How to Grow Buddleia — Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush Buddleja Buddleia Purple flowers in bloom in garden

Buddleia–commonly called butterfly bush–is a semi-deciduous shrub that bears white, pink, red, or purple flowers in upright, terminal spikes in midsummer to early fall. Leaves are long, narrow, and opposite.

Buddleia are usually grown for their panicles of small, tubular, usually fragrant flowers

Plant Buddleia in shrub borders or grow them as specimens.

Buddleia is a genus of about 100 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs and climbers. Buddleia is native to riversides and rocky scrub areas of North and South America and Asia and Africa.

 Butterfly Bush Flowers
Butterfly Bush Flowers

Get to Know Buddleia

  • Plant type: Deciduous, late-summer blooming shrub
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 5 to 10
  • Hardiness: Butterfly bush dies back to the ground each winter in cold-winter regions.
  • Height and width: 5 to 18 feet (1.5-5.5m) tall and 5 to 8 feet (1.5-2.4m) wide
  • Foliage: Lance-shaped to broadly ovate opposite leaves
  • Flowers: Panicles of small tubular usually fragrant
  • Bloom time: Midsummer to early fall
  • Uses: Casual shrub, attracts butterflies, rabbit-resistant
  • Common name: Butterfly Bush, summer lilac
  • Botanical name: Buddleia spp.
  • Family: Loganiaceae
  • Origin: North and South America, Asia, Africa

Where to Plant Buddleia

  • Plant Buddleia in full sun in Zones 5-6; plant in full sun to light shade in Zones 7-10.
  • Grow Buddleia in average to sandy, fertile to poor, well-drained soil.
Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii
Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii

When to Plant Buddleia

  • Set established Buddleia in the garden in spring or fall.

Planting and Spacing Buddleia

  • Space Buddleia 4 to 5 feet apart.

How to Water and Feed Buddleia

  • Buddleia needs ample moisture; keep the soil evenly moist. Mature plants are drought tolerant.
  • Buddleia does not need fertilizer.

Buddleia Care

  • Mulch around Buddleia to conserve soil moisture.
  • Some Buddleia bloom only on the old wood they grew the previous year. In these cases, prune the shrubs back by one-fifth to one-third immediately after they flower in summer.
  • In Zones 5-6, in late winter or early spring, cut back to the ground. In Zones 7-11, cut shrubs back less severely to about a foot or two.

Buddleia Common Problems

  • Buddleia is susceptible to caterpillars, weevils, and spider mites.
  • Leaf spot and dieback can occur.
Summer lilac or Buddleia davidii
Summer lilac or Buddleia davidii

Buddleia Propagation

  • Sow Buddleia seed in spring.
  • Root Buddleia semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
  • Root Buddleia hardwood cuttings in autumn.

Buddleia Varieties to Grow

  • Buddleia alternifolia, Fountain butterfly bush, deciduous shrub or small tree with slender, arching shoots and alternate, lance-shaped, dark green, ocassionally silvery green leaves, to 3 inches (8cm) long. Dense, rounded clusters, 1.5 inches (4cm) long, of intensely fragrant lilac flowers clothe the branches of the previous year’s growth in early summer. Trained as a standard, it makes an excellent specimen plant. To 12 feet (4m) tall and wide. China.  
  • B. asiantica, evergreen shrub with arching white- or gray-woolly shoots and lance-shaped, dark green leaves, to 12 inches (30cm) long. Fragrant white flowers are produced in cyme-like panicles, to 10 inches (25cm) long, in late winter and early spring. To 10 feet (3m) tall and wide. Himalayas to Southeast Asia.  
  • B. colvilei, upright, stoutly branched, deciduous (sometimes semi-evergreen) shrub or small tree with elliptic-lance-shaped, dark green leaves, to 5 inches (13cm) or more long. Bears tight, pendent, terminal, occasionally axillary panicles, to 8 inches (20cm) long, of dark pink or red flowers in early summer. To 20 feet (6m) tall and wide. Himalayas.  
  • B. crispa, arching, deciduous shrub with white-woolly young shoots and broadly ovate-triangular, white-hairy leaves, to 5 inches (13cm) long. Fragrant, lilac-pink flowers are produced in dense, whorled, cyme-like, terminal and axillary panicles, to 4 inches (10cm) long, in mid- and late summer. To 10 feet (3m) tall and wide. Himalayas.  
  • B. davidii, Butterfly bush, Summer lilac, variable, fast-growing, deciduous shrub with long, arching shoots and lance-shaped, pointed, mid-green to gray-green leaves, to 10 inches (25cm) long. From summer to autumn, bears dense panicles, 12 inches (30cm) or more long, of fragrant, lilac to purple flowers, often with orange or yellow eyes. To 10 feet (3m) tall and 15 feet (5m) wide. China, Japan.  
  • B. fallowiana, deciduous shrub with arching stems and lance-shaped, gray-white leaves, to 5 inches (13cm) long, mid-green beneath, and densely white-felted, particularly when young. Bears panicles, to 6 inches (15cm) long, of very fragrant, pale lavender-blue flowers, with orange eyes, in late summer and early autumn. To 6 feet (2m) tall and 10 feet (3m) wide. West China.  
  • B. globosa, Orange ball tree, Orange butterfly bush, rounded, stiffly branched, deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub with lance-shaped, deeply veined, dark green leaves, to 8 inches (20cm) long. Bears dense, rounded clusters, to .75 inch (2cm) across, of fragrant, dark orange and yellow flowers in open panicles in early summer. To 15 feet (5m) tall and wide. Chile, Argentina.  
  • B. lindleyana, upright, somewhat arching, slender-branched, deciduous shrub with ovate, dark green leaves, 4 inches (10cm) long, borne on square stems. Distinctly curved, violet flowers, .75 inch (2cm) long, are borne in nodding panicles, to 8 inches (20cm) long, in late summer. To 6 feet (2m) tall and wide. China.  
  • B. madagascariensis, vigorous, strongly branched, evergreen shrub or lax climber with lance-shaped, deep green leaves, 2-5.5 inches (5-14cm) long, white-felted beneath. Produces bright orange-yellow flowers in slender, terminal panicles, 6-10 inches (15-25cm) long, from autumn to spring, sometimes followed by small, amethyst-purple berries. To 6-12 inches (2-4m) tall and wide. Madagascar.  
  • B. nivea, vigorous, upright, deciduous shrub with thick, densely white-woolly shoots and narrowly ovate leaves, to 8 inches (20cm) long, dark green above, white below. Produces slender panicles, to 6 inches (15cm) long, of pale lilac-blue or violet-blue flowers, in late summer. To 10 feet (3m) tall and 8 feet (2.5m) wide. China.  
  • B. officinalis, upright, evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub with arching shoots and narrowly lance-shaped, dark green leaves, 6 inches (15cm) long, gray beneath. From winter to early spring, bears fragrant, yellow-eyed, lilac-pink flowers in arching panicles, to 12 inches (30cm) long. To 8 feet (2.5m) tall and wide. China.

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