Dictionary of Flowers: Buddleia, Dwarf Varieties (Butterfly Bush)

Buddleia (butterfly bush) doing its job! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Olivier Engel and Flickr

Buddleia (butterfly bush) doing its job! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Olivier Engel and Flickr

  • Buddleia, dwarf varieties
  • Common name: butterfly bush, summer lilac
  • Family: Buddlejaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 5-9
  • Height: 24" to 36"
  • Width: 24" to 36"
  • Sun
  • Blooms: summer to mid-fall
  • Attracts: butterflies, hummingbirds
  • Growth habit: shrub, round. Used as a filler in containers
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, free draining. Drought tolerant when established. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, border
  • Diseases: fungal leaf spot
  • Pests: none

Common buddelia can grow up to sixteen feet.

It is native to China.

Because of its tendency to self-seed aggressively, it has become an invasive species in some states; it is even considered a noxious weed in Oregon and Washington.

New seedless buddelia varieties have been developed. These new varieties don't produce seed and are also more compact, growing only to about three feet, or slightly above. 

Buddleia's small blooms appear in clusters similar to lilacs. The leaves are narrow, long, gray-green.

Blooms have a sweet, honey-like fragrance.

The flower color ranges from white to pink, to violet and purple.

It is a superb plant to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

Buddleias new varieties don't require hard pruning, just a trim in spring to maintain shape. Since there is no danger of self-seeding, deadheading is not necessary except to keep the plant looking tidy. 

Buddleia requires fun sun and average soil that drains well. Fertilize once in spring. During dry periods in hot summer, supplement the lack of rainwater with a few deep waterings to avoid plant stress.

Close-up of butterfly on butterfly bush. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of tdlucas5000 and Flickr

Close-up of butterfly on butterfly bush. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of tdlucas5000 and Flickr

The new varieties are seedless, so they can't be grown from seed. It is prohibited to reproduce registered varieties protected by the Plant Patent Act from cuttings during the lifetime of the patent. Non registered varieties can be propagated by softwood cuttings during summer.

Cut a non-blooming six inch cutting right under a node, remove leaves from the bottom half and plant in a mixture of sand and potting soil or perlite and potting soil. Keep moist in a bright spot, but out of direct sun.

Using rooting hormone helps roots develop faster. The cuttings can also be placed in water or sharp sand with effective results. Transplant into the garden once a good root system develops.

Close-up of buddleia flower stem. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of tdlucas5000 and Flickr

Close-up of buddleia flower stemImage used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of tdlucas5000 and Flickr




Since butterflies visit them, avoid using insecticides on buddleia. They are generally disease resistant. If fungal spot appears on leaves, treat with an antifungal remedy. 

Popular varieties:

  • Buddleia 'Lo & Behold' (registered) series - two to three feet tall and wide. Bloom color ranges from white to lilac to purple
  • Buddleia 'Buzz' (registered) series - up to four feet tall. Three colors: bluish-purple, white and reddish-purple
  • Buddleia 'Petite' (registered) series - two to three feet, perfect for containers. White, pink, purple and bluish- purple flowers
  • Buddleia 'Miss Molly' (registered) - a deep pink, sangria color. Five feet, compact shape. Hummingbird favorite
  • Buddleia 'Summer Skies' (registered) - variegated foliage, violet-blue flowers. Up to five feet tall and six wide

Amazing photo of an enraptured butterfly feeding from a Buddleia. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of englepip and Flickr

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