Butterfly Bush Care – A Brief Guide

Butterfly bushes are popular plants among gardeners due to their attractive appearance and ability to attract various beneficial insects and butterflies. These plants bloom in spring and summer, but they have a unique look even when they’re not in bloom, due to the shape of their evergreen foliage.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at how you can grow and care for butterfly bushes in your very own garden.

About Butterfly Bushes

red butterfly bush

The butterfly bush, (Buddleja davidii), is a deciduous flowering shrub that comes in a wide range of colors. It’s also known as ‘summer lilac’ and ‘orange eye’, and is native to Japan and central China.

This plant was named ‘buddleja’ after Reverend Adam Buddle, a botanist from England, and ‘davidii’ after Father Armand David, a French explorer and missionary in China who first reported the shrub.

The butterfly bush is highly popular as an ornamental plant because of its ability to attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and moths. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it also has various health benefits, that make it a useful plant to have in your garden. In fact, it’s widely used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and wound healing properties.

Types of Butterfly Bushes

beautiful butterfly bush

There are many different types of butterfly bushes available for planting. Here are some of the most popular types:

1. Nanho Purple

This type is similar in appearance and smell to lilacs. It grows up to 5 feet tall and about the same in width. It’s a seedless, non-invasive plant that will attract butterflies to your garden without taking over the entire garden.

2. Prince Charming

This butterfly bush has reddish flowers about 10 inches long. It’s ideal for smaller gardens as the entire plant grows only to about 4 feet in width and length.

3. Queen of Hearts

Growing to about 4 feet in height, Queen of Hearts is slightly wider than it is tall and is covered with magenta flowers during the summer.

4. Pugster Pink

This variety grows to about 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width, but it has large, beautiful flowers. It can be grown in containers and is a continuous bloomer so you don’t have to worry about deadheading.

5. Miss Molly

Miss Molly is one of the oldest varieties of butterfly bushes and one of the most invasive. It can easily take over not only your garden but also the surrounding landscape.

6. Glass Slippers

lilac butterfly bush

One of the largest varieties of butterfly bushes, Glass Slippers grow from 6 to 12 feet in height and can spread up to 15 feet in width.

7. Buzz Ivory

This plant produces spiky white flowers on a mounding shrub that grows to up 4 feet in height and width. It’s a deer-resistant plant that blooms all season long.

8. Wisteria Lane

This is a trailing variety that was named so because of its resemblance to wisteria plants. It has soft purple flowers with a honey-sweet fragrance.

9. Black Knight

With its deep purple flowers, this butterfly bush grows to about 10 feet in height and 5 in width, which means it needs a lot of room. It’s a self-seeder that spreads aggressively and quickly so you’ll need to dead the flowers regularly to keep it under control.

10. CranRazz

This is a medium-sized butterfly bush that produces cranberry-red blooms. Growing up to 6 feet in height, it’s a newer variety of butterfly bush.

11. Lilac Cascade

This variety is shorter, growing up to 5 feet in height and spreading to about 6 feet wide. It’s a late bloomer, so you’ll see the flowers mostly through the fall. Unlike the Black Knight, its flowers don’t produce any seeds so it’s not an invasive plant.

12. Flutterby Pink

Here’s one of the shortest types of butterfly bushes, growing about 2 feet tall and 2.5 feet in width. It’s perfect for a small garden or you can also grow it in a container. It’s a non-invasive plant that produces beautiful pink blooms from summer until winter.

How to Grow Butterfly Bushes

woman planting

While butterfly bushes are very easy to grow, they do have a few requirements you’ll need to consider. These include the following:

The Soil

Plant your butterfly bush in an area with well-drained soil. The acidity of the soil can affect the color of the flowers. For the best color, the soil should have a pH level of 6.0 – 7.5.

Light Requirements

Butterfly bush plants like full sun and bloom well during the summer. Make sure to plant them in an area in your garden where they will be exposed to bright sunlight. If you’re growing them indoors, place them near a window where they can get enough sunlight.


a handful of fertilizer

A controlled-release fertilizer is best for butterfly bush plants or you can apply a thin layer of compost, especially in the spring. Be careful of over-fertilizing as it will increase the growth of the foliage instead of the flowers. During the colder months, apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the roots from the frost.


During the first growing season, regular watering is essential. This is because it helps the plants to establish a strong root system. Once it has been established, you’ll only need to water them once in a while.

These plants are drought tolerant, but you may need to water them regularly in extreme heat.


downy mildew
Downy mildew

Butterfly bush plants are prone to various pests and diseases that occur especially when temperatures are cool or the plant has been wet for a long time. Here’s a look at some of the most common pests and diseases you’ll need to protect your plant from:

Downy Mildew

This is a very common disease that affects butterfly bush plants during the colder months. It’s easy to recognize due to the furry mildew patches that appear on the undersides of the plant’s leaves. This does not happen on the top sides of the leaves, but these can turn brown or yellow and lose shape. If you notice this on your plants, remove the infested parts and spray the plant well with fungicide.


This is a fungal disease that causes the roots of your plant to rot and the leaves will turn yellow and drop. Rhizoctonia is difficult to get rid of, but you can control it by adding a fungicide to the soil.


Another fungal disease that can affect the roots of your plant is phytophthora, characterized by yellowing leaves, smaller flowers, and rotting plant stems. You can treat it by applying fungicide but even with treatment, there is a risk of the plant dying.



Some of the insects that affect these plants include the following:

  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Japanese beetles

The best way to control these insects is by using pesticides or pheromone traps. Pheromone traps can lure Japanese beetles away from your plants so that they won’t be able to damage them. Early Spring is the best time of the year to add pesticides as it helps control the larvae population.

Another option you could go for is biological pest control, using insects such as ladybugs to rid the plants of dangerous insects. Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids and some types of caterpillars.

Biological pest control is the safest way to protect your plants and control the pest population without adding any chemicals to it. You can find predatory insects in many garden centres.

Propagating Butterfly Bushes

sowing seeds

Butterfly bushes can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or by division. If you’re propagating from seeds, make sure to pre-chill for up to 4 weeks before planting. Plant them in an area that’s exposed to full sun and cover them lightly with soil. Remember to always keep them moist and give them a few months to germinate.

If you choose to propagate from cuttings, take these in the spring or summer. Make sure each cutting is about 3 inches long and remove the leaves on the bottom. Cut the branches at an angle to allow for easier rooting and better absorption of nutrients. Once you’ve got the cuttings, dip the ends in a rooting hormone and stick them into the moist, potting soil or peaty sand.

You can propagate your butterfly bush plans in the spring or fall, but this depends on where you live and what you prefer. To do this, carefully dig the mature bushes up and remove any excess soil on the roots.

Then, carefully separate them using a spade shovel or your hands. Be careful when doing this or you could break or damage the roots. Once done, you can transplant them into containers if you wish.

Pruning Butterfly Bushes

pruning bushes

While you can prune butterfly bushes any time of the year, the ideal time to do so would be in early spring or late winter. It’s best to avoid pruning the bushes in early winter since water can collect inside its hollow stem and freezing, causing it to split.

Pruning a butterfly bush is easy as there’s no right or wrong way to do so. All you need to do is remove any broken, diseased, or dead limbs by cutting them off at the point where they originate.

If you’re pruning in cold climates, make sure to add an extra layer of mulch around it for added insulation. You don’t need to do this if you’re in a warmer area.

The Take-Away

So there you have it! As you can see, butterfly bushes are beautiful and extremely low-maintenance plants that anyone can try growing in their garden. You don’t even have to have any gardening know-how to do it so go ahead and add a splash of color to your garden with these lovely plants!


1. Where is the best place to plant a butterfly bush? Butterfly bushes grow best in full sun. They also grow in partial shade, especially in warmer areas, but it could reduce flowering. These plants are not fussy about soil conditions, as long as it’s well-drained.

2. Do butterfly bushes multiply? Yes, most varieties of butterfly bushes excel at seed production as well as dispersal which means they multiply rapidly.

3. Should you deadhead butterfly bush? Deadheading a butterfly bush is not necessary, but it can help with blooming later on in the season.

4. Is butterfly bush toxic to dogs? While butterfly bushes aren’t edible, they’re not toxic either, to animals or humans. They’re safe enough to plant wherever there are animals or children present.

5. What does a butterfly bush attract? These gorgeous plants attract various insects such as moths and butterflies as well as hummingbirds.

6. How fast do butterfly bushes grow? They have a rapid growth rate of more than 24 inches per year.