Butterfly bushes brighten up summer and fall gardens including “Royal Red” with flowers in cone shaped spikes in bright magenta. (Photo by Ginny Rosenkranz)

Buddleja davidi, or the butterfly bush, is a deciduous shrub that has fragrant tiny star shaped flowers that come in many colors and are arranged on an arching cone shaped bouquet at the tips of each of the branches.
Each flower spike can grow to almost 10 inches long, blooming for many days.
Plants are named “butterfly bushes” because they attract more butterflies than any other in the garden, blooming with hundreds of flowers each day from the heat of summer until a hard frost.
They are one of the latest plants to bloom in the autumn and are rich in nectar.
They are prized by the Monarch butterflies which relies on the nectar for food to survive its journey to Mexico where it overwinters.
Butterfly bushes also attract hummingbirds and other pollinators for the nectar.
The butterfly bush does not supply food for the larva of butterflies, the caterpillar, so other blooming native plants should be added to the garden for their survival.
For the best flowering, plant the butterfly bush in full sun in moist but well drained soils.
Once established, the butterfly bush can be very drought tolerant but will produce more flowers if watered at least once a week.
Many of the butterfly bushes can grow with arching branches 5-10 feet tall and are perfect for planting in the back of the gardens.
Newer varieties of dwarf butterfly bushes grow only 2-3 feet tall and can be planted in the front of the garden.
Early each spring, the plants should be pruned down to about a foot off of the ground to ensure that the plant grows new branches that are guaranteed to form new fragrant flowers.
Butterfly bushes can naturalize in areas other than the garden if the seeds are allowed to spread, but by trimming the spent flowers off as soon as they are finished blooming or trimming all of the spent flowers in October will reduce the amount of seeds.
There are a number of beautiful butterfly bushes to brighten up the summer and fall gardens including bright yellow “Honeycomb” or “Royal Red” with 16 inches of flowers in cone shaped spikes in bright magenta.
“Black Knight” has almost 10 inches of fragrant dark purple flowers on cone shaped spikes, and “Miss Molly” has bright almost red flowers on a shorter plant that grows only 4-5 feet tall.
“White Profusion” is one of the best white blooming butterfly Bushes and “Empire Blue” has a blue violet flower that is rich in nectar.
Some of the dwarf plants include the Proven Winners series: “Pugster Periwinkle,” “Pugster Blue,” “Pugster Pink” and “Pugster Amethyst” which all grow about 2 feet tall with extra-large, brightly colored flowers.
The “Lo and Behold” series also grows low almost as a ground cover and include “Purple Haze,” “Pink Micro Chip,” “Ice Chip” and “Blue Chip.”
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)