Butterfly Bush Care and Tips for Success

Aug 12, 2022

Butterfly Bush Care and Tips for Success

Looking for an attractive long blooming plant that will attract butterflies and beneficial insects to your landscape? Look no further, butterfly bush, (buddleia davidii) is your answer.
These blooming machines offer long spiked trusses of flowers in masses which bloom from June through Fall. Various colors from white, pink, red, light lavender to dark purple are available in all sizes with more varieties coming out each and every year.
Tried and true, these plants are pretty easy to take care of. Plant in full sun to a partially shaded location. At least 5-6 hours of sun is ideal for these plants. They like a well-drained soil rich in compost to aid in fertilizing the plant. If you plant in poor soil, amend with soil conditioner (aged pine bark mulch) and compost of any sort at 1/3 ratio mixed with native soil. If the area you are planting retains moisture, consider creating a raised bed area so the roots will not rot from being too wet.
These "summer lilacs" as they are called come in many sizes.
Old time varieties of butterfly bush can reach 6-8' in height by 5-6' wide. Varieties such as Royal Red, Pink Delight and Dark Knight are taller varieties which are as old as the hills. I have seen flowers as long as 12-14" on these plants. They make a statement and are all great varieties.
As plants evolve, newer varieties are released. Smaller 4-5' tall and wide varieties with the same large flowers as the original types such as the "Buzz" series offers varieties such as Ivory-white, Magenta-red, Sky Blue-lavender, Rapsberry-red or Velvet-red and Midnight-dark purple are all great new introductions.
And we cannot forget the "Pugster" series. This smaller plant 2-3' tall and wide offers full size flowers on its compact plant. Colors available are amethyst, blue, pink and white. Quite a nice impressive little plant.
If you are looking for shorter varieties which grow 24-30" tall and wide, then the Lo and Behold series is for you.... Ice chip-white, blue chip and blue chip jr.-bluish lavender as well as new ruby chip-red are great for containers or areas you need a small burst of color.
Two other varieties I like are Santana which offers a variegated yellow and green leaf with red flowers as well as Miss Molly which has an interesting almost fluorescent red flower.  These varieties can get 4-5' tall and wide.
Once you select your variety, and have planted your plant properly, make sure you water thoroughly at a slow trickle on hot dry days until your plants get established. Always check to see if the soil is moist before deciding to water. To keep your plants flowering, dead head or remove the spent flowers by clipping them off with a pair of pruners. This will get new flowers forming quickly.  
Winter maintenance is easy. After a hard killing freeze when leaves begin to fall off. Prune your plant down to 12- 18" tall. As butterfly bushes bloom on new growth, they will appreciate this pruning come spring. If you have planted in an exposed area where winter winds may be a factor, try using a styrofoam rose cone placed over the top of the plant. This cone helps keep ground temperature in and helps avoid the drying winter winds from killing your plants. If you cannot find rose cones, make a circle out of chicken wire and fill with leaves to help protect these plants. Adding a 2" layer of a good organic compost of any kind around the base of your butterfly bush will help also.
Butterfly bushes are also deer resistant! Deer seem to be getting more destructive each year so this offers a great plant they typically do not touch. If you want to experience something very cool, head out to our nursery the next sunny day. 100's of butterflies can be seen in our butterfly bush area. It's a great photo opportunity and children will absolutely love it. We even had one of our employees have a butterfly land on her nose and stay there for a long time. Not sure I can promise you that experience, but you never know. Thanks for reading!
J.R. Pandy, "The No B.S.Gardener"
Pandy's Premier Garden Center

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