A spicebush swallowtail butterfly gets some nectar from the black knight butterfly bush

How To Grow And Care For Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a woody plant with stunning blooms and an arching habit. It’s simple to cultivate and has eye-catching flower spikes. The blooms now appear in a variety of hues, including pink, yellow, blue, and multicolors, thanks to the magic of cultivar creators. Butterfly bushes are known to attract butterflies and other pollinators, as their name indicates. Hummingbirds are attracted to red-flowering Butterfly bushes.

Butterfly bushes may be developed to fit a variety of gardening styles. Some can reach a height of 12 feet, while others are much smaller. Large clusters of flowers are produced by certain types while blooming spikes are produced by others. Butterfly bush is a tropical and subtropical plant endemic to the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. Several species, most notably B. davidii, are grown as ornamentals in gardens.

Read more: These 22 perennials will thrive in your garden for decades

Growing Butterfly Bush 

While many people like the Butterfly bush, it does have its opponents. It’s classified as an invasive plant in some parts of the United States since it doesn’t grow natively in that location but is widespread enough to suffocate local species. As a result, many plant specialists strongly advise against growing Butterfly bushes in any situation.

Invasive plants are an issue because they may destabilize ecosystems and harm native flora and wildlife. Butterfly bush, while not invasive everywhere, is intrusive enough to have earned it a negative reputation. It is currently classified as a noxious weed in some states. There are several strong reasons to avoid planting Butterfly bush, particularly in areas where it is a known concern.

Here are some brief facts about the popular aesthetic plant:

  • Latin name: Buddleia davidii    
  • Other names: summer lilacs    
  • Native to: Central China    
  • Invasiveness: Yes    
  • Tenderness: Deciduous shrub   
  • Sun: Full Sun   
  • Water: Weekly   
  • Soil: Medium moisture, well-drained soil   
  • Hardiness zone: Zones 5 through 9   
  • When to plant: Early spring or fall   
  • Spacing: 5 to 10 ft   
  • Plant height: 4 to 12 ft  
  • Bloom period: Summer, Fall 
  • Time to maturity: 1 year  
  • Container friendly: Yes  
  • Fertilizer:  20-20-20 or 20-30-20 or 18-24-16 
  • Toxicity: No
  • Deer resistant: Yes
  • Pest resistant: No 

Butterfly bush thrives in full sun and average, medium moisture, well-drained soil. If you’re going to plant more than one, make sure they’re at least five to six feet apart. If the soil is dense and poorly draining, add peat moss before planting.

Butterfly bush frequently dies back to the ground in the winter and is managed as a herbaceous perennial in colder climes. They may be cut back similarly in warm regions to keep them under control and promote better flowering. Be cautious of this plant’s proclivity for aggressive self-seeding. It will be easier to regulate the plant if you remove the wasted flower clusters before they can spread seeds.


If rain isn’t enough, give Butterfly bush approximately an inch of water every week while they’re actively developing, but don’t worry if you forget to irrigate now and again. These shrubs require constant watering during the first year after planting to grow robust roots.


Butterfly bush requires at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Plant them where they get at least 6 hours of light, even in hot climes. If your environment is really hot, you may want to offer the plant some afternoon shade to keep it healthy.


This plant will do well on ordinary, well-drained soil with average moisture levels. Butterfly bush will thrive in clay soil, but it will need some particular considerations. Because they require proper drainage and detest being in cold, damp environments. Mulching immediately around your Butterfly bush is not a good idea. Mulch is a terrific idea for other plants, but it might store too much moisture in clay soil. The soil should be slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, for the greatest blossom color.


Although all plants require certain nutrients to thrive, feeding Butterfly bushes is rarely necessary. As long as the soil is well-drained, the plants will thrive. Many experts believe that fertilizer for Butterfly bush is unnecessary because the plant will grow and blossom just fine without it. If your Butterfly bush is grown in poor soil, though, you may want to try fertilizing it. Organic compost might be the ideal fertilizer for butterfly plants.


The Butterfly bush, which was initially brought from China, has been labeled an invasive species in several states across the United States because it is known to push out native plants that are vital to animals. 

It may become a harmful weed in warm regions and spread vigorously, but in cooler climates, it can be kept in check by deadheading the blossoms.

Growing Butterfly Bush In Containers

The container should be deep enough to hold the roots while still being hefty enough to prevent the plant from falling over. Whatever pot you choose, be sure it has at least a few decent drainage holes. It will be tough to relocate the container once it has been planted. Use a mild commercial potting mix to fill the pot. Avoid using garden soil in pots because it gets heavy and compacted, causing root rot and plant death.

Care & Tips

Butterfly bush maintenance is simple. During long dry spells, water the shrub gently so that the soil takes the water deep into the root zone. Deadheading is the most time-consuming aspect of care for Butterfly bushes. Remove spent flower clusters as soon as possible in the spring and summer. When flower clusters are left on the plant, seed pods form. Weedy new plants arise as the pods mature and release their seeds. As soon as possible, remove the seedlings. Remove the roots as well as the top growth of young shrubs that have been chopped off at ground level. Don’t move the seedlings about the garden. Most Butterfly bushes are hybrids, and the progeny is unlikely to be as lovely as the parent plant.

Common Problems

Root rot and the occasional caterpillar are issues with Butterfly bushes. You can usually avoid root rot by growing the shrub in well-drained soil. Yellowing leaves and, in extreme cases, twig or stem dieback are the symptoms. Caterpillars are inevitable when you produce a plant that attracts butterflies. The damage is usually minor, and you’ll have to stand close to the shrub to detect it. Unless the caterpillars’ feeding activity causes significant harm to the shrub, it’s better to leave them alone. Japanese beetles occasionally feed on the plants. Insecticides are unsuccessful at controlling Japanese beetles because they are more likely to kill the beneficial insects attracted to the plant than the beetles.

Propagating Butterfly Bush

Because this shrub spreads so easily, you’ll seldom want to propagate it. However, if you do, harvesting the seeds heads will provide you with lots of seeds to replant anywhere you choose.

If you’ve picked a sterile, seedless type of Butterfly bush, you won’t be able to propagate it from seed. Propagation through spring branch clippings is the best method for them.

The History Of Butterfly Bush

Botanist Adam Buddle originally brought Butterfly bushes to England from Asia in 1774 (after whom the plant was named). In distant parts of China and the Himalayas, experts regularly discover new types.

Uses For Butterfly Bush 

Butterfly bushes are unique to Asia and are common in India. It has a long history as a cure for a variety of ailments, including inflammation, rheumatism, skin illness, and malaria. In only one season, Butterfly bush may fill a corner, form a hedge, or serve as the backdrop to a vast planting space. It may reach a height of 5-10 feet and a width of the same, so it can create a big effect in your yard for a small investment.

Butterfly bushes are popular since they’re attractive, easy to cultivate, and require little maintenance daily. These bushes are so resilient that not even heavy storms can affect them. They flourish in tough conditions, such as polluted city areas. Insect pests, dryness, and stress don’t bother them.

Even weekend gardeners may enjoy the bushes’ gorgeous blossoms and resident butterflies because they require minimal maintenance.

Mayukh Saha
Freelance Writer
Mayukh is a Content Marketer and Social Media Manager with over 5 years of experience in the industry. Mayukh believes in the power of content; how it can positively impact lives, scale businesses and touch people. In his spare time Mayukh likes to read about latest tech trends and loves to travel in the nature. You can reach him at [email protected].