It is important the beginner gardener have an understanding all butterfly bushes, also known as summer lilac. These shrubs are appealing for many reasons:
These flowering bushes are very popular and great for attracting butterflies, but many are also considered a weed! (Don't confuse with Butterfly Weed.)
Let's go back to the beginning...
The butterfly bush genus was named after Reverend Adam Buddle (1662-1715). Buddle was an amateur taxonomist (one who classifies plant, etc.) and bryophyte (one who studies land plants that don't have true vascular tissue/non-vascular plants).
Buddle studied early flora. His hard work and extremely detailed writings resulted in a book English Flora. His book was never published but upon the discovery of the impressive reference, Buddle was recognized as an outstanding botanist, or plant scientist.
After Buddle's death a collection of flowering species from the west Indies was studied and given the name Buddleja. These same species were examined by Carl Linnaeus, father of biological plant classification, or Linnaean Taxonomy.
Linnaeus officially termed these specific bushes as Buddleja americana. It was this time period where the Buddleja species of plants was really noticed.
So why all the different spellings - Buddleja, Buddleia, Buddlia and Buddlea?
The short story...
Early taxonomists argued that the 'ja' Latin suffix on Buddleja was not correct. Although the argument still remains, today European taxonomists are likely to use the spelling buddleja, whereas everyone else uses various spellings of Buddleia, buddlia and buddlea.
Buddleia species we are likely to be more familiar with in North America are:
Examples are the Black Knight Butterfly Bush, the Royal
Red Butterfly Bush and the White Butterfly Bush.
It has become common to interchange all
Buddleia as the Butterfly Bush because of how they all attract
*Buddleia davidii technically is The Butterfly Bush.*
Pruning Butterfly Bush -
Why is Buddleia a weed?
Originally considered ornamental, buddleia always attracts butterflies and with them, a sweet rich fragrant smell.
So why is this considered a weed? Buddleia's origins are a tropical shrub that has no real medicinal values as other weeds may have. Their preferred environment globally is 40 degrees north latitude stretching 40 degrees south latitude. Most species are not native to North American regions, many come from China. This is the same around the world where Buddleia are introduced as ornamental bushes.
Buddleia successfully grows in different soil types, including poorer soils that average a pH of 6.5 or below (they can grow as high as 7.8 pH). These weeds can grow seaside, in mountainous terrains and botanical desert settings. Buddleia flourish in alkaline soils that are well drained. Because of their ability to survive, buddleia has also been called the Flower of the Ruins. This name originated after World War I when it was the first plant to return after the bombed out Europe showed no vegetation for some time.
Species that are non-native thrive in warmer climates and can become invasive if not managed. In colder climates Buddleia grows well but behaves more like a perennial that becomes dormant in winter where it is less likely to become invasive. Once there is an established root system they are able to successfully survive in extended droughts.
In Washington state and Oregon the weed is becoming menacing and destructive. Over the counter sales of Buddleia are prohibited in these and other states, while others are standing watch. Buddleia has naturalized in some states. These include California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Countries "on watch" that Buddleia not grow out of control include New Zealand and France. England has a combination of the naturalization of the bush, but they are also watching that in not grow out of control.
Residing personally in both the south and north, there is a difference in how butterfly bushes grow. In the south Buddleia did grow quickly and pruning was requiring continuous management. Around the house pruning regularly to not overwhelm other vegetation was necessary. In the north Buddleia doesn't grow as fast and winter helps to prevent out of control growth. Pruning during growing season is necessary. Frequency depends
on location around house and property.