Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Growing Butterfly Bushes

What is a butterfly bush? Does it really attract butterflies? Buddleia does indeed attract many varieties of butterflies including Fritillaries, Western Tiger Swallowtails, Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals. The bush has blossoms in white, red, pink, yellow, purple, blue and maroon that cover the entire bush. They look much like lilac blooms and are honey scented. Red varieties may attract hummingbirds!

The butterfly bush was brought to England in the 1700s. It is a native of China where it's called summer lilac. Butterfly Bushes come in many varieties and blooms from midsummer through September. It grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. However, it's very drought tolerant and will survive in some pretty tough situations. In fact, in some places it's considered invasive, so it's recommended that if you live in a natural, wilder area it's best to pull up any volunteers rather than let them spread. The bush can grow from 5 -10 feet and it has a wide, arched branching. You'll need about 6 foot between bushes when spacing.

It's recommended that you cut back the bush each year in winter-in cold climates this would be around November. How close you cut it depends on where you are. If you have a lot of heavy snow it's better to trim back to around 3 foot or so and mulch. If your snow if light then even a foot is okay. It will grow back the next season, and it helps keep it under control. If you do not do this, then at least prune well each year and remove the old woody branches. In warm climates you may cut it back after blooming to encourage a second bloom. Deadheading the blooms can also extend the bloom time, so it's worth the effort.

The butterfly bush needs full sun but will grow in light shade if that is what's available. They are great grown on their own, or in the very back of a border. Of course they are perfect for a butterfly or hummingbird garden. It can be grown from seed though it is a challenge. Pre-chill the seeds for 4 weeks before sowing. They need light to germinate so very lightly cover. They will take up to 90 days to germinate. The easiest way to obtain is from a purchased plant, or stems that have been cut and rooted.

A note if you've never grown butterfly bushes. They do look dead first thing in the spring and some branches die, but wait until May and June to see how it's done over the winter. If there are some dead branches, simply trim them off. In climates like Michigan and other Midwestern states it dies back, and growth only comes from the new wood, so you will have pruning to do in the spring.

Buddleias also make pretty cut flowers. Cut when half the flowers on the stem are open, but before they begin to fade. These should last about a week in a vase, with a conditioner and the water refreshed now and then.

I planted my first butterfly bush this spring. It was growing beautifully, now in the last few weeks it is turning yellow in stem of the leaf.I have giving it plant food 2 time this season, it is in full sun, mulch is around the plant, and the plant looks ready to bloom, but I think leaves will be dead before that. Any advice would be appreciated. ~Hummingbirdcole

It could be spider mites, and if so, try spraying the leaves, especially the underside, with a soap spray. Catherine, the Herb Lady, had shared her spray method and I put it here: spray.html.

Also, make sure it's getting water, but not TOO much-- you don't want it wet all the time, but don't let it get bone dry either. I wouldn't feed it any more this season, just try the spray.

More You Might Like:
Growing Sunflowers
Butterfly Herb Gardens - A Magical View
Butterfly Garden Stake
More Flower Gardening

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