Content Detail

Butterfly bush is a long-blooming shrub or woody perennial with dense clusters of fragrant flowers that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It is often considered a sub-shrub because it dies back to the ground in the winter. This plant makes a great addition to sunny borders and dry open gardens. Also known as Buddleia davidii

  • Family (English) Figwort
  • Family (botanic) Scrophulariaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub, Perennial
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Blue, Pink, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Arching, Multi-stemmed, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to China.

Attracts birds & butterflies:

This plant is a nectar source, attracting the monarch, black swallowtail, pipevine swallowtail, snout butterfly, great spangled fritillary, pear crescent, red admiral, painted lady, common checkered-skipper, and nymphalid butterflies.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

It has simple, opposite leaves which are lance-shaped and 4 to 6 inches long. Leaf color ranges blue-green to silver-gray with no real fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The flowers are small and borne on long, upright terminal clusters. Butterfly bush flowers on new wood and bloom color varies with the cultivar, ranging  from white, pink, purple to deep blue.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

There is a two valved brown capsule which is not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

This is a medium shrub or woody perennial which grows 6 to 8 feet high and 5 to 8 feet wide. It is a butterfly magnet with a long blooming season. Regular deadheading will promote new blooms. Thrives in full sun, requires well drained, organic rich soil. Will die back to ground in winter and is late to leaf out in the spring. Prune in early spring to promote vigorous new growth and flowering.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

The plant is susceptible to mites. Cold, wet soil can cause root rots. As long as they are well drained, the plants are tolerant of heat, humidity, drought, and poor soils.

Black Knight (Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’): 

Dark purple flowers in terminal spikes bloom June through September.

Blue Chip (Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’): 

Growing 2 to 3 feet high and wide, this compact miniature with continuous bluish-purple flowers is excellent for containers.  Part of the Lo & Behold® series.

Ice Chip (Buddleia ‘Ice Chip’): 

A low-spreading ground cover topping out at 18 to 24 inches high and 2 to 3 feet wide, this cultivar has white flowers.


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