Growing Butterfly Bushes

With reason, the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is a well-beloved shrub by many gardeners.  It has a long season of bright color from June to October and attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects to your yard; it’s easy to grow and takes the brutal heat in the most exposed areas of our gardens. Butterfly bush is an extremely fast grower and can reach mature height within just a few growing seasons.

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Growing Butterfly Bushes

The most important concern when growing a butterfly bush is sunlight and drainage. Butterfly bushes need full sun and well-drained soil, as they are susceptible to rot when waterlogged. Although they prefer moist soil, once established they are quite drought tolerant and can handle quite dry locations.

Very little fertilizer, if any, is needed for butterfly bush. If you do, make sure to do it early in the growing season with a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Too much nitrogen will cause butterfly bush to produce an abundance of leaves and few flowers.

A Butterfly bush is hardy in zones 5-9, but cold winters can cause it to die to the ground. If it does die to the ground in a cold winter, don’t worry. It will sprout back from the base. You can also cut butterfly bushes back to the ground every fall or spring (just before it begins to grow again) to help control the size.

After blooming, you will see seed heads begin to form. Deadheading these will ensure longer and more prolific blooming, and also prevent spreading by seed.

Dozens of butterfly bush cultivars exist, ranging in size from 2 feet to over 10 feet tall. Colors range from whites to various shades of purples and pinks. You can check out our selection here.

Brittany Guntang