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Plant Profile: Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii )

Some common names of plants are misleading but the common name of Buddleja, Butterfly bush, is not. If you have a butterfly garden this is a must. This shrub is a magnet for butterflies and is attractive to hummingbirds and bees. The fragrant flowers are borne in dense clusters (panicles) above gray-green to blue-green foliage from summer to fall and come in a large variety of colors.  Butterfly bush is a native of central China and belongs to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes mullein(Verbascum), twinspur (diascia), and Nemesia.  It  is easy to grow, requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant once established. Best used in mass plantings rather than as a specimen shrub;  its flowering stems are good in the vase.

Type: Deciduous shrub.

Outstanding Feature: Long flowering time; flowers attract butterflies.

Form: Upright, rounded with arching branches; often open.

Growth Rate: Rapid.

Bloom: Fragrant panicles of white, lavender, blue, purple, magenta, pink and yellow flowers usually with an orange throat, from summer to fall.

Size: 5-10’ H x 6-9’ W depending on the cultivar.

Light: Full sun to part sun but flower development is far better in full sun.

Soil: Tolerates many different soil types if well drained.

Hardiness: Zones 5-9 but will die to ground in winter in 5 and 6.

Care: Prune to the ground every year in late winter; deadhead to prolong bloom.

Pests and Diseases: No serious problems; spider mites can be a problem during periods of drought; nematodes can be a problem in the South.

Propagation: May reseed and can be invasive in some areas; cuttings during warm weather.

Outstanding Selections: Many cultivars have been introduced. The ‘Nanho Series’ and the ‘Petite Series’ are compact and shorter than most others. ‘Nanho Blue’ and ‘Nanho White’ have been popular in recent years. “Black knight, a taller cultivar, bears violet to dark purple flowers and is easily available.

Comments: Tolerant of high heat and humidity.

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