Want to start a butterfly garden to attract beneficial bugs and pollinators to your yard? Want an easy plant to start with? Coupled with other flowering perennials, Buddleia, or Butterfly Bush can be a great choice for your butterfly garden.
Butterfly Garden – Begin with the Butterfly Bush
Many of you have probably seen Buddleia (Buddleia davidii), or as it’s commonly known, Butterfly Bush, in yards around your neighborhood or community. It comes in a variety of colors, including pinks, white, purples and there’s even one referred to as a rainbow bush for it’s variety of colors.
If you’re new to butterfly habitat creation, butterfly bush can be a good place to start.
Here are a few things to know about growing Buddleia:
- These evergreen bushes are hardy from about zone 5 to 9
- They will tolerate a range of soils, although they like good drainage.
- Buddleia can require heavy pruning every year so that it doesn’t grow out of control.
Some varieties of Buddleia can get to be 12 feet tall, but there is a dwarf variety called “Bluechip” that I’ve grown before and liked.
Invasive Alert: Deadhead Butterfly Bush
In many places Buddleia is considered invasive because it can reproduce itself easily. When you plant butterfly bush, commit to deadheading them every year.
To deadhead means to snip off the spent flower heads, instead of leaving them to drop seed.
If you don’t deadhead them, the Buddleia flowers will form seed pods, fall and sprout weedy babies. These baby plants can sprout almost anywhere.
(Penn State shows a map of where Buddleia can be invasive, so if you live in one of these states, plant one of our suggestions below instead.)
Never fear! The spent flowers cut off easily and you can compost them unless they’ve developed seed pods.
So, deadhead your plants during the season (quit sighing, it doesn’t take that long) to prevent them from becoming a nuisance in the garden. The bonus is that this deadheading will encourage new flowers to appear.
Butterfly Bushes reward you with blooms all spring and summer that attract, not only butterflies, but all manner of pollinating insects. Bees love Buddleia nectar!
Alternatives to Butterfly Bush
If you’re concerned about planting butterfly bush in your area, try other pollinator-friendly perennial bushes. It would be best if they grow natively in your area. These might include:
- Lilac, Syringa vulgaris
- Button Bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
- Hydrangea, hortensia – lots of species
- Rose of Sharon, in the U.S., Hibiscus syriacus
- Summer Sweet, Clethra alnifolia
- Weigela, Caprifoliaceae family
There are even more suggestions listed below. Diversity of planting encourages even more pollinators, so consider planting these other perennials even if you are able to grow Butterfly Bush where you are.
Caring for Butterfly Bush in the Butterfly Garden
Buddleia really doesn’t require fertilizer in most soils and will take care of themselves (minus the pruning). They will grow and bloom year in, year out. Be sure to plant them in full sun. They can benefit from afternoon shade in really hot summers.
Water your butterfly bush deeply and infrequently. Mulch the roots with several inches of wood chip mulch in cold winter areas. To learn more garden tips, especially if you decide to grow a vegetable garden, be sure to check out the Gardening Notebook below.
Diversity in the Butterfly Garden
Group Buddleia with spring blooming bulbs, rugosa roses, and Michaelmas daisies for pleasing butterfly garden plants early spring through fall.
- Add a few other plants around these to lend support to the bulbs, bushes, and flowers. These might include:
- Borage to provide a lot of green, leafy material that can be cut and laid down as a natural mulch.
- Strawberries to cover the ground and suppress weeds while keeping the soil cool.
- Fall blooming asters and chrysanthemums to provide even more food as the growing season winds down.
Buddleia will provide nectar for your butterfly garden, but not much in the way of leaves that caterpillars like to munch on. Consider planting these other butterfly-friendly plants to encourage happy pollinators to stay, eat and breed:
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
- Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia
- Dogwood, Cornus spp.
- Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia
- Pussy Willow, Salix discolor
- Narrowleaf Meadowsweet, Spiraea alba
- Sargent’s Cranberry Bush, Viburnum sargentii
For more information on pollinator-friendly plants, please read this post: Bee House in the Bee Friendly Garden.