As a fast-growing shrub that produces tall, spiked trusses, the butterfly bush is a favorite among many gardeners.
It produces gorgeous flowers and has the ability to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as other beneficial insects, hence the name.
Even as a beginner, you’ll find that this bush is easy to grow. In fact, it won’t require much care and attention when fully mature.
When to plant butterfly bush? Butterfly bush is best planted in early spring or fall. You can opt to plant in summer, but it will need plenty of water and a little bit of afternoon shade. For fall planting, do it early to allow the plant to establish a strong root system before the first frost date comes.
Choosing a Butterfly Bush Variety
Butterfly bushes are a popular choice for gardeners who want to invite pollinators into their gardens.
These beautiful flowering plants provide nectar for honeybees and hummingbirds, on top of attracting a lot of butterflies.
There are a lot of butterfly bush varieties you can choose from, including those that produce pink, blue, purple, and white flowers.
1. Santana Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Davidii)
This variety comes in different colors, the most popular being the purple varieties.
It’s a deciduous shrub with yellow and green leaves growing in a peculiar pattern. A fully mature plant can grow around four to eight feet tall.
The Santana butterfly bush blooms in summer with alluring reddish, deep purple flowers. The cone-like flowers will survive until fall.
2. Alternate Leaf Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Alternifolia)
This variety looks a lot like a weeping willow.
Its branches droop in a similar fashion, but the main difference is that it’s a lot smaller. That said, it’s taller than the Santana butterfly bush, growing up to 15 feet tall.
As the name suggests, the Alternate Leaf butterfly bush is unique because it has alternating leaves.
Most cultivated types of butterfly bushes do not have this feature. The leaves are slender, green on top and light grey on the bottom side.
This variety also blooms a little earlier than other varieties of butterfly bush. When they bloom, they will boast a show of beautiful purple flowers.
3. Black Knight Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Davidii)
The Black Knight is a mid-sized shrub. When fully mature, it will have a vase-like form due to its growing tendency.
This type of butterfly bush grows actively and needs full sun. However, it cannot tolerate extreme weather.
During extreme heatwaves, provide the Black Knight butterfly bush with a lot of water to keep it from dying.
In cold climates, this bush will die back to the ground. It will grow back in spring as a strong and healthy plant.
4. Adonis Blue Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Davidii Adonis Blue)
As a dwarf variety, the Adonis Blue can only grow up to five feet tall.
It was part of a development of a large group of cultivated bushes. It has remained popular for gardeners since its inception.
One reason for its popularity is the color of its blooms. Its flowers have a dark blue color and blooms in large quantities.
5. Les Kneale Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Davidii)
This variety is on the hardier part of the scale when it comes to butterfly bushes.
It is known as “Les Kneale” because Les Kneale was the one who discovered this plant.
This butterfly bush grasps its flowers in clusters or panicles. The blooms have a pale purple hue, sometimes even white.
The leaves of the Les Kneale are pointed and elongated and have a lime-like color that contrasts the color of their flowers.
How To Plant Butterfly Bush Seeds
After deciding which variety to grow, you can start learning how to plant the seeds. To give you an idea, here’s how we do it:
Step 1: Sow the seeds.
About eight to 10 weeks before the last spring frost, sow butterfly bush seeds indoors using a starting kit.
Slightly press the seeds in the seed-starting formula so that they are sown shallowly. Also, ensure that the soil is kept moist at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wait for the seedlings to emerge in about one to three weeks.
Step 2: Provide seedlings with enough light.
When the seedlings emerge, give them plenty of light per day. You can do this by placing the seedlings on a windowsill that receives a lot of sunlight.
You can also place the tray four inches underneath fluorescent lights. Adjust the lights when the plants grow taller.
The plants need a dark period, so you should not leave the lights on for the full 24 hours.
Leave them on for 16 hours during the day and off for eight hours at night.
Step 3: Fertilize your seedlings.
Use a starter solution to feed your plants when they reach about four weeks old.
Your seedlings do not require much, so only use half as much fertilizer as you would when feeding a fully grown indoor plant.
You can check the back of the fertilizer packet for the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 4: Transplant your seedlings to bigger pots.
It’s time to transplant the seedlings to bigger pots when they have two pairs of leaves.
This will allow them to develop stronger roots for when you transplant them in the garden.
Use pots that are at least four inches deep for optimal results.
Step 5: Harden your seedlings.
Before you can transplant your seedlings outside, they should first be hardened off.
To do this, you need to accustom your young plants to similar growing conditions outdoors.
Move them to a sheltered location outside for one week.
At first, protect your seedlings from the hot sun and strong winds.
If you are worried about frosts at night, bring the pots indoors, but be sure to take them out first thing in the morning.
Doing this will strengthen the plant and reduce the risk of scalding and transplant shock.
How To Transplant Butterfly Bush in the Garden
Once you’re sure they are ready to move outdoors, follow these steps:
Step 1: Pick a good location.
Choose a spot in your garden with access to full sun and has moist and rich soil.
Step 2: Prepare the soil.
Turn the soil under to about six to 10 inches deep. Remove debris and level the soil by lightly raking it.
Add organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure. This will benefit the whole garden.
Step 3: Plant in the right weather conditions.
Pick a cloudy day, or plant the seedlings late in the afternoon to reduce or avoid transplant shock.
Step 4: Dig holes.
Start digging holes for each plant. The holes should be large enough to generously shelter each plant’s root ball.
Step 5: Unpot the plants one by one.
Gently unpot each plant. Use your hands to loosen the root ball to encourage growth.
Step 6: Put the plants in each hole.
Gently place the plants in the hole. Level the top part of the root ball with the soil surrounding the plant.
Fill the hole with soil until the top part of the root ball is covered. Firmly press down the loose soil using your hand.
Step 7: Water the plant thoroughly and put a light mulch layer over the soil.
The layer should be at least one inch to help reduce weeds and conserve water.
How To Grow and Care for Your Butterfly Bush
Despite being easy to grow, your butterfly weeds still need some attention. To ensure they are healthy, follow these care tips:
1. Remove any competition or threat to your plant.
Weeds should be kept under control, especially during the growing season. They compete with your plants for nutrients, space, and water.
You can either cultivate or prevent the weeds’ germination by using mulch.
Mulching not only prevents the weed’s growth but also maintains correct soil temperature and moisture.
Remember to keep the mulch off the stems to avoid rot.
2. Carefully water your plants.
It is essential to carefully water your plants to get them off to an incredible start.
Water your plants thoroughly once a week. This helps new roots grow more deeply.
Water them enough that the soil is damp at least one inch below the surface.
Always check the soil’s dampness by poking your finger in the ground.
The best time to water your plants is early in the morning, which will allow the leaves to dry out throughout the day.
3. Protect your young plants.
Protection from direct sunlight and extreme winds is necessary for your young plants. They cannot withstand such an environment until they become fully established.
You should also provide good air movement by adhering to the required spacing between your plants.
4. Lightly fertilize your plants.
As new growth takes place, you can choose to apply light fertilizer.
When feeding your plants, keep fertilizers away from the crown to steer clear of burn injuries.
Higher rates of slow-release fertilizer may result in root rot, so always use ones with low rates.
5. Remove dead flower heads.
Always remove dead flower spikes to invigorate continuous flowering and halt seed development.
How Long Does It Take to Grow a Butterfly Bush?
Butterfly bushes are deciduous shrubs that grow very fast. They can be fully mature in only one to two growing seasons.
What Is the Best Month to Plant Butterfly Bush?
Butterfly bushes are best planted in spring, usually in late March or early April.
As a shrub full of color, there’s no denying that butterfly bushes make wonderful additions to any garden.
On top of its colorful blooms, it also attracts all kinds of birds, bees, and of course, butterflies.
It might die back to the ground in winter, but it will rise again come springtime, symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings.