What Is a Butterfly Bush?

L. Hepfer
L. Hepfer
A butterfly.
A butterfly.

The butterfly bush, also known as Buddleia davidii, originated in Chile. It was discovered in the 18th century by Adam Buddle, an amateur botanist, when it arrived in England. After being given various names, the term Buddleia davidii finally stuck, and the bush has been a part of many flower gardens since.

The butterfly bush is an herbaceous perennial known for its ability to attract butterflies. Bees, different kinds of birds, and especially hummingbirds are also drawn to the bush for its nectar and honey-scented blossoms. The bush comes up every year and blooms all summer long. The clusters of small lilac-like blossoms stem out 1-2 feet (.30-.60 meters) in length and continue to branch out from each branch with additional clusters of flowers.

Colorful butterfly.
Colorful butterfly.

There are many different types of butterfly bushes so the plant characteristics can vary from one bush to another. They can be grown in a variety of colors, throwing off beautiful shades of white, pink, red or purple. These colorful clusters have orange throats, and the leaves are a grayish-green shade.

This perennial is very easy to grow and can handle windy and rainy weather with very little pruning needed. A good rainfall can weigh down the branches and make the shrub droop toward the ground, but with a little help, the bush spruces back up. The butterfly bush tolerates alkaline soil and urban pollution quite well. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It is usually free of insects, although it may experience an occasional infestation with spider mites during a drought.


Butterfly bushes are not predictable in their growth habits because they never grow in a neat and tidy fashion. These plants grow unusual, in all different directions, with clusters of flowers and compliment one another. Planting many bushes together creates maximum visual appeal. They can be planted as an anchor for a garden or formed to make an unruly hedge, and often times are used as an ornamental plant.

Dead flowers need hand-picked off the stems because they do not fall off on their own, but remain as dead clusters on the butterfly bush. This causes the shrub to have a less attractive look but also makes it easy for those who wish to collect the seeds of the bush for cultivating purposes. The butterfly bush is a very hardy shrub that is difficult to hurt when pruning no matter what the season, however, flowers grow the best when the bush is severely pruned during late winter or early spring.

Discussion Comments


I just have to share what I tried last summer. I have been growing butterfly bushes in my yard for a couple of years now and really like how easy they are to take care of. You just can't beat their beautiful blooms and all those butterflies!

I just cut off a part of one of the branches and stuck it in the ground. I kept it well watered and it began to grow! I now have another butterfly bush. I know you can propagate with seeds, but I was so excited when this worked, that I am going to try it again this year!


@sunshined - I have never seen hummingbirds on my butterfly bushes, but that doesn't mean they don't like them. I just know they attract tons of butterflies, and a lot of times the hummingbirds and butterflies like the same type of flowers.

I am kind of a lazy gardener and don't do a very good job of pruning my butterfly bush, but it keeps coming back every year. An employee at a garden center told me they would never outgrow their space, so when they get too big I will need to prune them.

It sounds like they will do even better if I pruned them on a regular basis anyway. The more blooms the more beautiful they are!


@LisaLou - I feel the same way you do about butterfly bushes! I have two of them outside my office window and am entertained all summer long! I have only planted the purple butterfly bushes, but I have been tempted to buy one of the multi-colored ones. All of those colors on one bush would be so beautiful.

I also love hummingbirds, and wonder if they are attracted to butterfly bushes?


The butterfly bush has become one of my favorites! I received one by mistake a few years ago when I placed an order with an online nursery and what a pleasant surprise!

I found out just how easy it is to grow a butterfly bush. It also grew very quickly and I had blooms that very first year. I couldn't believe the number of butterflies I had to my bush that year. I loved it so much that I went out and bought 2 more!

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • A butterfly.
      By: Aleksandr Kurganov
      A butterfly.
    • Colorful butterfly.
      By: pandore
      Colorful butterfly.
    • Butterflies.
      By: Mark_VB