Butterfly Bush Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Buddleja Davidii”

Our Guide to Butterfly Bush for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Buddleja Davidii” shrubs
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Are you looking for a brand-new stunning plant to complete your summer-blooming gang? Summer lilac might be exactly what you are dreaming of! This plant will surprise you with its few demands and hypnotic, fragrant flowers. It also comes with many attractive cultivars, so you will find your soulmate in the blink of an eye!

Buddleja Davidii, commonly known as Summer lilac, Orange eye, or Butterfly bush, is a species of flowering shrubs in the Scrophulariaceae family. This lovely plant grows mostly in Japan and also several regions of China, such as Hubei and Sichuan.

Summer lilacs are highly popular ornamentals worldwide, appreciated for their infinite beauty and easy-going style. They are the ideal companions for any type of gardener, especially beginners. Not only are these flowers frost-tolerant, but they can also withstand drought for long periods.

Did we manage to pique your interest already? Keep reading to find out more about these shrubby friends and how you can be the coolest owner out there!

About Butterfly Bush

  • Due to their spectacular overall appearance, Summer lilacs have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1941.
  • The most interesting and common cultivars of Buddleia davidii include ‘Black Night’, ‘Blue Horizon’, ‘Camkeep’, ‘Darent Valley’, ‘Dartmoor’, ‘Monum’, ‘Royal Red’, and ‘White Profusion’.
  • Summer lilacs have become naturalized in Australia and numerous cities of southern and central Europe. People classified them as invasive in many countries from temperate regions like New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
  • Their flowers are highly attractive to various species of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. They also attract some wildlife species.
  • If you combine the stems, leaves, and flowers of these plants, you can obtain a dark green or black dye. An orange-gold to brown dye can also show up from the blooms.
  • Summer lilac flowers serve as a great ingredient to produce a delicious syrup that has calming, sedative effects. This product also works well for bronchial complaints.
  • In traditional medicine, many folks used these shrubs as a treatment for inflammation, skin disease, rheumatism, and malaria.
  • Buddleia davidii species make for excellent companions to other species of flowering plants including Bigleaf Hydrangea, Black-Eyed Susan, Coneflowers, and Hyssop.
  • Although they are not edible, you can grow Summer lilacs safely around your curious children and furry friends.

Butterfly Bush Features: An Overview

  • Summer lilacs belong to the Buddleia genus that contains more than 140 species of flowering beauties. They share this genus with other curious species like B. colvilei, B. globosa, B. glomerata, and B. speciosissima.
  • These plants grow mostly in rocky riverside habitats at high altitudes of 4265 to 8530 feet (1300-2600 m) above sea level.
  • They are deciduous shrubs that can reach from 4 to 16 feet (1.2-4.9 m) in height and 3 to 8 feet (0.9-2.4 m) in width. These plants are very vigorous and have an arching habit.
  • Their foliage consists of pale brown bark, long stems, and many leaves. The bark becomes deeply fissured with time. The younger branches are somehow hairy.
  • The lanceolate and oppositely arranged leaves measure between 3 and 12 inches (7-30 cm) in length. They have slightly toothed margins. The upper layer is shiny and dark green, while the lower one is whitish with downy hairs.
  • Summer lilacs usually bloom from mid-summer through early fall (June to September). During this period, they produce numerous much-branched inflorescences of 8 inches (20 cm) long called panicles.
  • Their flowers are hermaphrodite, having both male and female parts. They are honey-scented and come in various shades of purple, blue, pink, yellow, or white.
Buddleja Davidii
Buddleja Davidii

Growing Butterfly Bush

Growing and caring for Summer lilacs can be piece of cake as long as you are paying attention to their intuitive, basic demands. Like most species of shrubs, they do not require too much effort on your part to thrive. With time, you will find that these plants are very friendly and forgiving to their owners!

Summer lilacs do best when you plant them in a location where they can receive at least six hours of full sunlight daily. These plants can also withstand some shady conditions for short periods. Be careful, though, as this kind of exposure can result in sparse or weedy overall growth with fewer blossoms than you might expect.

In terms of temperature, butterfly bushes are somehow hardy to both freezing and hot conditions. However, they will not tolerate the harsh winters of montane and northern climates pretty well. Make sure you do not expose them to temperatures that drop below -4 °F (-20 °C). If you live in a region with temperatures cooler than this value, it is wise to grow your plants in pots and bring them inside during the winter.

Although Buddleia plants are usually free of diseases and pests, they can have some difficulties from time to time. When these shrubs are going through a stressful period, pests like spider mites, caterpillars, scale insects, or weevils can bother them. These intruders feed on your plants’ foliage or roots, resulting in irreversible damage if not treated. In the case of infestation, handpick the pests and apply neem oil or suitable insecticides/pesticides regularly.

Planting Butterfly Bush

When it comes to finding the perfect growing medium for these beauties, we have nothing but good news! Summer lilacs can grow in any average, slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Yet, keep in mind that is mandatory to plant them in a substrate that has excellent drainage. If you want to grow your plants in pots, make sure that they have drainage holes at the bottom or make some yourself.

In general, Summer lilacs are very independent and do not need regular fertilizing to grow healthy and happy. However, they will benefit from an application of compost over the root zone once every spring.

These shrubbies grow at a very fast pace and, sometimes, can have a rebellious overall growth. If you want to maintain a certain size or shape for your plants, occasional pruning is the way of doing it. Get yourself a nice pair of pruning shears and cut off as much as you want from branches until you have that cute bushy appearance.

After blooming, you should remove any spent flower spikes to make room for new ones to show up. Moreover, you can stimulate vigorous growth and sporadical blooming by pruning Summer lilacs back to the ground level each spring.

Watering Butterfly Bush

Summer lilacs are perfect for beginners or forgetful gardeners because they do not require too much water to stay in shape. Although these shrubs love medium-moistured environments, they will not appreciate soggy conditions or waterlogging. But do not worry! You can avoid over-watering them with just a simple gardening trick!

Typically, these bushy companions do just fine with ½ inches (1.3 cm) of water once every week. In outdoor settings, Summer lilacs can get their needed amount of water from rainfalls or regular irrigation. Indoors, you must first check the soil in-between waterings. When the substrate feels dry to the touch, provide your thirsty plants with the indicated quantity.

Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush

Propagating Butterfly Bush

Since Summer lilacs grow and spread at a very fast pace, propagating them can be an unusual wish. But, hey, who are we to judge? Nonetheless, we understand your inner drive to have more of these plants around, especially when they look so fabulous! And if space is a problem for you, we can guarantee that your family and friends will adore some baby shrubs.

No matter how experienced you are in the garden, you can propagate Summer lilacs fast and easily through cuttings. The best propagation material is soft-wood branches from the current growing season. Make sure you are taking cuttings in spring because this is the moment when your plants are most vigorous.

Look for healthy, new-born branches and cut about 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) off them using a sharp, sterilized knife. Once you have the cuttings, remove all the leaves you can find on the bottom half of each cutting. You can also dip the cut end of the branches in rooting hormone to boost their growth, but this is obviously optional.

After this, plant your summer lilac cuttings in a container or bed filled with fresh potting mix. Cover the container with a plastic bag to keep the humidity high and retain the heat and place it in a warm location with filtered light. Provide the cuttings with water regularly to maintain the soil slightly damp.

With proper care, your cuttings should develop roots after 2-3 weeks. When you begin to feel some resistance, you can transplant your baby Summer lilacs in the garden or their individual pots.

In Conclusion

Gorgeous, low-maintenance, and super friendly−the portrait of the perfect ornamental flower! Having all these qualities, Summer lilacs are a must-have in every collector’s garden or home. Now that you know how interesting these shrubs are, how could you possibly resist them?


Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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