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Butterfly bush care, Plant and Grow guide (Buddleia)

Before learning about Butterfly bush care let us see some basic info.

  • Scientific Name: Buddleia davidii
  • Family: Scrophulariaceae
  • Common names: butterfly bush, Summer lilacs
  • Dominant Features: Attracts butterflies and birds
  • the pH of Soil: the pH of Soil to plant Buddleia varies
  • Toxicity: None
  • Pant type: Vines, shrubs and trees
  • Blooming time: Summer and Fall

Buddleja is one of the most beautiful flowering bushes and is Britain’s most popular summer shrub. It comes from Asia. More than a hundred species of this plant have spread from India, South Africa, and China to America. Buddleias are available in beautiful colours, including white, yellow, pink, purple, blue, and red. These beautiful summer lilacs giving off a very sweet fragrance attract birds and pollinators like bees & butterflies. They also attract large and bright winged insects towards them.

  Buddleia plants are not to be confused with spring lilacs. They are large with vibrant colours and a sweet smell (honey-like), that is why it is the best choice for the people who want to attract wildlife creatures such as birds and insects. They have honey-scented gorgeous flowers that attract butterflies. It is the perfect choice for nature-loving people to bring beauty to their gardens. It should be kept in mind that its name does not indicate a ‘host plant’ for butterflies. Butterfly bush does not support any butterfly lifecycle and reproduction. They are a source of nectar for some adult butterflies, and caterpillars do not feed on them. They bloom exuberantly during summer when many of the plants do not flower.


The original name for Buddleia was summer lilac, which was changed in the 1920s and was replaced with the butterfly bush. The name Buddleja was given by Linneaus. He named it after Botanist Adam Buddle and is preferred by most botanists. Finally, Buddleia davidii was named after Armond David, who shipped live Panda from China to Paris for the very first time.

Growth and Pruning season of Buddleia:

Plants need great care and attention. If you have no free time, do not decide to plant. To grow fully, Buddleia needs full sun. They need a warmer location to grow efficiently. They can withstand half shady spots too. The bushes are placed into a solitary position, ideally. Buddleia grows best in the late autumn and spring seasons. They can withstand drastic weather conditions and is a low effort plant. They can also withstand winters.

Pruning of buddleia tree should be done in the early spring season, usually in March. If you prune during early spring frost, then it will cause damage to your plant. Waiting to plant until late in summer can also be deadly for Buddleia. If you live in a colder region, you will have to keep an eye on the daily weather forecast to take preventive measures. They grow in bunches of stems, prune the plant by cutting such stems in a downward direction.

Pro tips:

The size of the fully grown Buddleia should be noticed while planting and ensuring that you have left plenty of space for the plant to grow fully. As you know that a buddleia tree is a fast-growing tree, you will have to do quite a bit of trimming or pruning in order to keep it clean and neat.

                             Do not try to plant them under other trees.

Soil Type:

Soil should be carefully chosen. Loosen, and permeable soils with compost are preferred to grow a buddleia. Constantly moist soils and heavy soils are not recommended. Too much fertilizer in the Soil will promote the growth of leaf over flower production. High-quality potting soil will help to improve the capacity of storage of sandy soils. If you are using ordinary balcony soil, you should make it permeable by adding an equal amount of coarse sand.


Buddleia is an invasive neophyte that can strongly spread as well as impede the growth of other plants. In order to prevent such conditions, remove the older inflorescence constantly. Buddleias can be multiplied well with regular cuttings and layers.

Diseases and pests:

Narrow leaves: This disease can be caused by viruses. Leaves become crinkled, and yellow like mosaic patterns can be seen on them. This disease results when the plant is over-fertilized with nitrogen. If this disease appears in your Buddleia, completely remove the plant, and nitrogen-based over-fertilization should be avoided. There is no other remedy.


Leaf bugs and Nematodes: An infestation with leaf bugs on buddleia plant will appear as brown-yellowish spots of the leaf bugs on the leaves. Malformed blooms and shoot tips are some other indicators. The torpor parasite can be shaken on an underlayer in order to prevent this condition. Buddleia plants that are affected should be sprayed on with a soft soap solution.

Threadworms or nematodes are considered beneficial insects or parasites. But in some conditions, they can also cause damage to the plant tissue. Yellowish spots appear on the leaves, which become brownish later on. Such leaves will fall. Overfertilization with nitrogen is the main cause and must be prevented. Affected plants must be destroyed as it is the only remedy to fight such parasites. Nitrogen levels should be maintained in fertilizers.

Ways to propagate Buddleia:

 Rather than propagating vegetatively, buddleia bushes rely on the dispersal of seeds to reproduce. They can be easily propagated by seeds, regular cuttings as well as division.

From seeds:

 Buddleias are not a sterile hybrid. Each buddleia flower produces a pod full of viable seeds. So, they can easily be propagated by growing seeds, but it is easier to propagate by cuttings. Seeds can be collected when they are dried and before they spread with the wind. They need to be pre-chilled for weeks before planting. Seeds require plenty of light for germination and need to be covered with Soil. They take months to germinate, so you will have to be patient if you are growing Buddleia from a seed. Fine seeds of Buddleia must not be covered because they need light for germination.

From Cuttings:

This is the easiest way to propagate Buddleia. Take a tip of the branch in summer or spring. Make cuttings of at least three inches in length. Remove the leaves from the bottom. Try to make an angled cut. Angled cuttings allow better absorption of nutrients, making rooting much easier. Stick the cuttings into moist and peaty sand or Soil. Place in a shady area to keep it warm as well as moist.

From divisions:

Buddleias can also be propagated by root division. This needs to be done in fall or spring. Growing a buddleia depends on the area where you live. Carefully dig up bushes. Remove the excess soil or compost. You can separate the roots either by hands or by using a spade shovel. Spade shovel is used in order to divide the plants. They can be transplanted in containers or can be placed in other suitable areas of interests.

Growing a buddleia in the garden:

They are a great choice for long-term rockeries and perform best when planted in a sunny area or spot. Depending on the variety, you should plant buddleias 6 to 10 feet apart from each other. It will give your garden a gorgeous display. Plant them in spring or autumn and water them thoroughly. To plant buddleia tree in your garden, follow the following steps carefully;

  1. Choose a warmer place in the garden & then prepare a planting area by digging in any type of soil improver.
  2. Dig a hole and place the Buddleia in the bottom of it.
  3. Backfill it gently with Soil as well as water. Chose the soil type wisely because it will not grow well if the soil tends to retain a lot of moisture in the winter season.
  4. Now mulch it with an organic mulch, for example, sugar cane.
  5. Feed the plant fortnightly from spring to autumn in order to encourage healthy growth of leaves and flowers.

The buddleia plants can be planted inside the earth. Plant it as deep as it was previously inside the earth which should be pressed on and watered appropriately.

Growing Buddleia in a pot:

  1. To grow Buddleia well in a pot, you will have to follow some steps;
  2. Choose a pot of at least 300 mm depth and width.
  3. Position the pot in a sunny area.
  4. Make sure that your plant is protected from strong winds.
  5. Fill the pot with good quality potting mix.
  6. Plant Buddleia in the pot and backfill it gently with water and Soil (potting mix).
  7. Feed your plant fortnightly from spring to autumn.

Buddleia can also be planting in a bucket due to its low maintenance nature.

Some people also turn their buddleia bush into a tree for a cascade of beautiful flowers that attract butterflies. A buddleia bush can be trained into a small tree which is perfect for a small garden.

Choosing a leader: choose a young plant that is a foot tall and select the straightest upright stem as a leader. Now insert a stake next to the leader who will keep it to grow straight as well as tall. Use a nylon stocking or strips of fabrics to tie a leader with a stake. You must leave some of the side stems. This will help the plant to gather enough energy to grow properly. Remove suckers that may form at the base. Buddleia grows quickly. Within a month, they become large enough that they require staking.

  • Pinching and pruning to shape the tree

When your tree grows 4 feet tall, cut off all the shoots that are formed along with the leader. If the bush looks overcrowded, remove the older branches completely.

  • Trimming for flowers to bloom

Pinch back the tips of buddleia branches when the head begins to round out. It will encourage your tree to grow more, forming a thick display of blooms. A taller stake must be introduced in order to support Buddleia when it grows. Insert the new and taller stake in the same spot. Carefully insert the new stake to avoid any kind of damage to the roots. Tie the trunk and adjust them occasionally. When the trunk of the tree becomes thicker and stronger, remove the stake. But if your tree is growing in a windy spot, leave the stake for extra support.

  • Pruning the tree to maintain its shape

Remove older branches of buddleia tree every year. Do a bit of shaping after the tree flowers and trim the sprouts. Regular cutting at the right time with the right intensity is recommended because it will improve the amounts of blossoms. The shoots of the Buddleia will grow more strongly. More shoots will grow with panicles. Withered shoot panicles should be removed.

Care tips for buddleia plant afterwards.

  • Spread 6 inches of organic mulch around the stump. This will help your Buddleia to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • If you want to plant more new buddleia trees or bushes, plant them few feet away from the previously existing plants. You should make sure that all the plants have enough space to grow.
  • Water your plant appropriately. The amount of water depends upon the season in which they are growing. Young buddleias need to be watered thoroughly. They can tolerate droughts, but prolonged dry Soil can cause serious damage. That is why regular watering is very important, and there should not be any compromise in this case. Water the soil thoroughly so that the soil becomes moist. Before a buddleia tree blooms, water it once a week. When your tree has grown fully, it will not require a lot of watering. Water it less and check the Soil regularly.
  • Avoid fertilizing too much because it will promote leaf growth overproduction of flowers.
  • These trees are very late to break their dormancy. In warmer climates, the buddleia bushes grow into trees and develop the trunks that peel.


Buddleia davidii are, no doubt, very admirable garden shrubs from Zone 5 south. They are vibrantly coloured and sweetly odored plants that attract pollinators for the widespread of their seeds. If you want to grow eye-catching yellowish or orange flowers, then you must go for Buddleia Honeycomb. It is the best choice for seaside gardens as well as where the Soil is poor. They can be easily managed and low effort plants. Sterile and non-invasive buddleias can also be grown. They have a honey-like scent that attracts butterflies. 

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