Buddleia Bushes, The Butterfly Magnet

Ilona Erwin

Premier Plant for the Butterfly Garden

Buddleia davidii

So attractive to butterflies that its common name is “Butterfly Bush”, the group of shrubs bloom throughout the summer and lend a graceful note to the garden. The nectar filled, conical inflorescence of flowers cause butterflies and other pollinators to flock to it, making the bush seem alive with the flitting jewels of colorful butterfly wings.

Buddleias are not reliably hardy in Central Ohio and I often have had to replace mine. However if you have a protected spot in full sun, the woody shoots will emerge every year to provide a feast for their six legged guests. No butterfly garden should be without one.

Butterfly Bush
3 Important Things To Know About Buddleia Davidii

  1. Zone 5-9
  2. Flowers on new wood
  3. Nectar rich butterfly plant

Description of Buddleia

The Look
Butterfly Bush
Also called the “Summer Lilac” the flowering inflorescences are of a similar pyramidal shape and have the purple, pink, and white color variations of its namesake. The alternate spelling for the plant name is “Buddleja”, which is how it is listed under the Royal Horticultural Society Plant Collector Guide.

“The Buddleia is a garden godsend” ~ Mrs. Francis King, ‘The Well-considered Garden’

Lance to ovoid shaped leaves have a silver underside and are a medium green color.
The general look of the plant is wide and loosely casual, dotted with its pretty and colorful flowers.

How To Grow Butterfly Bush

Garden Guide
A rapidly growing shrub, in the Northern states with cold winters it will die to the ground much like a herbaceous peony. Still, you can expect it to attain a five by five foot dimension in your garden. In the South expect about three more feet both in width and height.

These shrubs can grow in partial sun, but like full sun better. While adaptable to challenging growing conditions, Buddleias will thrive if given fertile, moist and well-drained soil.

Hardy in zones 5 to 9

Good growing practices:

  • Full sun to part sun
  • moist and fertile soil
  • responds well to being pruned back hard in spring (if winter doesn’t do that for you)

Pruning A Butterfly Bush

Prune hard in spring, then trim off the spent flowers and growing tips in fall

In some areas, they self-seed and pruning off the spent flower heads will prevent any bothersome unwanted seeding.

Is it an environmental threat? Butterfly bush is a Class B noxious weed in Washington State.
Read the King County Report

Varieties reputed to be seedless: B. ‘Asian Moon’ | B. Low & Behold ‘Blue Chip’ | B. Flutterby Grande ‘Blueberry Cobbler’ | B. Flutterby Grande ‘Peach Cobbler’ | B. ‘Miss Ruby’

Garden Styles

Its loose shape in form and flower make this plant ideal for wild or natural settings, in English gardens it is incorporated into perennial borders. Because it is so very attractive to them, a place in a “Look-Into” garden where the comings goings of fluttering butterflies may provide lots of entertainment.

Wonderful in cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, fragrant borders, and

Plant Fun Facts

The flowers are highly fragrant

Buddleia, named after British botanist Reverend Adam Buddle, was discovered in China by Armand David, who provided the davidii potion of its Latin name.

Butterfly Gardens
Bee Gardens

Bee on Butterfly Bush (Close Up)

Additional resources
Links About Buddleias
Buddleia davidii – Butterfly Bush from OSU
MBG Black Knight factsheet
The Buddleja Website

Excellent resource books

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.