butterfly garden

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee, Smell Like A Buddleia

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!




Look at those neat flowers! Can you Sedum (see-dum)?

Sedum spp and hybrids: Stonecrop

By: Lauren M. Liff

         When it comes to versatility and reliability, sedum is pretty high up there on the list. Sedum ranges in height, habit, garden use, bloom time and color making it a great addition to just about any garden. Some varieties are spreading groundcovers while other varieties are taller and more upright while still others are small enough to be planted in containers and cared for as houseplants. Whether you’re looking for a ground cover to add to your rock garden or a late summer bloomer in your perennial garden – there is a sedum variety to fill almost any position.

         Most of the low-lying flowering varieties will bloom in the spring, as the taller varieties tend to bloom in the late summer or early fall. The low growing varieties are have a spreading/creeping growth habit and the taller varieties can get up to 2 feet tall or more. The blossoms of flowering sedums are star-shaped and bloom in clusters. The flowers range in color: shades of white, red, orange, yellow, lavender and pink – with all the varieties and sedum hybrids, each one is unique. All sedum varieties have thick leaves that grow in clusters around their stems. Some varieties have hairy foliage where as others have leaves that are waxy, some varieties have colorful leaves while others are adorned with light green foliage.

         Even though the varieties of sedum are all different, they are all succulents. As succulents they store water in their foliage, just as a cactus so they prefer to be in well-drained soil and thrive in full sun. Newly planted sedums should be well watered but once they are established they are drought tolerant. Sedums are fairly low maintenance requiring a light layer of compost in the spring each year, division to keep them in check, pruning to keep them healthy and pinching if you prefer to keep them small.

         Sedum can tolerate part sun however this may cause your plant to become leggy and flop over. If this does happen, a cage can be used to keep them upright or pinching the new growth in the spring to promote additional branching – this will also help to keep your sedum on the shorter side. They can be easily divided – in older plants the center of the “clump” will start to die out. To do this, simply divide your sedum into wedge-shaped sections and be sure to replant it in a similar location as to not shock the plant. Sedum cuttings also root rather easily; simply take the cutting and plant it into the soil – with proper watering and an ample amount of sunlight, the cutting will take root in no time! There is no need to deadhead sedums as the spent flower heads are almost as attractive as the blooming flower head – you can cut the whole plant back to the ground after the first freeze (the tops can be composted if you like).

         Sedum attracts a wide variety of pollinators and they are very much adored by butterflies making them the perfect late blooming perennial for your butterfly garden. When used in a butterfly garden or perennial garden, the taller varieties of sedum can be planted amongst coneflowers, rudbeckia and Russian sage. This combination of summer bloomers will give you an extra burst of color later in the season. When using a creeping sedum variety in your rock garden or as a low-lying border, it can be paired with other low growing and/or spreading flowers such as alyssum. With all the different varieties and sedum hybrids, it’s quite easy to find the perfect spot for it in your garden. In your flowerbed, amongst the rocks, on your windowsill or in a planter – sedum is truly one of the most interesting and versatile plants around!


Asclepias tuberosa: The Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed: The Monarch Magnet

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

            It’s quite easy to imagine how the butterfly weed earned its name. Asclepias tuberosa is a beautiful perennial with nectar and pollen rich flowers that attract tons of beneficial insects and pollinators including hummingbirds, bees and yes, you guessed it, hordes of butterflies! This beautiful perennial produces unique clusters of blooms all summer long and they range in color from bright orange to yellow and red. Being that the butterfly weed is a North American Native, it is fairly easy to grow and once established, requires little effort in terms of maintenance.

            Cousin to the milkweed, butterfly weed plants typically reach heights between 12 and 36 inches. The brightly colored blooms sit atop fuzzy green stems surrounded by lance-shaped leaves. Although it is related to the milkweed, this species does not have the milky-sapped stems as the other milkweeds do. This beauty normally grows wild in meadows, open woods, prairies, fields and along roadways however it has enormous garden bed potential. For garden use, they look fantastic when planted in wildflower meadows, garden borders, rock gardens and even as a mass planting in a perennial bed. They require full sun and will thrive in sandy or rocky soil; once established, the butterfly weed is also drought tolerant.

            When planting the butterfly weed, make sure to put it in its permanent place in your garden as the roots are long and very sturdy making transplantation incredibly difficult. Once planted, keep the soil moist until the butterfly weed is established and starts showing new growth – after that it requires occasional water (but keep in mind, it does prefer dry soil). When pruning your butterfly weed, you can trim old growth every spring to keep it happy and healthy. Do not fertilize this perennial as it might actually do the opposite of what is intended and harm the plant. The butterfly weed is susceptible to mealybugs and aphids however these can be easily controlled with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

            In the fall, the flowers give way to spindle-shaped seedpods, which are admired when cuttings are used in arrangements of dried flowers. The butterfly weed is self-seeding unless the seedpods are removed. The pods split open and the silky-tailed seeds are dispersed by the wind. An interesting fact about this perennial is that aside from going by the name “butterfly weed” it is also referred to as pleurisy root due to the fact that the plant roots were previously used for medicinal purposes to treat lung inflammations. 

            Asclepias tuberosa will obviously work famously in a butterfly garden. Not only do the blooms provide nectar and pollen, but also the thick leaves are perfectly designed for chrysalis formation. To start a butterfly garden, plant your butterfly weed alongside Coreopsis, Echinacea and butterfly bush (to name a few). Throw in a birdbath to provide water and some large rocks to give the butterflies a spot to catch some rays and before you know it, you will have your very own backyard butterfly sanctuary!