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The Butterfly Bush - How to Grow and Propagate Buddleia

Updated on December 3, 2012

Buddleia is called the butterfly bush because if you ever walk past one in summer you will see the air filled with the butterflies that they attract.

However, several species of plants have the name butterfly bush because of their ability to attract butterflies.

Those include:

  • the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Buddleia
  • Rotheca myricoides

However, when most people think of the butterfly bush, they are thinking of buddleia davidii, with its long lilac racemes of flowers and stooping branches.

Buddleia (or the correct botanical term buddleja) is a plant much sought after by butterfly enthusiasts, as they know the planting of such bushes will attract butterflies into their garden.

Attraction doesn't really describe it. With a butterfly bush your garden will become inundated with beautiful butterflies of all colors and sizes.

buddleia davidii

Buddleja davidii originated in central China and now grows in the US, Australia, UK and central andsouthern Europe. In many areas it is classified as an invasive weed because of its habit of springing up on derelict land.

Very easy to grow, it prefers a sunny position and well drained soil. It attracts not only butterflies, but moths and bees too.

In summer, the flowers grow on long racemes that bend over under their own weight. It is called a butterfly bush because of the clouds of butterflies its flowers attract.

Quick growing, they can quickly become straggly, but an annual winter severe prune will keep them under control.

One really handy thing about the butterfly bush is that it can be pruned at any time of the year, and how your prune it doesn't much matter either. It is tough as old boots, and you can chop it right down to the ground if you wish, and within a couple of weeks it'll spring right back and start flowering again if it is summer.

Buddleia davidii is the most commonly grown butterfly bush the world over.

Hardy down to 20oF, they can be cut right down to the ground by severe frost, only to return again in the spring. They grow anywhere from 6 to 15 feet tall, left to their own devices.

While we think of Buddleia davidii as having bluey-purplish flowers, there are many sub-species in white, orange, gold, pink and purple. Some of the more reddish colors attract humming birds into your garden.

They grow in warm climates too.The major difference is that they are not deciduous in frost free areas, nor do they lose their spent blooms. These have to be lopped off by the gardener to tidy the bush up.

Butterfly Bush Propagation

Buddleia davidii can be propagated from both seed and cuttings. If you have a cross-breed, your seeds may not come true to the parent, in which case you may prefer to propagate by cuttings.

  • Take a hardwood cutting of your butterfly bush, about 4" - 6" long, with new growth at the tip.
  • Remove all leaves below the new growth.
  • Stick into the ground or a pot of potting mix, at least deep enough to cover the lower leaf nodes where the leaves were.
  • Water well, and don't allow to dry out completely.
  • Watch out for new growth. When the plant has set roots it will want to start growing straight away.

They are actually very easy to propagate and from one bush you can take many cuttings to root and give away to neighbours and friends.

If you have a cross variety, growing from seed would be fun just to see what colors of flowers your new plants grow.

To collect the seed, wait until the flower has died back, then collect the seed, dry it well, place in a dry spot in the refrigerator for a few weeks to imitate winter, then plant in a pot or seed tray.

The Buddleia family contains over 100 species of flowering shrubs and trees. All of them are very attractive to butterflies and many other beneficial insects.

Buddleias are great for growing in areas where you want quick growth, like up a fence to provide shade to more tender plants or in a pot on the terrace where you like to sit.

The long flowering heads of the buddleia are not only colorful and lovely to look at, their scent fills the air and mingles with the butterflies that appear in droves.

Great for butterfly lovers everywhere.

The name Buddleia honours the Reverend Alan Buddle (1662 - 1715), who was a botanist in England.


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    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from UK

      Might have been. All the ones I know off can handle a good prune. Maybe your winters are especially cold?

    • Boomer60 profile image


      10 years ago

      I tried to grow a couple of these with no luck. I would prune them down in just before winter and when spring came they would be dead. My son-in-law did the same thing and his died as well. Now he just lets it go and it is doing fine. This year his yard had tons of butterflies. Maybe I will get some starts from his and start growing through the winter indoors.

      I have seen on that has a very large truck on it. These people cut theirs way back also before winter and it would grow huge in the summer. I summarized that it was a different breed of butterfly bush.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      10 years ago from Texas

      Wow, I've seen these flowers however did not know what they were called. They are really beautiful and the fact that beautiful butterflies enjoys the flower makes them even more special. Thanks for sharing this info. !

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from UK

      It's funny how they self-seed all over the place in one country, yet not in another.

    • LeanMan profile image


      10 years ago from At the Gemba

      One of my favorite bushes, I have never had to buy one as I used to see them self seeded everywhere and rescue them to a new home.

      A good prune every year keeps them looking very good.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from UK

      I'm not surprised - they are very popular. Yet they can be propagated easily. Maybe people buy them for gifts :)

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      10 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      I adore these bushes, Izzy! I first encountered them when working at our local nursery and was amazed at how many we sold!

      Thanks for the memories, and reminding me of their beauty!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from UK

      The butterfly bush is common as muck in Scotland. Every garden seems to have one! It takes living in an area where no-one seems to think of growing them to really appreciate their beauty :)

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Henderson 

      10 years ago from Cape Coral

      beautiful plant.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from UK

      Great idea because they are wonderful to have in the garden! I had one and the butterflies were amazing! Who knew so many different varieties lived so close by!

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 

      10 years ago from Midwest USA

      IzzyM my mother has a purple butterfly bush she has been trying to give ne a start from for years. After reading your hub The Butterfly Bush I think I will give it a go. That will make mom's day and a beautiful addition to my garden, thanks for the useful information.


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