By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
Buddleias, known by most home gardeners as butterfly bush, are becoming increasingly popular in the home landscape. These perennials are highly regarded by butterflies as a nectar plant.
Butterfly bushes are available in an increasing array of sizes, flower colors and foliage characteristics. They have fragrant blossoms and can be used for cut flowers. Buddleias are winter hardy in Louisiana and can be used for annual color in the landscape.
A recent resurgence in buddleias at retail garden centers can be partially attributed to new varieties that have been released over the past 10 years. And many more varieties are in the works.
Among the newer varieties, Sungold and Honeycomb produce golden-yellow flowers. Another newer variety is Royal Red, but the flowers are not truly red – more of a dark purplish. The newest of the new is the dwarf, lavender-blue flower-producing Blue Chip from Proven Winners.
The new Flutterby series from Ball Horticulture are being grown and sold in Louisiana. White, pink, blush, and purple (with varying shades of these colors) constitute the flower availability, but these newer varieties offer some bi-color combinations and size diversity as well.
Plant site selection is somewhat important, as it is with many ornamental plants. Although people have long thought of buddleia as a hardy, herbaceous perennial, it makes a significantly sized shrub. Tall-growing plants can easily reach 8 to 10 feet with a 5- to 6-foot spread. Plants have an arching type of growth habit. Dwarf varieties, however, may be no more than a couple of feet tall. Buddleias should be planted in well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Consider the plant’s mature size when spacing between plants. Most people plant butterfly bushes too close together. Most varieties need at least 6 to 8 feet between plants because they’re larger-growing than we realize and need more space than this. Soil pH should be in the 6.5-7.0 range. Fertilize at planting with a slow-release fertilizer, such as StaGreen or Osmocote.
Plants that have been in the landscape for several years can be fertilized once in spring when new growth commences. The main pest problem of buddleias is spider mites.
Pruning plants back in spring will encourage new growth, maintain a more manageable growth habit and provide an opportunity to remove dead wood. New growth in the spring yields the blooms we are seeing in landscapes now. Blooms will continue until first frost. Tip-pruning terminal shoots during the season also encourages more continual bloom.
Give butterfly bushes a try to attract more butterflies in your home landscape.