Butterfly Bushes

Butterfly bushes are technically Buddleia davidii, which are part of the Buddlejaceae genus, within the Loganiaceae family.  

Loganiaceae is a family of flowering shrubs and trees. These fast growing trees produce flowers are great for attracting butterflies

It was Reverend Adam Buddle who would study Buddleia extensively and later a genus would be named after him based on his work.  

Carl Linnaeus, father of biological plant classification, officially termed Buddle's work Buddleja americana.  More about the history of Buddle and the butterfly bush here.

Monarch Butterflies on Butterfly Bush

Photo: EasyButterflyGarden

Buddleia Species: 

There are roughly 100 genus of buddleia. A large proportion of species are native to North and South America from California/Utah to the southern end of South America in Argentina and Chile.  Other area Buddleae can be found centralized are Africa, from Arabia to Cape of Good Hope, and over the sea to Madagascar and Asia, from Nepal through India and China to Japan.

Four species that have especially wider distributions are:

  • Buddleia americana - Found in Central America down into the northwestern regions of South America.

  • B. salvifolia - Indigenous to Angola and Kenya in the north down through the eastern countries to Capetown, South Africa.

  • B. asiatica - Native to eastrn India and east into northern and southern China.

  • B. crispa - Grown naturally in Afghanistan east to Kansu Province in China.

There are no indigenous speciies found in Australia, various regions of Russia and Europe.

Although there are butterfly bush plants that grow and behave as perennials, most Buddleia are deciduous.  Deciduous vegetation sheds their leaves in fall when winter sets in and remain absent for part of a year. Some Buddleia semi-deciduous, while shedding leaves others will begin to grow back. The last category would be evergreen, which Buddlia species can also be. 

It is from these genus types that hybrids and cultivars are born. With this new category of hybrids there already exists more than 150 new types of Buddleia bushes.

Butterfly bushes and buddleia species we are likely to be more familiar within North America.

  • Buddleia davidii

    Also called Summer Lilac and by far the most common species in America is Buddleia davidii, Shrubs flower in the summer and growth averages 10 - 14 feet tall. 
Buddleia davidii
Photo: EasyButterflyGarden
  • Buddleia globosa

    This was the first Buddleia in cultivation.  The more common of this species are the Orange Ball Tree and Lemon Ball, which is yellow.

  • Buddleia alternifoli
B. alternifolia

This is a fragrant weeping tree that is also called Fountain Buddleia.

Leaves on most buddlia are simple leaves (one blade) and opposite. Leaves on this Buddleia alternate, hence 'alternifolia', which is rare among species. 

Alternifolia grows about 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide and has long purple flowers drape from the branches.

Overall characteristics that are species wide include:

  • Being pest resistant, including  deer prevention.

  • Overall immune to many plant diseases.  One that is likely to show up every now and then is fungal leaf where die-backs can occur. Fungal leaf are spores that occur in warm, damp conditions where light brown spots occur.  Overall not a serious problem to shrub. 

Related Articles:

  • Pruning Buddlejaceae - Once you plant your new bush, make sure you groom it properly.

  • History - More about Adam Buddle and why this shrub has been considered a weed.

Amazon has some more popular, sometimes harder to find varieties.  

Butterfly Bush Seeds include:

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