White butterfly bush varieties

Avoiding Butterfly Bush Winter Kill: Learn How To Overwinter A Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush is very cold hardy and can withstand light freezing temperatures. Even in cold regions, the plant is often killed to the ground but the roots can stay alive and the plant will re-sprout in spring when soil temperatures warm up. Severe and sustained freezes will kill the roots and plant in United States Department of Agriculture zone 4 and below. If you are concerned about butterfly bush winter kill in your region, take some tips on how to save the plant. There are several steps to preparing butterfly bushes for winter and saving these colorful plants.

Butterfly Bush Winter Kill

Even in a temperate zone, there are chores to do to help plants withstand winter storms and weather. Butterfly bush winter protection in warmer climates usually just amounts to some extra mulch around the root zone. We’ve been asked, “do I prune my butterfly bush for winter and what other preparation should I take?” The extent of overwintering preparation depends upon the severity of the weather the plant will experience.

Buddleia lose their leaves in fall in most areas. This is a common occurrence and may make it appear the plant is dead but new leaves will arrive in spring. In

zones 4 to 6, the tops of the plant may die back and no new growth will come from this area, but not to worry.

In spring, new growth will rejuvenate from the base of the plant. Prune off the dead stems to retain an attractive appearance in late winter to early spring. Container grown plants are at the most risk of damage from winter chill. Move potted butterfly bush indoors or to a sheltered area to protect the roots from the cold. Alternately, dig a deep hole and put the plant, pot and all, into the soil. Unearth it when soil temperatures warm up in spring.

Do I Prune My Butterfly Bush for Winter?

Pruning butterfly bushes annually actually enhances the flower display. Buddleia produces blooms from new growth, so pruning needs to be done before new growth appears in spring. In areas with ice storms and severe weather that can break plant material and cause damage to the structure, butterfly bush can be severely pruned and it will not adversely affect the flower display.

Removing errant stems and growth will help prevent more acute damage from winter weather and is a sensible way of preparing butterfly bushes for winter in any region. Place a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the root zone as further butterfly bush winter protection. It will act as a blanket and keep roots from freezing.

How to Overwinter a Butterfly Bush Indoors

It is common to move tender plants inside to protect them from cold weather. Buddleia grown in cold zones should be dug up and placed in potting soil in containers. Do this in late summer to early fall so the plant has a chance to adjust to its new situation.

Water the plant regularly but slowly diminish the amount of moisture you give the plant a couple weeks before the date of your first frost. This will allow the plant to experience dormancy, a period when the plant is not actively growing and is, therefore, not as susceptible to shock and site changes.

Move the container to a location that is frost free but cool. Continue to water sparingly throughout winter. Gradually reintroduce the plant to the outdoors when soil temperatures warm up. Replant the butterfly bush in prepared soil in the ground after all danger of frost has passed.

Q. We’re hoping to plant a garden that will attract butterflies. Growing up, we had a butterfly bush I loved because it always seemed to have butterflies on it. One of my neighbors says that butterfly bush is bad for butterflies. Is that true?

A. Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidii, can be a very attractive plant in the landscape, both to the gardener and to the butterflies. It bears abundant panicles of flowers in colors from pale pink and lavender to dark purple. The fragrance is delightfully sweet and gives rise to its other common name, Summer Lilac.

There are two main criticisms of the butterfly bush, but both can be remedied. The first is that although butterflies are attracted to the abundant nectar of Butterfly Bush, the plant itself is not a host plant for the caterpillars of the butterfly. Host plants are necessary for the life-cycle of the butterfly to continue. If Butterfly Bush were the only plant in your nectar garden, then that could be a problem. However, as long as you are planting a variety of plants that are appropriate to a butterfly and hummingbird garden, you are likely to have host plants and there should be no problem.

The other criticism is that Butterfly Bush is invasive. All of those flowers can produce a lot of seed, and in the right climate, it can spread and become a problem. Because Butterfly Bush is such an attractive plant, in the last few years plant breeders have developed a number of varieties that are sterile. Since sterile plants don’t produce seed, they will not be invasive. If you decide to plant a Butterfly Bush, be sure to verify that your choice is one of the sterile varieties.

One final comment, be sure to check how tall and wide your chosen plant will get. Buddleia varieties are available in a variety of sizes from knee-high to very large shrub. Selecting the right plant for your garden will ensure that you enjoy your Butterfly Bush for many years.

Q. My garden book says to prune and apply dormant sprays to deciduous fruit trees after all their leaves have dropped. However, the low-chill apple trees I have will begin to bloom (around February 1) before all their leaves have fallen. How should I deal with them?

A: Many low-chill apples, as well as other low-chill fruit trees, sometimes fail to fit our familiar garden time-tables, but they are well-worth the small extra effort they require. In your case, you may safely prune your trees as soon as the majority of the leaves have fallen. This usually occurs by mid-January. After pruning, it will probably be a simple task to pluck and dispose of the few remaining leaves. Follow this with the dormant spray and your trees will be ready for a productive year.

Anne Asked

When is the best time to prune back my butterfly bush? I would like to concentrate the growth a bit lower, as the upper branches were on my roof (it is planted outside a one-story part of the house). I understand about directional pruning, I just didn’t know when, as new growth is now sprouting.

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The Gardener’s Answer

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a wonderful addition to any sun-loving garden, especially if your goal is to attract wildlife. Hence the name, these plants are certain to attract butterflies and even hummingbirds.

The best time to prune these flowering shrubs is late winter or early spring while they are resting and before they put on new growth. Since yours is already putting on new growth, be careful as you prune not to damage the tender new growth.

As a general rule we prune spring-flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. This includes all plants that flower before June 1. For the summer-flowering shrubs, those that bloom after June 1, they should be pruned during the winter months or in the early spring before new growth begins. Pruning our plants rejuvenates them, encouraging new growth and larger flowers.

Butterfly bush blooms on new wood (current season’s growth) so they can be pruned back hard. Ideally, you want to cut it back to around 12 inches annually. This seems drastic but Buddleia are tough plants that respond well to hard pruning. They are woody near the base of the plant but produce new herbaceous growth year after year.

When you prune, make certain that your tools are clean and sharp. Feel free to thin out the plant to improve air circulation. This summer as your plant blooms and the flowers fade it is a good idea to remove the spent flowers. This will promote continuous blooms throughout the season and into the fall.

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Butterfly bush identification and control

Butterfly bush is an introduced shrub from China that has been widely planted as an ornamental and butterfly plant throughout North America. Unfortunately, this popular garden plant is also highly invasive and spreads profusely by seed into disturbed and natural areas. Butterfly bush can now be found commonly along riversides and roads and in cleared forests throughout western Washington and Oregon, at times significantly impacting riparian habitat and riverside conditions and impeding forest regeneration.

Legal status in King County, Washington

Butterfly bush is a Class B noxious weed on the Washington State Noxious Weed List. It is on the Non-Regulated Noxious Weed List for King County, Washington. Control of butterfly bush in King County is recommended but not required. Butterfly bush is on the state quarantine list, and it is illegal to buy, sell or offer this plant for sale in Washington.

For more information see Noxious Weed Lists and Laws or visit the website of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board.

The King County Noxious Weed Control Board encourages property owners to remove butterfly bush where possible and to avoid introducing it to new landscapes. Ornamental plantings can be contained by removing flower stalks before they form seeds.

Identification (see below for more photos)

  • Deciduous shrub up to 15 feet tall with arching branches
  • Showy flower spikes grow at the branch ends, either upright or often nodding, 4 to 10 inches long
  • Flowers typically light purple with orange centers (hence the common name “orange eye”), four-petaled, bell-shaped, and in dense clusters
  • Cultivars have been developed with a range of colors including red, magenta, blue, orange, yellow, white and dark purple
  • Young stems are green, older stems have peeling, gray-brown bark
  • Leaves are long and narrow or somewhat egg-shaped and arranged oppositely on the branches
  • Leaves are usually 4 to 10 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide
  • Edges of the leaves are toothed
  • Upper leaf surface is deep green to blue-gray, while the undersides seem whitish due to dense covering or short, fuzzy hair
  • Flowers bloom between mid-summer and the first frost in Washington State
  • Seed capsules split in two to release small, winged seeds

Habitat and impact

Butterfly bush is most vigorous in well-drained soil and full sun. It can tolerate drought and low-nutrient soil and can grow in very challenging conditions, such as cracks in the pavement and along railroads. Seeds require exposed soil to germinate successfully and seedlings are not often seen in improved garden soils or well-maintained landscapes. Butterfly bush colonizes disturbed areas such as riversides, roadsides, railroads, pastures, and recently logged or burned forests. Invasion of butterfly bush along riversides is especially problematic, because it forms dense thickets, crowds out native vegetation, and disrupts natural succession patterns. Initial densities of seedlings along open areas of riverbanks and sandbars can be very high and mature butterfly bush stands keep out native willows and other woody vegetation that would normally re-vegetate riverbanks after floods.

Growth and reproduction

Butterfly bush spreads by producing abundant amounts of very lightweight, winged seeds that are dispersed by wind and water over many miles. A study at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania found that a single flower spike produced 40,000 seeds. The germination rate of several cultivars was 80 percent or higher. This species is quick to mature, often producing seeds during its first year of growth. Also, butterfly bush is adapted to surviving along riversides and can develop roots on branches that have been buried or broken off.

Once established, butterfly bush is tough to eliminate. Seeds remain viable in the soil for 3 to 5 years. Butterfly bush can re-sprout from the rootstock after it can been damaged or cut down to its base, and the cut stems can grow into new plants if not disposed of properly.


Prevention: Don’t let butterfly bush go to seed. Remove spent flowerheads in the fall before they disperse seeds (don’t wait until spring) and discard these in the garbage to avoid spreading seeds. Consider using other species in your landscape (see the garden wise publication for suggestions). For existing plantings, consider removing the butterfly bush to prevent its spread.

Manual control: Seedlings can be easily hand-pulled and larger bushes can be dug out (with some effort). Weed wrenches can work, but trunks are often too brittle and break off. Watch for new seedlings where the soil was disturbed and consider planting grass or a ground cover to suppress future seedling germination of the butterfly bush seeds remaining in the soil.

Disposal: Branches should not be left on the bare ground because they can form roots and re-grow. Do not discard branches or root balls in natural areas or on roadsides because they can re-grow and spread. Branches can be burned, put in your yard waste container, or taken to a landfill or yard waste composting facility. Seedheads should be discarded in the garbage. If you cut seedheads after the fall, place a bag around them before cutting off to minimize dispersal of the seeds.

Chemical control: Controlling butterfly bush by spraying with a brush-control herbicide is somewhat effective, but for better results, cut the trunk off at the base and apply concentrated glyphosate (such as in Roundup) or triclopyr (such as in Garlon or Brush B Gon) to the freshly cut surface. For more detailed information on the cut stump treatment method and more information on using herbicides to control weeds in different crops and locations, please see the Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook. Always follow the label directions on any herbicide product you use to minimize any potential risks to you and the environment, and follow all applicable laws and regulations regarding herbicide use on your site. Contact the Noxious Weed Program if you are unsure about what to do.

Biological control: There are currently no biocontrol agents available for managing butterfly bush. See the biological control page for more information.

Cultural/grazing: Although goats will eat butterfly bush and can cause damage to the plants, they will not kill or eradicate this plant. Consider using goat grazing as part of an integrated program with other methods, perhaps followed up by manual or chemical treatment.

Additional information on butterfly bush

What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington

Because butterfly bush is so widespread, property owners in King County are not required to control it and we are not generally tracking infestations. We can provide advice on how to control butterfly bush, but there is generally no legal requirement to do so. We are tracking locations of butterfly bush in some wilderness areas as part of the Upper Snoqualmie Invasive Weed Control Project and could always use more Weed Watchers for this effort.

Butterfly bush photos

Please Note: Photos on this page were provided courtesy of the Thurston County Noxious Weed Board, the Washington State Noxious Weed Board, Tim Miller, Jennifer E. Leach, and the King County Noxious Weed Board. Please do not use these photos without permission from the photographer. Contact the Noxious Weed Program for permission to use and photographer contact information.

Species Buddleja davidii

Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is a deciduous to semi evergreen shrub that grows up to 5 m tall. Until only recently, this species was celebrated for its robust growth, fragrance and range of bloom colours, and often recommended for its ability to grow in poor soil and to attract butterflies. Unfortunately, the butterfly bush has escaped cultivation in southern BC and is now considered an invasive species. Spreading rapidly by windburn seed, butterfly bush displaces native vegetation in disturbed, open areas and along coastal forest edges, roadsides and especially on sunny steam sides and riverbanks.

Butterfly bush is a prolific seed producer; a single flower cluster can produce over 40,000 seeds. Seeds are dispersed by wind and water, and may remain dormant in the soil for many years. New plants can even establish from cuttings. These shrubs also alter the nitrogen and phosphorous amounts in the soil, giving it an advantage that displaces native species, particularly in riparian areas. In forests, it competes with Douglas-fir tree seedlings.

Showy flowers of butterfly bush grow in long, spike-shaped clusters in a range of purple to light purple shades, with egg-shaped to lance-shaped leaves that grow to 25 cm long.

Removal of butterfly bush is best when it first comes into flower but has not yet produced seeds. Small plants can be easily hand-pulled when the soil is moist. Remove larger
bushes by cutting the plant at the base. Dig up the stump and cover it with a thick plastic bad, or mulch to prevent regeneration. Remove new shoots until the rootstock dies, and do not leave stems on the ground, or they may root.

A few native and ornamental alternatives to use other than planting the butterfly bush include varieties such as; Lewis’s Mock Orange, Red-flowering Currant, Black Chokeberry, Meyer Lilac or California Lilac. Read more about these alternatives in the Grow Me Instead booklet for BC.

Tips For Transplanting A Butterfly Bush

We see them from about the middle of summer throughout fall — the arching stems of the butterfly bush plant filled with cone-shaped flower clusters. These beautiful plants not only attract our attention with their eye-catching colors, from purple and pink to white and even orange, but they are notorious for attracting butterflies to the garden as well, hence its name — butterfly bush. While their care if fairly simple, transplanting a butterfly bush requires a bit of know how to ensure its success.

How to Transplant Butterfly Bushes

Transplanting a butterfly bush requires some preparation of the new location. Butterfly bushes prefer moist, well-drained soil in partial to full sun. For best results, amend the soil with compost prior to planting. After transplanting, there is little in the way of maintenance for butterfly bushes’ care.

Transplanting is much the same as for any other shrub or small tree. Gently dig the butterfly bush plant up from its current location. When transplanting a butterfly bush, carefully dig up as much of the root system as possible and move to its new location for replanting. Lift the plant, roots and soil from the ground and move it to the prepared hole in the new location. Backfill the hole around the root ball. Tamp down the soil to make sure that no air pockets are in the soil.

Once in the ground, the plant should be watered frequently until the roots have had time to take hold. When they do, the butterfly bush plant won’t require as much watering, growing to become quite drought-tolerant.

Since it blooms on new growth, you should prune the butterfly bush plant back to the ground during its dormancy in winter. Alternatively, you can wait until early spring. Pruning will help to encourage new growth.

When Can You Transplant Butterfly Bushes?

Butterfly bushes are quite hardy and can transplant easily. Transplanting a butterfly bush is usually accomplished in either spring or fall. Transplant prior to new growth in spring or once its foliage has died down in the fall.

Keep in mind that the region in which you live typically dictates when you can transplant. For instance, spring is a more suitable time for transplanting a butterfly bush in colder regions while in warmer areas of the south, transplanting a butterfly bush is best done in fall.

Butterfly bushes are great plants to have in the garden. Once established, the butterfly bush plant pretty much takes care of itself, other than the occasional watering and pruning. They make exceptional additions to the landscape and attract a variety of butterflies as well, which is also good for pollination.

If someone took 75% of your food away, you wouldn’t be a happy camper. But when you grow invasive butterfly bushes and other plants that provide only nectar, that’s what you’re doing to birds and butterflies in your own backyard.

A leading wildlife ecologist wants you to think about your property — no matter how big or small — as an important link in your local ecosystem. Each plant you include in your garden affect the local food web, even the beautiful, seemingly harmless butterfly bush.

Doug Tallamy, PhD, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, revealed three hard truths about butterfly bush — and why you should stop planting them at home.

1. Butterfly Bush Doesn’t Stay In Your Yard


Butterfly bush is an invasive plant, meaning it crowds out beneficial plants that have naturally grown in your community for centuries. This species originally from Asia readily takes over space where native North American plants would normally thrive. In fact, Buddleja davidii (the scientific name for butterfly bush) has certain traits that make it invasive in most environments.

“I hear the ‘it’s invasive here, but not over there’ argument a lot,” says Tallamy. “While it is invasive in many parts of the U.S., what’s really important is that the plant has the ability to be invasive almost anywhere. If it’s not in some place, chances are good it will be .”

Beyond backyards, the plants spread to important ecosystems and protected areas. There’s clear documentation of aggressive butterfly bush invasions in wildlife habitats.

“People who say butterfly bush doesn’t move around are in the denial stage,” Tallamy says. “Butterfly bush just doesn’t stay where we plant it.”

2. Butterfly Bush Doesn’t Really Benefit Butterflies

Raquel Lonas/ Getty

There’s no denying that butterfly bush’s long, narrow tufts of flowers look beautiful. And like many flowering plants, it supplies lots of nectar. But when it’s the only species you grow for butterflies, you’re not going to have butterflies anymore, Tallamy warns.

These insects also require proper host plants so they can reproduce. Their larval offspring have to feed on the leaves of native species like butterfly weed, other milkweeds, joe-pye weed, and oak trees.

“People rationalize their perceived need for butterfly bush because they think it helps butterflies,” Tallamy says. “What they really want is a pretty plant in their yard.”

3. Butterfly Bush Contributes to the Collapse of Food Webs

BirdImages/ Getty

Here’s the harsh truth: Planting non-native plants like butterfly bush in your yard actually makes it harder for the butterflies and birds in your neighborhood to survive.

For instance, if you want chickadees to breed in your yard, you need plants that can support the 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars the birds need during the 16 days they feed their young.

“If you don’t have that, the plant-caterpillar-chickadee food web stops,” Tallamy explains. “If you plant butterfly bush, and not native , then right away you’re removing at least 75% of the food that is supporting the biodiversity that’s out there.” And these critters need all the help they can get.

George Weigel It’s best to move a butterfly bush in early spring rather than now.


I have a huge butterfly bush and a Japanese maple tree that I would like to transplant. We’re moving. When’s the best time to dig them up to move them? Also, if and when I dig up the butterfly bush, would it be smart to cut it back some so it doesn’t get damaged while transporting it?

A: The ideal time to move both would be early spring (i.e. late March through April). I’d cut the butterfly bush back sharply to ankle high before digging. Try to get as much of the root systems as you can of both plants, and get them in the ground at the same depth ASAP. Then treat them like a new plant so far as first-season watering goes.

If you have no choice, you can try a winter move whenever the ground isn’t frozen. This will lower the survival odds, but if you mulch, water a little during thaws and watch to make sure the rootballs don’t get shoved up out of the ground during thaws and freezes, you’ll maximize your chances.

Here’s another thought… if you’re moving over winter, talk to the buyer about coming back in spring to dig the plants. Non-gardeners might be glad to get rid of as many plants as they can to return the space to grass or to pave over it.

3-In-1 Butterfly Bush

Shipping Information:

Plants, fertilizer and other supplies* will be shipped at the proper planting time for your area of the country during the shipping timeframes outlined below.

*Fertilizer and other supplies ordered apart from plant orders are typically shipped within 5 business days.

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Based on the contents of your order, we always strive to ship the order complete and as early as possible. However, sometimes this may result in a delay of some items that are ready before others. Our customers have suggested that they would rather wait to receive their order as complete as possible. If you would like to receive part of your order ahead of time, please reach out to our customer service department and we can accommodate. Orders with large items may be shipped in more than one package. There is no extra charge if your order requires more than one package.
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The Proven Winners® Ultimate Guide to Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush are quite easy to grow, but you do need to know a bit about their preferences and requirements to achieve maximum success:

  1. Butterfly bush need full sun. When we say full sun, we mean it – butterfly bush require a minimum of 8 hours of bright sunlight. Even in warm climates, plant them where they get no fewer than 6 hours of sun.
  2. Butterfly bush need perfect drainage. Their roots are sensitive to rotting, and if they spend any amount of time in wet soil, they can be set back or even die. Most of the time, if you lose a butterfly bush after winter, it wasn’t due to low temperatures or snow or ice – it was because the plant sat in cold, wet soil in fall or spring.
  3. Butterfly bush can grow in clay soil, but require a few special accommodations. Because they need good drainage and dislike cold wet conditions, there are a few tips that will increase your success with butterfly bush if you have clay soil:
    • Never amend the soil. Don’t add top soil, potting soil, compost or anything at planting time. Plant directly into your natural soil. This is true for all shrubs, but is even more important with butterfly bush, as amending any soil, and particularly clay soil, can cause drainage problems.
    • Plant “high” – instead of positioning the plant even with the ground level like you would other plants, dig a slightly shallower hole (yep, that means less work!) and position it so that the base of the plant is a bit higher than the ground. This creates a small “hill” that encourages water to drain away from the plant rather than settle around it.
    • Avoid mulching directly around your butterfly bush. Mulch is a great idea for other species of plants, but in clay soil, it can hold too much moisture. Go ahead and mulch your beds, but give your butterfly bush a bit of clearance, and never mulch all the way up to the main stems.
  4. Prune in spring, after the new growth emerges. Many people cut their butterfly bush back in autumn, as part of their fall clean up. But particularly in cold climates, this can leave your butterfly bush more susceptible to damage over winter. Do not prune until you see green buds on the stems. Make your cuts just above where big, healthy leaf buds have formed. It can take several weeks into spring for new growth to show up – be patient and resist the urge to cut them back too early.
  5. But do prune your butterfly bush. Left unpruned, large butterfly bushes can become “second story” plants: their flowers form way up at the top so you can’t enjoy them unless you have a second story window. The warmer your climate, the more you should cut back your butterfly bush each spring. Even dwarf varieties like our Lo & Behold® series still need pruning – you’ll just be cutting back less than you would on a variety that reaches 8’ tall.
  6. Be patient. Butterfly bushes tend to be one of the later plants to leaf out in spring. Even if everything else in your landscape is turning green, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your butterfly bush. Many people recommend waiting til as late as Father’s Day (the third Sunday in June) to be certain their butterfly bush perished. It can be very surprising to see how quickly a butterfly bush can recover, even if it takes that long to come back! Learn more about this phenomenon in our article, Plants that Push the Snooze Button on Spring.
  7. Don’t overwater. Particularly if you have clay soil, watch watering carefully. If you have an irrigation system, be sure it’s not inundating your butterfly bush. Signs of overwatering include weak stems, fewer flowers, and dieback.
  8. Avoid fall planting. Because butterfly bush may get a bit of winter damage in cold climates, it’s best to give them as long a time as possible to get established before they face the challenges of the cold, wet season. In USDA zones 5 and 6 especially, keep butterfly bush planting time to spring through mid-summer so the plants have ample opportunity to develop a good root system to sustain them through winter.

You’ll find a range of colors, sizes, and habits among our butterfly bushes:

InSpired® series: large and colorful. These are similar to old-fashioned types, but they have very large, showy flowers, good fragrance, and get quite tall (8’/2.4m).

Lo & Behold® series: small and mounded. Perfect for flower gardens. Lo & Behold® ‘Purple Haze’ is the largest of this series; Lo & Behold® ‘Pink Micro Chip’ is the smallest. Lo & Behold® ‘Blue Chip Jr.’ is the earliest to bloom of the series.

“Miss” series: medium height (4-5’/1.2-1.5m tall), refined, elegant habit, intense colors. The flowers of ‘Miss Molly’ are as close to red as you’ll find in a butterfly bush. ‘Miss Pearl’ offers pure white blooms that look especially magical at night.

Pugster® series short and stocky, with full-sized flowers in saturated colors. The thick stems of our newest series makes these an excellent choice for areas where butterfly bush experience a lot of winter dieback. Pugster Blue® is especially exciting, with its true-blue blooms.

‘Summer Skies’: large and bold. The splashy variegated foliage of this variety makes it eye-catching well before its purple blooms appear in mid-summer.

Butterfly bush FAQ:

I heard butterfly bush is invasive. Is this true?

Butterfly bush has become invasive in some areas, and is on invasive plant watchlists or even banned in some states. This is why we work with renown plant breeder Dr. Dennis Werner of North Carolina State University to introduce seedless and non-invasive varieties, like the Lo & Behold® series and the “Miss” varieties. These plants have been approved for sale in Oregon, where others are banned. However, in these states, they are sold under the name “summer lilac” instead of “butterfly bush” to clarify that they have been approved by their respective departments of agriculture.

So is butterfly bush the same thing as butterfly weed?

No. When most people say “butterfly weed,” they are referring to one of several species of milkweed (Asclepias sp.), an herbaceous plant. Butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.) is a woody plant (shrub).

I heard butterfly bush is bad for butterflies. Is this true?

Butterfly bush attracts butterflies because its flowers are high in nectar. However, this nectar only sustains the butterflies themselves – it does not provide crucial food sources for caterpillars (which are the larval or “baby” stage of a butterfly’s life cycle). If you want to create a truly butterfly-friendly garden, don’t just plant a butterfly bush – plant a wide variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that bloom at different times to provide an ongoing, diverse buffet for the babies and adults alike. Be sure to include plenty of plants that are native to your area – contact your local cooperative extension office for specific recommendations.

Do I need to cut the seeds off my butterfly bush?

All of our butterfly bush will bloom all summer long without deadheading (the process of removing seed heads). To eliminate the possibility of butterfly bush spreading, you can cut off and dispose of the seedheads left on the plant in autumn – as long as you aren’t doing any major pruning into the plant, it’s perfectly fine to do this.

Can I cut my butterfly bush blooms to use in flower arrangements?

Yes, but unfortunately, they don’t hold up very well in a vase. If you want to try, cut them early in the morning and place the stems in water immediately after cutting.

Can I grow butterfly bush in a container?

Yes! Butterfly bush will thrive in containers. Be sure to select a container that has several large drainage holes, and fill the container only with a fast-draining, light-weight potting mix. The container you select should be made out of a weather-proof material that can be left outdoors year-round.

Learn more in our Shrubs in Containers article

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Butterfly Bush Mix Buddleia Davidii is a fast growing, deciduous shrub native to China. Butterfly Bush can be easily established from flower seeds, and the growing Butterfly Bush forms a medium to large, rounded shrub with arching flowering branches. This variety of Buddleia Davidii features spike-like, long terminal clusters of mixed color flowers in purple, lilac, lavender, pink and white. The fragrant blooms of Butterfly Bush appear from July until frost attracting masses of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
Butterfly Bush Mix is a cottage garden favorite that is widely grown in butterfly gardens. Buddleia Davidii seeds germinate fast if they are planted properly – the seeds cannot be covered. Butterfly Bush plant grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil; however, this flowering shrub is very adaptable and tolerates poor and dry soils. Butterfly Bush is also tolerant of heat, humidity, and drought.

Season: Perennial
Height: 72-96 Inches
Bloom Season: Spring/Summer/Fall
Environment: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Soil Type: Average, Moist well-drained
USDA Zones: 5-9

Sow Indoors: Spring (4-6 weeks before last frost)
Sow Outdoors: Spring
Seed Depth: Surface sowing – press seeds slightly into soil
Germination Time: 15-25 Days

Butterfly Bush Seed – Buddleia Davidii Flower Seeds Mix

Flower Specifications

Season: Perennial

USDA Zones: 5 – 9

Height: 72 – 96 inches

Bloom Season: Summer and fall

Bloom Color: Mix

Environment: Full sun

Soil Type: Moist, well-drained

Deer Resistant: Yes

Planting Directions

Temperature: 66 – 75F

Average Germ Time: 14 – 21 days

Light Required: Yes

Depth: Lighlty press seed onto soil, do not cover

Sowing Rate: 3 – 4 seeds per plant

Moisture: Keep moist until germination

Plant Spacing: 48 – 72 inches

Care & Maintenance: Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia Davidii Mix) – Start this beautiful perennial using Butterfly Bush seeds! It readily establishes itself from flower seed and has very fast and vigorous growth. This Buddleia Butterfly Bush mix of colors will attract both hummingbirds and butterflies alike! While hummingbirds prefer the darker bloom colors of purple, butterflies prefer the lighter bloom colors of lilac and white.

Also called Summer Lilac, the flower seeds can be started indoors several weeks before the last frost. Transplant the seedlings after danger of frost has passed. After the Summer Lilac Butterfly Bush is established from flower seed it is fairly drought tolerant and it is usually resistant to deer.

Butterfly Bush care would include following a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep extensive root system. Feed with a general purpose fertilizer before new growth begins in spring. Cut the plant back hard (down to 10 inches) in early spring. The Butterfly Bush flowers on new growth and will have more blooms and larger blooms when cut back. Regular deadheading will help prevent any unwanted spread of Buddleia.

Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Hybrid Mix

Butterfly bush may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost.

Sowing Seed Indoors:

  • Sow butterfly bush seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last spring frost date using a seed starting kit.
  • Sow seeds shallowly in seed-starting formula, or just barely press in.
  • Keep the soil moist at 70-75 degrees F.
  • Seedlings emerge in 7-21 days.
  • As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
  • Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
  • Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

Planting Plants in the Garden:

  • Select a location in full sun with good rich moist organic soil.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12, inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker.
  • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.