With all of the buzz about pollinators and the plants that sustain them with pollen, nectar, and even their leaves, I felt compelled to give a shout-out to the aptly named butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) this month. This old-timey shrub can grow 5-10 ft. high and wide and attract a menagerie of pollinating insects and birds with colorful fragrant spikes of flowers that appear from late May until fall. (The photo of the butterfly bush flower was taken in late September.) Flower colors include white, pink, lavender, blue, purple, and near red.
Over the years, the interest in butterfly bushes remains strong and vibrant as breeders add to the collection of 160 existing cultivars to produce even more in a range of colors and sizes. Dr. Denny Warner, plant breeder and Raulston Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University, developed a number of compact and colorful hybrids that include Blue Chip (violet-blue), Ice Chip (white), Lilac Chip, Miss Molly (reddish-purple), Miss Ruby (bright pink), and Purple Haze (violet-purple).
Due to its propensity to re-seed with abandon, invasiveness has become an important issue, especially in Oregon which prohibits the sale of Buddleia spp. Therefore, many of the new introductions are sterile or produce few viable seeds.
Butterfly bush is a low maintenance flowering shrub that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Because it produces flowers on current season’s growth, prune it to a foot or so in early spring after you see the new gray-green leaves unfolding. Then stand back and enjoy the many winged jewels that are attracted to this butterfly magnet.