Butterfly bushes, also known as Buddleia, have bright, fragrant blooms and are very popular with gardeners. This fast-growing deciduous shrub can reach heights of up to 10 feet, making it an excellent option for privacy hedges or as a backdrop for flower beds. They come in colorful blooms from purple, pink, and white and bloom from mid-summer to fall. Below is the complete guide on growing and caring for butterfly bushes to keep them healthy year after year.
Where is the best place to plant a Buddleia?
You can purchase varieties of buddleia to satisfy different gardening needs – some can be up to 10 feet tall, making them ideal as a hedge or as a back of the flower bed plant. At the same time, some can be smaller to add to foundation plantings or mix border plantings. They also work very well as an anchor for large perennial beds.
Table of contents
- Step 1: Butterfly Bush Care Starts with Choosing the Right planting Location
- Step 2: Before Planting Butterfly Bushes, Verify They Are Not Invasive To Your Area
- Step 3: Choose the butterfly bush varieties best Suited for your gardening Needs
- Step 4: Plant butterfly bush in Full Sun in Fertile Well Drained Soil
- Step 5: Water Your Butterfly Bushes Regularly For Best Performance
- Step 6: Add a Balanced Fertilizer In the Spring
- Step 7: Keep The Bushes Well Pruned
- Step 8: Keep On Top Of Pest Pressure
- Step 9: Quickly Identify and Manage Butterfly Bush Diseases
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Step 1: Butterfly Bush Care Starts with Choosing the Right planting Location
Butterfly bushes are relatively easy, low-maintenance plants. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil, but they can tolerate various soil types and conditions. Butterfly bushes are well-suited for containers, and you can help control their size and shape with regular pruning. They also bloom all summer long!
Butterfly bushes grow quickly, so be sure there is enough room for your variety before planting.
Grow butterfly bush in cottage-style gardens and pollinator gardens. They also work very well as an anchor for large perennial beds.
- Learn More: For more plants with summer-long blooms, check out our list of bold-long flowering perennials.
Step 2: Before Planting Butterfly Bushes, Verify They Are Not Invasive To Your Area
Is buddleia davidii an invasive plant?
Yes, butterfly bushes can become invasive in some areas. In addition, they are banned in some states, so check before you plant.
Buddleia have been known to spread aggressively in gardens and natural areas and can outcompete native plants. Plant butterfly bushes in a contained space, such as a garden bed or container, to prevent spreading.
Additionally, cutting the bush to the ground in late winter, before new growth emerges, is recommended to prevent seed heads from spreading. Most species of buddleia self-seed but do not stay true to type.
You can propagate Butterfly bushes from semi-ripe cuttings in mid-summer and hardwood stem cuttings in mid-autumn.
Step 3: Choose the butterfly bush varieties best Suited for your gardening Needs
When choosing a variety of butterfly bushes, it’s important to consider the size and color of the flowers and the overall size and shape of the plant before you choose its growing spot. Butterfly bushes tend to have arching stems that bend with the weight of the flowers.
Additionally, keep in mind the size of your garden and the sunlight it receives, as some butterfly bushes (tall varieties vs. dwarf varieties) may be better suited for specific conditions. Here are the most popular types of Buddleia:
Popular Types of Butterfly Bush:
- ‘Black Knight’: This variety of butterfly bush is known for its deep purple flower spikes that bloom from mid-summer to fall. It can reach heights of up to 8 feet and is considered one of the most popular.
- ‘Lochinch’: This variety of butterfly bush has deep pink flower clusters and a more compact growth habit, reaching heights of 4-5 feet. It is an excellent option for smaller gardens or planting in containers.
- ‘Pink Delight’: As the name suggests, this butterfly bush has pink flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall. It can reach heights of up to 6 feet tall.
- ‘White Profusion’: This butterfly bush has white flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall. It can reach heights of up to 8 feet, making it a good option for a privacy hedge or as a backdrop for flower beds. It also makes a wonderful addition to an all-white nighttime garden.
- ‘Nanho Blue’: This is a dwarf variety of butterfly bush that grows to a maximum height of 3-4 feet. It has deep blue flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall, making it a great option for smaller gardens or containers.
- ‘Royal Red’: As the name suggests, this butterfly bush type has deep red flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall. It can reach heights of up to 8 feet tall.
Step 4: Plant butterfly bush in Full Sun in Fertile Well Drained Soil
When planting butterfly bushes, choose a location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you’re planting in a container, use a well-draining potting mix and make sure the container has drainage holes. If planting in the ground, amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to improve drainage.
Planning on planting more than one shrub? Make sure you space them 5-10 feet apart (depending on varieties), so they have plenty of space to grow and won’t be fighting for nutrients and sun.
Step 5: Water Your Butterfly Bushes Regularly For Best Performance
When it comes to watering, butterfly bushes are relatively drought-tolerant, but they will perform better if they receive regular watering. During the first few weeks after planting, keep the soil consistently moist. Once established, they will only need watering during extended periods of drought.
- Learn More: See our detailed list of drought-tolerant plants.
Step 6: Add a Balanced Fertilizer In the Spring
Fertilizing butterfly bushes is generally unnecessary, but if you want to encourage more blooms, you can apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring. Additionally, if the leaves are turning yellow or the plant is not growing as vigorously as it should, a soil test can help determine if the bush needs any additional nutrients.
Step 7: Keep The Bushes Well Pruned
Pruning butterfly bushes is vital to keep them looking their best. Pruning also helps control the size and shape of the shrubs. Cut the plant to the ground in late winter before new growth emerges. Aggressive pruning will help prevent the bush from becoming too tall and leggy.
You can also remove any dead or damaged branches throughout the growing season.
Deadheading butterfly bush can help keep it looking fresh and healthy. Dead flowers detract from the beauty of your shrub.
Also, to encourage additional blooms, trim the spent flower clusters back to the next flower bud on the branch.
Step 8: Keep On Top Of Pest Pressure
Butterfly bushes are relatively hardy but susceptible to pests like any other plant. Here are a few common pests that can attack butterfly bushes and some tips on how to control them:
These tiny pests can cause yellowing and discoloration of the leaves, and they can also cause the leaves to drop prematurely. To control spider mites, you can spray the bush with a strong water jet to knock them off the leaves. You can also use an insecticidal soap or a neem oil spray, both effective in controlling spider mites.
These small, soft-bodied insects can also cause yellowing and discoloration of the leaves. They can also leave a sticky residue on the leaves, attracting other pests. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control aphids. You can also use a strong water jet to knock them off the leaves.
These tiny white insects can cause damage to the leaves and can also spread plant diseases. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control whiteflies. You can also use yellow sticky traps to trap the whiteflies.
These small, hard-shelled insects can cause damage to the leaves and can also weaken the plant. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control scale insects. You can also remove them by hand using a toothbrush, or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Caterpillars can chew on the leaves and can cause damage to the bush. To control caterpillars, you can use a BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray, a natural bacteria that targets caterpillars. You can also handpick the caterpillars and dispose of them.
Step 9: Quickly Identify and Manage Butterfly Bush Diseases
To keep your butterfly bush healthy and thriving, it’s essential to be aware of the following common diseases and how to prevent and control them:
A white, powdery coating on the bush’s leaves, stems, and buds characterize this fungal disease. It can cause the leaves to turn yellow, drop prematurely, and weaken the plant’s overall health. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure air circulation around the bush by spacing it adequately and avoiding overcrowding with other plants. If you notice powdery mildew on your butterfly bush, use a fungicide spray to control it.
This fungal disease is caused by over-watering or poorly-drained soil, resulting in brown and mushy roots. The plant may wilt or die as a result. To prevent root rot, ensure the soil is well-drained and do not over-water the bush.
Bacterial leaf spot:
This bacterial disease causes small, dark spots on the leaves that can turn into large, brown lesions. It can also cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop prematurely. To prevent bacterial leaf spots, avoid overcrowding other plants and keep the leaves dry. If you notice a bacterial leaf spot on your bush, use a copper-based fungicide spray to control it.
Sunken, dark areas on the bark of the bush characterize this fungal disease. It can cause branches to die and can kill the entire butterfly bush. To prevent cankers, provide good air circulation around the bush and avoid overcrowding other plants. Use a fungicide spray if you notice cankers on your butterfly bush.
This fungal disease causes the leaves to turn yellow and wilt, and the butterfly bush may die. To prevent verticillium wilt, ensure the soil is well-drained and do not over-water the plant.
Also, maintaining good cultural care, such as providing the right amount of sunlight and water and keeping the bush healthy, can help prevent pests from attacking the bush.
There is no effective treatment for verticillium wilt. For affected plants, remove and dispose of or destroy the plant; don’t compost it.
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