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.
Diversity of plants is key to a healthy butterfly garden, so don’t stop planting with Buddleia! Make a point to plant several pollinator-friendly plants each year in your butterfly garden. For more ideas on that, keep reading!
However, if you’re new to butterfly habitat creation, butterfly bush can be a good place to start.
These evergreen bushes are hardy from about zone 5 to 9 and will tolerate a range of soils, although they like drainage. They require heavy pruning every year so that they don’t grow to take over the world. 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 they reproduce themselves 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. 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.
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!
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 sun in really hot summers.
Water your butterfly bush deeply and infrequently. Mulch the roots with several inches of wood chips 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.
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:
Lindera benzoin, spicebush
Clethra alnifolia, sweet pepperbush
Cornus spp., dogwood
Kalmia latifolia, mountain laurel
Salix discolor, pussy willow
Spiraea alba, narrowleaf meadowsweet
Viburnum sargentii, Sargent’s cranberry bush
For more information on pollinator-friendly plants, please read this post: Bee House in the Bee Friendly Garden
Butterfly Garden Herb?
Any herbalists want to chime in on the medicinal properties of Buddleia? This article was fascinating to me but I’d never heard of Butterfly Bush being medicinal.
Buddleia is a native of Asia and Chinese traditional medicine is pretty cool, soooo….
Speaking of herbalists, Herbal Academy of New England has a great article on herbs for theme gardens, including butterfly gardens – to read the article, click here.
To learn more about the many, many useful herbs you could include in your butterfly garden consider joining the Herbal Academy of New England for any of their wonderful online herbal classes.
If you’re going to grow milkweed for your butterfly garden, especially the Monarch butterflies, you’ll want to read this post from Tenth Acre Farm about some pests you may have to deal with on the milkweed.
Anyone have tips or tricks for growing Buddleia? Anyone have a different favorite plant for the butterfly garden?
*Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.