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Buddleja davidii a.k.a. Butterfly bush, Buddleia, or Summer Lilac.
Butterfly bush (buddleia) is a fast growing deciduous shrub. It will get long showy flowers that bloom from early summer until frost.
For best flowers these plants should be grown in full sun but can tolerate a little shade.
In some places butterfly bushes are considered invasive but according to OMAFRA, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs it is NOT listed as invasive in Ontario. I would assume it’s because of our cold winters and the fact that it dies back to the ground every winter so the seeds don't germinate like they do in warmer climates.
Besides attracting butterflies, this plant also attracts other pollinators to your garden. Hummingbirds and bees also love this plant.
I haven’t personally tried to grow a butterfly bush in a container yet but from the research I have done there have been many people that have successfully grown them in containers.
However, here are some things to remember:
My suggestion would be to plant it in the ground over winter to make sure it survives. If you do over winter it in the pot make sure you wrap the pot in bubble wrap or burlap to help insulate it and move it to a protected area out of the winter winds.
If you want to keep your plant in the container from many years it should be root pruned when it is dormant.
With root pruning you are doing the same thing to the plant as when you prune the top of it. You trim off a couple inches of the roots which will promote more roots but stops the plant from getting root bound in the pot.
If you do decide to grow one in a pot or are currently growing one please let me know how it does.
In colder climates they may die back to the ground during winter. New growth will be visible in early spring around the crown of the plant and sometimes on a few lower branches. You will want to prune everything off above that new growth as it will not produce any new growth.
You can either use pruning shears to remove the old growth or just break the branches off.
If the winters don't cause the plant to die all the way back to the ground, you will still want to do some butterfly bush pruning. Pruning will keep the plant looking great year after year. Prune the plant about 12" from the ground which also helps control the size.
The flowers bloom on new wood so if you have to trim during the growing season it won't hurt any of the flowers.
Your plant will also benefit from deadheading during the summer. This will encourage more blooms throughout the summer.
There are many varieties of Buddleja. Some can get very tall while others will stay short. They come in a range of colours from pink to purple to white and even multi-coloured.
Try the 3-in-1 butterfly bush method. You can put 3 varieties together in the same hole when planting for a multi-coloured shrub. A pink, purple and white Buddleja planted in the same spot would be stunning.
Here are the varieties that I currently offer in my plant nursery.
You can propagate Buddleja davidii from seeds, stem cuttings, and division.
Butterfly Bush Seed Collection
If you want to try propagating your buddleja davidii from the seeds, you will need to collect the seeds after the flower has dried out.
Because they bloom all summer each flower will dry out at different times so you will have to keep an eye on them.
Once the flower is dry I would put a paper bag over the flower before you try cutting it off the mother plant. That way you won't lose any seeds when you cut the flower off.
You will need to separate the seed pods from the stem. With the seed pods you could do a couple of thing.
You could try and take the seeds out of the pods, which is going to be a little difficult because the seeds are so small.
Or you can break open the pods and spread them out as best you can and sow them in a pot or right in the ground. If you put them in pots they will need to stay outside all winter and they should sprout in the spring.
Stem cuttings is my favourite way to propagate plants. I have written an article on how to propagate plants if you want to read up on how to do it.
Dividing Butterfly Bush
Dividing butterfly bush into 2 or 3 plants from the roots is easy.
Dig up the bush in late fall or early spring while the plant is still dormant and clean off as much dirt as you can.
With a sharp spade split the roots so that you have 2 or 3 plants.
Replant the roots as soon as possible either back in the ground or in pots.
There are not too many pests and diseases that attack the Buddleja davidii but a few to look out for are listed below.
Neglect and drought will weaken the plant and make it more venerable to them.
Spider Mites – microscopic spiders might invade your bushes. They are very hard to see but controlling them is very easy. Read how to identify and control spider mites.
Root Nematodes – These tiny parasites worms live in wet soil and attack the roots of your plants. If your plant isn’t doing as well as you expect it to do, check the roots. If nematodes is present, the roots will be shorter them normal. Controlling them isn’t easy but mulching and fertilizing your bush might help it.
Downy Mildew – cool damp weather can cause downy mildew. It looks like fuzzy gray spores on the underside of the leaves. If you notice this remove any part that is infected and dispose into the garbage. To stop it from coming back only water during the day so that the plant is not wet over night.
Ever seen a Hummingbird Moth? Well this little guy came to visit my Buddleja davidii and I was able to record it.