Buddleja – Butterfly Plant

Buddleja, commonly known as the butterfly bush, is a genus of over 140 species of flowering plants native to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It is an attractive, fast-growing, deciduous shrub, brandishing numerous blossoms in the shape of lengthy, spiked trusses.

The flowers bloom from summer to autumn and come in an array of hues. As the name suggests, this plant attracts wildlife, particularly butterflies, although they tend to favour the lavender-pink hue of the species instead of the white and dark purple cultivars.

This plant is relatively low-maintenance and only requires dead-heading and annual pruning, which should be carried out in the late winter for best results. This will encourage a compact shape and plentiful blooms year after year, making the plant an ideal centerpiece for your outdoor space.

How to plant the butterfly bush

Buddleja requires full sun and fertile, well-drained soil in order to thrive. It’s important to consider the timing when planting Buddleja, as it should be planted in the months of spring or autumn for best results before frost has set in.

When placing your butterfly bush in the ground, loosen the soil, add compost and ensure the plant’s new home is twice the diameter of the plant’s original pot.

The top of the root ball should be level with the soil’s surface and if planting more than one butterfly bush, space plants between five and 10 feet apart. Once in place, water thoroughly.

How to propagate butterfly bushes from cuttings, seeds, and root division

If you’re looking to fill your garden with endless blooms from summer up until autumn, planting the butterfly bush is a must. This picture-perfect plant can be easily propagated by seeds, cuttings, and division. It also attracts butterflies, which means you’ll entice an array of important pollinators to your outdoor space.

How to propagate butterfly bushes from seed: One tried and tested method for propagating the butterfly bush includes growing them from seeds. Seeds must be pre-chilled for up to four weeks before you plant them.

When transferring to the garden, it’s important to remember that the seeds only need to be lightly covered with soil as they necessitate plenty of light to germinate. Once sown, ensure they are well watered. You’ll begin to see the first signs of life a few months post-planting the seeds.

Propagating butterfly bush cuttings: One of the most stress-free ways to propagate Buddleja is from butterfly bush cuttings. For best results, take the branch tip cuttings in spring or summer. When collecting these, ensure they are at least three inches in length and have the bottommost leaves removed.

One good tip includes pinching the tip of the cuttings, as this will encourage bushier plants. To ensure better nutrient absorption, make an angled cut. This will also make rooting the plant much easier. You can dip the end of the plant in rooting hormone, before placing it into moist, peaty sand or potting soil if you wish.

These plants prefer a shady but well-lit area. It’s also important to ensure the soil is both warm and moist. In just a few weeks, you should begin to notice root development on your butterfly bush cuttings.

Propagating butterfly bush by division: These plants can be propagated through the division of their roots. This can be done in spring or autumn. To do so, gently dig up mature butterfly bushes and eliminate excess soil. You can either use a spade to separate the roots or do this by hand. Finally, place the roots into containers or elsewhere in the garden.

Where to plant butterfly bushes

If you’re planting butterfly bushes in your garden, it’s important to choose the correct spot. Picking the right location will prolong the life of your plant and can mean you’ll be able to enjoy this species’ perfumed, brightly coloured flowers for many years. A number of factors should influence where you plant your buddleja, as detailed below:

Sun requirements: Like an abundance of perennials, butterfly bushes are one of the more versatile plants, particularly when it comes to sun preference. They can thrive in both partial shade and full sunlight. However, if you wish to grow a plant that boasts an abundance of blooms, pick a sunnier spot.

The perfect location will receive approximately six hours of sunlight per day. If you’re struggling to find the ideal spot, you can enhance the planting site’s sun exposure by moving nearby shrubs or cutting back overhanging tree branches.

Soil requirements: To encourage healthy growth and flowering, it’s important to use moist, well-draining soil. You can create this yourself by adding four inches of well-aged compost to the top 12 inches of soil to enhance good draining properties and improve the soil’s structure.

Good soil ensures the plant is established quickly. Butterfly bushes are able to grow in both alkaline and acidic soil, which means there is no need to adjust the soil’s pH level.

Spacing requirements: Butterfly bushes are renowned for growing quickly and often grow to their full size in just two years. With this in mind, ensure you take the plant’s mature size into consideration, regarding both its length and its width.

Cramped spacing tends to mean poor air circulation and humidity, which causes stress and numerous diseases. Height clearance of approximately 10 feet is highly recommended, with a horizontal spacing of eight feet.

Is a butterfly bush poisonous?

The butterfly bush yields a sap in its leaves that is known to be a skin irritant, especially for people with sensitive skin. It’s a good idea to plant Buddleja away from walkways and seating areas, as this will lessen the likelihood of the foliage coming into contact with a passer-by’s skin.

Do I need to prune a butterfly bush?

Without consistent pruning, the butterfly bush can become uneven, boasting an unkempt appearance. For aesthetic reasons, try placing these plants next to shrubs that have a loose, free form, such as vines and ornamental grasses, as these perfectly complement the plant’s structure.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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