Buddleja davidii

12 Interesting Facts About Butterfly Bush

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The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a flowering shrub that has become quite popular in gardens. Its fragrant blooms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, adding delightful wildlife to outdoor spaces.

However, this plant also has a controversial reputation. While beloved by some gardeners, others see the butterfly bush as an invasive plant that can push out native species.

So what’s the real story of this eye-catching shrub? Here are 12 fascinating facts about the origins, growing needs, and environmental impact of butterfly bush:

1. It’s Not a True Bush

Butterfly bush is technically a small tree that can grow over 10 feet tall. However, gardeners typically prune it back substantially to keep it bush-sized. Its wild form develops a tree-like shape.

2. Native to China

The butterfly bush originated in the Chinese provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan. It was brought to England in the mid-1800s by plant explorer Robert Fortune.

3. Loves Sun and Heat

This plant thrives in full sun exposure and hot climates. It can tolerate drier conditions than many flowering shrubs once established. The more sun and heat it receives, the more prolifically it blooms.

4. Flowers All Summer Long

Few shrubs can match the flower power of butterfly bush. Its conical, nectar-rich blooms start appearing in early summer and continue into fall frost. Deadheading spent blooms encourages more flowers.

black and yellow bee on pink flower

5. Comes in Many Flower Colors

While lavender blooms may be the most common, butterfly bush flowers also come in white, pink, red, yellow, and even blue shades. There are over 120 named cultivars to choose from.

6. Has a Strong Fragrance

The flowers give off a sweet, honey-like scent that wafts through summer air. This fragrance is part of what attracts pollinators from distances away. Some people find it too strong for small spaces.

7. Attracts Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds

As its name suggests, butterfly bush is a butterfly magnet. All types of pollinators flock to its nectar-rich blooms. Position it near seating areas so you can enjoy the wildlife show.

8. Spreads Aggressively in Some Regions

This plant’s high seed production enables it to spread prolifically outside of gardens. It has become invasive in over 30 states and is banned in Oregon and parts of California.

9. However, Sterile Cultivars Are Available

Plant breeders have responded to its invasive reputation by developing sterile butterfly bush cultivars that don’t self-seed. These non-invasive varieties are safe to grow without fear of spreading.

10. Can Grow in Containers

You can enjoy butterfly bush on decks and patios too. It adapts well to large container growing, as long as it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Bring containers indoors before frost.

11. Easy to Propagate from Cuttings

There’s no need to buy new butterfly bush plants each year. Take tip cuttings of non-flowering shoots in late summer, root them in pots, and grow them into lush, blooming plants.

12. Can Be Cut Back Nearly to The Ground Every Spring

Don’t be afraid to prune butterfly bush aggressively! Even mature plants respond well to being cut back to 12-18” each spring to control size and encourage new growth.

With its incredible flower production and wildlife appeal, it’s easy to see why butterfly bush has become a mainstay in many gardens. However, responsible growing practices are important for this plant.

Follow the tips above to enjoy its benefits without contributing to invasive spread issues. Plant it far from native habitats and stick with sterile varieties to avoid unintended reseeding.


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