University of Illinois Extension


Barbara Bates
Unit Educator, Horticulture
Kane County

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Plant a Buddleia for a Great Display of Blooms and More

Attracting butterflies to your garden is a snap when you plant one of these profusely blooming large shrubs. Buddleia davidii, commonly known as Butterfly Bush is a deciduous, woody shrub preferring full sun. It has a very open habit, blending well with informal, naturalistic landscapes. In northern Illinois, butterfly bush may dieback to the ground in harsh winters. Established plants should re-sprout from roots.

Buddleia davidii blooms in mid summer and grows to 10 feet tall. The fragrant, plume-like flower clusters rise above the foliage for a wonderful display of white to lavender to deep purple blooms. Literally hundreds of butterflies will light on the blooms, feeding on the sweet nectar. Select a named cultivar for best color and plant form. The pale green to silvery foliage offers a contrast in the landscape when placed against evergreens as a backdrop.

A hardier and larger species, Buddleia alternifolia can be a real traffic stopper when in full bloom. The stems and foliage form a 12-foot tall fountain that literally explodes with 2-foot long sprays of lavender-pink blooms. This species performs best when it is given ample room in the open so it can develop its own natural, graceful form.

Plant butterfly bushes in full sun for best results. They will also perform well in light dappled shade. They tolerate many soils, even poor dry gravels. Butterfly bush can be trained to be single- or multiple-trunked, making the pendulous form even more striking.

Butterfly bush needs less than average water, about 1/2 inch per week during the growing season. They bloom on current season growth, so wait till the new leaves begin to grow, then remove the winterkilled portions of the stems. This may mean cutting them back to the ground, but established plants will make a remarkable come back.

Cultivars Rower Color
"Black Knight" dark violet
"Border Beauty" crimson
"Purple Prince" purple red
"Fascinating lilac pink
"Fortune" lilac with orange eye
"White Bouquet" white
"White Profusion" white with yellow eye
"Nanho Blue" deep blue, smaller growth habit
"Nanho Alba" white, smaller growth habit


June - July 2002:

Prevent Mustard from Setting Seeds
Plant a Buddleia for a Great Display | June Means Roses
The Other 'Bulbs'

Past Issues

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