Buddleia davidii: The Butterfly Bush
By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs
If butterfly gardens were like kingdoms, the butterfly bush would be the king. Buddleia davidii or, the butterfly bush, as it is more commonly known, is a must-have in any butterfly garden – when it comes to attracting butterflies, it can’t be bested. This beautiful deciduous shrub explodes with blossoms in the late summer and continues blooming into the fall (depending on the weather of course). The butterfly bush is incredibly easy to grow and needs little in the way of maintenance making it the obvious choice for all gardeners from novice to professional.
Butterfly bushes can grow to be 6 to 12 feet in height with a spread from 4 to 15 feet. These tall shrubs are known for their beautiful long panicles of colorful blossoms. The flowers come in a wide variety of colors included two-tone varieties, however it seems to be the lavender/pink blooms that butterflies enjoy the best. The blossoms provide nectar for many species of adult butterflies, as the leaves are a food source for the larvae of some species. The butterfly bush will thrive when planted in full or part sun and in well-drained soil; planting it in a location that provides these conditions will lessen the amount of maintenance it will require. Keep in mind that the more sun it gets, the more blooms it will have!
In terms of maintenance, Buddleia does not need a lot of fertilizer – too much fertilizer will promote for foliage growth and lessen flower production. It requires moderate watering and once established it can become drought tolerant – it does not like to have wet feet, too much water will cause root rot. Flowers can be cut so you can enjoy their fragrance in your home and spent blooms can be removed during the growing season to promote additional flowering. The butterfly bush is considered to be slightly invasive so to keep your Buddleia in check, be sure to remove the seed heads in October and prune annually in the spring. Some species can flower on old wood and should only be pruned to maintain its shape and remove dead branches.
Most of the beautiful flowering plants I see at the nursery and would love to have in my yard are candy for deer – but not the butterfly bush, this beauty is deer resistant! The deer will only dine on Buddleia as an absolute last resort. Butterfly bushes are also not known to have frequent run-ins with diseases or insects either. If the plant is in an environment that doesn’t meet its growth needs, it will become stressed and open to spider mites. Sometimes, but not often, the butterfly bush can be attacked by Japanese beetles, weevils and caterpillars.
The flowers of the butterfly bush give off a wonderfully soothing fragrance – plant it near a window or patio so you can enjoy its sent throughout the summer months. Aside from being a regular in every butterfly garden, Buddleia can be planted as a back border in a perennial garden, as a massing plant and some dwarf varieties can be used as a front border or an edging plant. The butterfly bush is also surprisingly tolerant of urban pollution so they can successfully be used in city landscapes as well as along roadsides. Not only are butterfly bushes incredibly attractive on their own, but covered in butterflies outside your window with their fragrance filling the air? That sounds like absolute bliss to me!