The beautiful flowering butterfly bush is so named because it attracts butterflies, making it a striking conversation piece in any yard. Butterfly bushes get very large, so keep that in mind when choosing a place to plant one. They usually get at least six feet tall and can get much taller in good growing conditions. The flowers are in large spiked clusters of pink, purple, red or white with orange throats. Butterfly bush should not be confused with the orange wildflower known as butterfly.
The butterfly bush is hardy in zones 5 to 10, which is most of the southern half of the US. The butterfly bush was originally found in the Orient, then was taken to France for cultivation. In Europe it was called “summer lilac” because of the large fragrant flower clusters that resemble lilac. The plant attracts hummingbirds as well as butterflies.
Butterfly bushes are easy to grow as long as they have normal garden soil and at least six hours of daylight per day. Of course, you also need to remember to give them plenty of room. Some people like to prune them back to half their size in the late summer so that they will have new growth and lots of blooms when the butterflies migrate in September and October. They also stay in bloom better when you remove dead flowers. An established bush is somewhat tolerant of drought conditions.
There is one drawback with butterfly bushes, according to some experts. Since the bush is not native to North America, and since it is so easy to grow, it is considered an invasive species in some places. They also argue that it doesn’t really help the butterflies that come to it because it is not a suitable host plant for them. That is, it is not a plant where they can lay eggs, and which will feed the caterpillars.
If you already have a butterfly bush that you enjoy every year, you can make it more environmentally friendly by removing the dead heads before they go to seed and trimming the plant back each year. If you use a heavy mulch around the bottom, you won’t have to worry as much about new seedlings coming up. Make your butterfly garden even more useful to butterflies by planting some milkweed relatives, such as the butterfly weed