Butterfly Bush: Yes or No?

— Written By Donna Teasley and last updated by
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The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) has long been a staple of the southern garden. In recent years, however, its habit of prolific re-seeding has come under attack. After a year or two in the landscape, the home gardener is inundated by seedlings popping up all over the landscape and into neighboring fields and woodland areas. Being a fast grower, the butterfly bush can quickly become established in wild areas, choking out native plants. While our local climate seems to keep the plant in check, home gardeners often complain about the problem of numerous seedlings.

The butterfly bush is a draw to butterflies who come to feed on the nectar that is produced. But because of its invasive qualities, almost half of U.S. states have banned the sale and planting of Buddleia (NC is not one of them). Because of its fast growth habit, it can be a challenge to maintain and yearly pruning is needed to keep it to a manageable size.

But, there are some “fixes” for this problem shrub for folks who don’t want to give up their butterfly-attracting plants. Frequent dead-heading before seeds are dispersed will cut down on seedling production as well as encourage more flowering. There have been introductions of sterile varieties of buddleia or those that have very low seed viability, resulting in few pop-up seedlings. These sterile introductions are also much smaller, making maintenance much easier.

If you don’t want to give up on having a butterfly bush in your garden, there are plenty of new introductions that will meet your specific needs. The Flutterby series is one of the sterile, smaller-growing choices as well as the Lo & Behold series. They offer many colors and sizes for our Burke County gardens.

butterfly bush