How to grow butterfly bush (buddleia)

Butterfly bush or buddleia is one of the most beautiful plants to add to a landscape, with its massive long trusses as blossoms. Some varieties of buddleia grow to be small trees reaching ten feet in height. The flowers come in white, pink, light purple, and deep dark purple color, with light purple being the butterflies’ favorite.

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Though it is called butterfly bush, buddleia is not a host plant for butterfly larvae. The flowers provide food for all wildlife, including hummingbirds. The plant itself does not support pollinator lifecycle, like milkweed and other host plants do.


Invasiveness warning

Butterfly bush is native to China. It is considered to be invasive in US soil, especially in warm climates. It reseeds itself easily, smothering other native plants. For those who really want to have this plant in their gardens, you must deadhead the flowers before they drop the seeds. Also, check with your local nursery or extension office for recommendations on hybridized sterile varieties.

Butterfly Bush substitutions

There are some plants that are just as attractive and pollinator-friendly as buddleia.

How to grow butterfly bush (buddleia)

Planting butterfly bush

Butterfly bush thrives in a full sun location, so do not plant it where it gets less than six hours of direct light. It also does not like wet feet, so well-draining soil is very important.

  • Dig a hole that is slightly bigger than the root ball.
  • Place the plant in the hole with the top of the root ball a bit higher than the soil level.
  • Backfill the hole with native soil.
  • Mound the soil around the base of the plant to allow water to run out of the root ball.
  • Water thoroughly and immediately after planting.
How to grow butterfly bush (buddleia)

How to care for butterfly bush?

  • Avoid amending the soil to prevent moisture retention, which may kill buddleia due to root rot.
  • Do not mulch around butterfly bushes for the same reason explained previously.
  • Do not fertilize butterfly bush to promote more bloom instead of foliage.
  • Prune your buddleias in Spring after it starts to leaf out. Fall pruning makes the plant more susceptible to winter damage.
  • It is important to prune the big varieties of butterfly bush to encourage even bloom distribution.
  • Buddleia is a great drought-tolerant plant. Overwatering it may cause root rot, weak stems, fewer blooms. Water once a week in the summer if there is no rain.
  • It is best to plant buddleia in spring to give it enough time to establish itself before the coming winter.
  • Remove spent flowers to promote more bloom and prevent self-seeding.
How to grow butterfly bush (buddleia)

How to propagate butterfly bush?

As we mentioned before, butterfly bush seeds easily. In case you got your hand on a sterile one, there is another way to propagate it, and that is by rooting cuttings.

  • Make a clean cut on new growth.
  • Remove the side leaves, leaving only the tip growth.
  • Dip in a rooting hormone, honey, or cinnamon.
  • Insert in a pot filled with well-draining soil.
  • Water thoroughly.
  • Make a greenhouse tent by covering the plant with a clear plastic bag.
  • Place in a cool shady spot outdoors or a well-lit spot indoors.
  • It should take a few weeks to develop roots.
  • Gently pull the young plant. If you feel resistance, that means roots are developed.

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