Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush

butterfly bush
The photo of the butterfly bush with magenta flowers was taken by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster Co. Extension in Nebraska.

Summer is finally here! One of the many plants that bloom now is the Butterfly bush. This plant works in any landscape setting, but especially on an acreage for those who enjoy watching wildlife, including butterflies.

Butterfly bush, Buddleia (or Buddlejadavidii, is a fast growing shrub reaching up to 6-10 feet tall and 4-10 feet wide. Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that are much smaller are available. The butterfly bush has opposite leaves that are oblong or lanceolate in shape. It typically blooms from June to October, and is available with blooms that are white, purple, blue, pink, and yellow. The flowers are held in a long panicle at the end of the stalks and are a great attractant to butterflies and even bees for pollination. The flowers resemble a lilac flower, which leads these plants to be called 'summer lilac' in some locations.

There are many different varieties of Butterfly bush to choose from. 'Black Knight' is a very common variety that is fragrant with dark purple to black flowers. 'Pink Delight' has large pink blooms, as the name implies. For a smaller choice, Buddleia x Nanhoensis 'Nanho Blue' or 'Nanho Purple' is a dwarf variety. These are just a few of the many varieties to try for different colors and sizes in your landscape. 

Butterfly bush is quite easy to care for and can handle the heat common to Nebraska in summer. Butterfly bush is a plant known as a suffrutescent plant, meaning that it isn't quite a woody shrub but it is more than a perennial plant. This plant grows quickly and dies back to the ground every year. We need to cut it back to the ground each year to remove the dead growth from the previous year, but it is best to wait until the very early spring to do this rather than in the fall. If we cut this plant back in the fall, moisture can collect in the hollow stems. The freezing and thawing throughout the winter may crack the crown and kill the plant. Butterfly bush should be planted in full sun, and old flowers should be removed (deadheaded) to encourage reblooming.

Although Butterfly bush is a great plant for Nebraska, some states have listed this plant as invasive. A few states on the east coast, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, and Delaware, have listed it as potentially invasive.

Think of the many attributes of the Butterfly bush - it blooms throughout the summer and requires very little care. It grows very fast to fill gaps in your landscape. The many different varieties mean chances are good that you will find the perfect color and size for your landscape. And perhaps best of all, the Butterfly bush will attract butterflies and other pollinators. 

butterfly bush
S. Cochran, Lancaster Co. Extension in Nebraska, captured insect activity in the photo of this yellow butterfly bush.
Nicole Stoner

Nicole Stoner, University of Nebraska Extension, shares information on plants to consider for your acreage. This month she features a plant that, besides having its own colorful blooms, will attract butterflies.