growing season is not necessary.
Butterfly bush produces blooms on new wood. Cut the shrub back to about 1 foot above the soil in early spring, when you see green buds appearing on the stems. Prune just above where the leaf buds have formed.
CranRazz™ Butterfly Bush (Buddleja x ‘Boscranz’) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 10 – 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide
Cold Weather Ready
Be mindful that panicles form at the top of the shrub, so controlling the shrub’s height and size through pruning is important, even among the smaller shrub varieties. Also, be patient for new growth. Butterfly bushes are one of the last bloomers in late spring – sometimes blooming as late as mid-June.
Plant new shrubs in spring or summer to avoid winter damage that may otherwise result if you’re planting in the fall. Give the root system plenty of time to establish itself before cold weather arrives.
Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii ‘Nanho Purple’) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 – 3 to 5 feet tall and wide
Butterfly bush is sensitive to root rot and does not like cold or wet feet. Plant this shrub in soil with good drainage. Resist adding soil amendments or mulching around this shrub to avoid soil compaction.
To encourage water drainage away from the butterfly bush, plant the shrub in a shallow hole rather than at ground level. Water carefully throughout the season. Provide 1 inch of moisture per week while the shrub is actively growing. Weak stems, yellowing foliage, wilting leaves, fewer flowers and dieback are all signs of overwatering.
Flutterby® Pink Butterfly Bush (Buddleia hybrid) – USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 10 – 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide
Landscape professionals looking for low-maintenance shrubs for Midwest projects will have a variety of options with butterfly bush. Just make sure the shrub you’re planting will get no fewer than eight hours of full sun each day. In warmer climates within the area, butterfly bushes should get a minimum of six hours of full sun daily.
USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 are generally appropriate for planting butterfly bush, although some will do well in Zone 10.
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