Butterfly bush is a deciduous medium to large shrub native to central China where it forms thickets along waterways. It is naturalized in the US, readily colonizes natural and disturbed habitats, and is now considered invasive in Massachusetts, Ontario, and Michigan, south to Florida and Texas, west to California, north to British Columbia. Growing 5-10’ tall, the shrub has long arching branches and fragrant lilac to purple flowers that are produced in dense pyramidal panicles above gray-green to blue-green lanceolate leaves from summer to fall . The flowers produce an abundant amount of nectar and are butterfly magnets. Plants prefer sunny dry sites but tolerate a wide range of conditions. USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.

The following natives are recommended as alternatives:

Bottle-brush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
This broad to rounded deciduous shrub grows up to 8’ tall and has coarse palmately compound leaves with five to seven oblong leaflets that turn yellow to gold in the fall. The fuzzy white flowers are sweetly fragrant and appear in upright spikes in summer. Native to open woods, floodplains, and woodland edges in central Alabama and adjacent Georgia. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)
Native to dry prairies and savannahs from Quebec to Manitoba, south to Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico, leadplant is a deciduous shrub growing 1-3’ tall. It has densely hairy twigs, pinnately compound leaves with gray- green leaflets, and dense spikes of purple flowers with yellow anthers in late spring to early summer. USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9

Carmel Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus griseus)
This evergreen shrub is endemic to the Coastal Ranges of the northern two thirds of California where it grows in chaparral and coastal scrub. It grows up to 6’ tall and has bright green glossy leaves that are ribbed, and have slightly serrated edges and gray silky hairs on the undersides. The small blue or purple flowers are carried in dense racemes in spring. USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10

Wild Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus)
Also called California lilac, this species is an evergreen shrubs or small trees growing 4-12’ tall and wide. It has billowing clusters of blue flowers in spring and early summer, and is native to open woods and chaparral in coastal mountains from southern California north to southern Oregon. USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10

Ramona Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus)
Ramona lilac is an evergreen shrub native to dry, shrubby areas such as chaparral in the mountains of California and Baja California. It grows up to 15’ tall and has dark green, oval, evergreen leaves with woolly undersides and margins edged with tiny glandular teeth. The small blue to white flowers are produced in clusters up to 3” long in spring. USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
With good yellow autumn color, buttonbush is a deciduous shrub growing 6-10’ tall with oval, glossy, dark green leaves and dense spherical clusters of fuzzy white flowers in spring. It is native to swamps, marshes, riverbanks, and floodplains from New Brunswick and Minnesota, south to Florida and Mexico, west to California. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-11

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
With pink and white tubular flowers in spring and summer this large shrub or small tree grows 15-25’ tall and has linear, medium-green foliage that turns yellow in fall. Native to desert washes, streamside’s, and riverbanks from Colorado to California, south to New Mexico and Mexico. USDA Hardiness Zones 6-10

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
With strongly scented creamy white spikes of flowers in summer and decorative dried capsules in winter, this deciduous shrub grows up 4-8’ tall and wide and has deep green quilted foliage. Native to swamps low woods, floodplains, and pond margins on the coastal plain and outer piedmont from Maine south to Florida, west to Texas. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)
Titi is a native of swamps, streambanks, bogs, backwaters, and other wetlands from southeastern Virginia south to Florida and west to Louisiana. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing up to 30’ tall with oval, nearly evergreen leaves some of which turn bright red in the fall. The tiny white flowers appear in racemes 3-6” long in summer. USDA Hardiness Zones 6-11

Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa aka Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
With yellow aster-like flowers in late summer to autumn, and blue-gray needlelike leaves, rabbitbrush is a shrub growing 1-6’ tall and is native to desert washes, open hillsides, and high plains from Alberta, south to Texas, Mexico, and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9

Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Growing up to 10’ tall, mock orange is a deciduous shrub with ovate green leaves and clusters of 1.6” wide, 4-petaled flowers in spring to summer with the fragrance of orange blossoms. Native to gullies, water courses, rocky cliffs, talus slopes, and rocky hillsides of sagebrush deserts from British Columbia to northern California, to Montana and central Idaho. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8

American Elder/ Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Elderberry is a suckering shrub growing up to 12’ tall and has pinnately compound leaves with 5-9 sharply serrated leaflets and clusters 6-10” across of tiny white flowers in summer followed by tiny dark purple to black berries in fall. Both berries and flowers are edible. Plants are native to a variety of habitats from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to Florida and Mexico. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

By Karen