Skip to Content
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) and Swallowtail Butterfly

All About Butterfly Bush

By Charlie Nardozzi, Garden expert, radio host, and author.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) has become very popular due to the growing interest in butterfly gardens. These beautiful shrubs make attractive landscape plants, and are known to be magnets for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects.

Buddleias emit a special honey-scented fragrance that lures butterflies like a moth to a light, and then once there, they find the flowers super-rich in nectar. A butterfly bush in the garden will often be seen with a mass of butterflies on the flowers, especially during hot sunny afternoons. Buddleias attract other insects too, like moths, and the reddish ones strongly attract hummingbirds. So it’s more than a name; it’s actually a botanical phenomenon. 

Learn more about why gardeners love this easy-to-grow shrub.

Butterfly Bush Varieties

Butterfly Bushes are abundant flowering shrubs, with cultivars available with flowers in a wide range of colors. The flower on new wood that grew in spring. Starting in midsummer, they flower until frost. The flowers have a honey-like fragrance that's strongest at midday.

There are many butterfly bush varieties available to grow. The most common types are in the Buddleia davidii group. Hailing from Tibet and China, these are the most cold hardy. These hybrids grow 6 to 10 feet tall and generally are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10. Varieties include 'Black Knight' with its graceful branches and deep-purple colored flowers, and 'Hot Raspberry' with raspberry-pink colored flowers.

The tall species types can grow 10 to 12 feet high and make a great backdrop plant in a flower border. Smaller versions have been bred to grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and fit more easily into most modern landscapes.

Butterfly Bush Uses In The Garden

  • Grow tall butterfly bush varieties in the back of your flowering border. They will make a nice backdrop to other butterfly favorites such as butterfly weed and echinacea.
  • Plant butterfly bushes near windows or doors where you can enjoy the scent all summer and the sight of the butterflies.
  • You can also plant butterfly bushes in a mixed-shrub border with other shrubs, such as native Elderberry, colorful Hydrangeas, or other unique shrubs to add color and interest in summer and fall.
  • Since butterfly bushes are deer resistant, planting them along the forest edge or in a shrub border shouldn't be a problem.
  • In cold winter areas, don't plant butterfly bushes in windy locations, or protect them with a barrier of burlap erected in fall to reduce dieback of the stems.
  • Use dwarf versions in the middle or front of your garden or even in rock gardens. These won't require such drastic pruning to flower well and they’ll stay a more manageable size. Some dwarf varieties of butterfly bush can be grown well in containers.
  • Pair butterfly bushes with purple Salvias, Milkweed, Ornamental Grasses, and Asters
Pollinators will swarm to your Butterfly Bushes!
Pollinators will swarm to your Butterfly Bushes!

Butterfly Bush Planting Tips

  • Deadheading these larger shrubs regularly - or cut flowers for bouquets often - since they flower so well and the dead flowers can be unsightly.
  • To avoid the problem of self-sowing, try to deadhead consistently all summer, not letting the seed set.
  • Butterfly bushes are considered invasive in some states (Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii), so care should be given to not let them spread into the wild.
  • In their native range, they're a pioneer species that moves into open, sunny disturbed lands. They can set millions of seeds in one season. In the wild, the plants eventually get crowded out by taller growing shrubs and trees. In the garden, these seeds can be a problem without these natural controls in place. Deadheading will help manage their spreading.
  • Butterfly bushes are less vigorous in colder climates.

Shop Butterfly Bushes

About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden speaker, author, consultant, radio and TV show host. He delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. Visit his website, for how-to gardening information, and for more about Charlie.

Back to article.

To learn more about the plants & seeds we sell and how to grow them in your garden beds and patio containers, sign up for our inspiring emails.