Butterfly Bush


1. Light/Sun Exposure - Full to partial sun.

2. USDA Hardiness Zones - 5 to 10.

3. Planting Distance - 4 to 5 feet apart in ground.  One plant per 12-inch or larger container.

4. Mature Height/Spread - Compact varieties grow 4 to 6 feet tall and wide; standard types will grow 6 to 8 feet tall with a 5 to 6 foot spread.  May be kept smaller with pruning. All Flutterby varieties will be 2 to 2.5 feet tall, with the same spread.

5. Bloom Time - Summer to fall.

6. Planting Instructions -

Important: Thoroughly rehydrate the plant and its surrounding soil before planting so it may properly adapt to its new location.  We recommend submersing the root zone of the plant in a container of water for 2-3 minutes while you prepare for planting.

1.  Remove and discard the clear plastic bag from around the plant

2. After watering, separate the root ball from its pot by holding the plant upside down in one hand and gently squeezing the sides of the pot with the other. Do not yank on the stem; the plant should easily slide out of the pot with just slight pulling.  

3. Prepare the root ball for planting by gently disturbing the roots with your fingers, fork, or gardening tool. Loosen any roots that have begun winding around the soil ball and prune any rotted or damaged roots. This will encourage the roots to begin growing outward into the new soil.  

4. Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the plant's root ball. Partially backfill the hole with soil and place the plant into the hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground surrounding the hole. Refill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant with your fingers.  Check to be sure the plant is not planted too deeply.  If it is, raise the plant carefully and refirm the soil.

5.  Water thoroughly.


With the butterfly bush, anyone can provide nourishment and a safe haven for butterflies while also creating a gorgeous summer display in the garden. These summer-blooming plants, commonly called butterfly shrubs or summer lilacs (although not a member of the lilac family), come in a rainbow of colors.

Butterfly shrubs (buddleia) thrive under the most intense heat and have modest water requirements. This family of shrubs is highly valued for its long blossoms that vary from 6 to 30 inches in length that are wonderful for cut flower use. Although the tops may die back each year, the plant spreads and becomes larger each year.

This shrub will perform well in a container the first season until it is moved to the garden in the fall where it should eventually remain. Summer lilacs, as they are sometimes called, need minimum care.

For maximum bloom make sure your bush isn't shaded or crowded.  Butterfly bushes do not perform well when crowded. Try to improve air circulation and make sure the bushes get at least 4 to 6 hours of sun a day to perform at their best. 


Although these plants will perform well in average garden soils of all types, we recommend having your soil tested periodically by the local County Extension Office.  These tests can determine if the soil needs any amendments to enhance your plants' growth and performance.  See below for our recommended practice to improve your soil without any additional testing:

1.  Spade or till the soil to a depth of 12-18 inches.

2.  To provide nutrients and improve drainage, add organic matter to your soil by mixing in a 2 to 4-inch layer of dehydrated manure, garden compost, shredded leaves, and/or peat moss.

3.  After active growth begins, periodically feed with Cottage Farms' water soluble Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster. Plants in containers need more frequent watering and feeding, especially when in active growth and bloom.


Water - Adequate and consistent watering is essential during the plant's first year in your garden. Infrequent, long soakings of water that thoroughly saturate the soil surrounding the root zone are more effective than frequent light applications of water that may wet the top of the soil only.  

Due to individual plant needs, geographical and environmental conditions, a specific watering schedule is hard to define; however as a rule of thumb you should not allow the soil to completely dry out.  During periods of drought and extreme summer heat, you may need to water as often as every day.

Overwatering can be as damaging as under watering.  Be sure that the area surrounding your plant does not become a water-holding bog and that there is adequate drainage to move excess water away from the plant.

Mulching - Apply a 2-4 inch layer of shredded bark, compost or other organic mulch around your plants to promote moisture retention, maintain even soil temperatures, and to discourage weed growth.

Weeding - Keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Weeds compete with all plants for food, water and light. Walk around the garden periodically and pull weeds, including the roots, as soon as you see them.

Grooming - Remove flower heads as soon as they fade to encourage continuous bloom.  At the same time, remove unwanted or undesirable branches and cut out weak shoots, particularly those inside or toward the center of your shrub.  

Feeding - Feed your plants once every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer such as Cottage Farms' Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster. Discontinue feeding after September 1st so your plants can harden off for winter dormancy. Resume fertilizing when new growth appears in the spring.

Winterizing - A thorough watering in late fall will greatly enhance the plant's cold tolerance.

The time to protect your plants in the garden is after the ground has frozen. At that time, apply a winter mulch of evergreen boughs, straws or leaves to prevent lifting of the plant's roots during alternating periods of freezing and thawing.

Other than the above-mentioned mulching, butterfly shrubs do not need special winter protection.  Even if they die back from a harsh winter, cut them back to the ground and they will rejuvenate themselves from the roots.  In zones 3 and 4 the tops will die back in winter but new growth will appear from the roots in the spring.

For container planting, move plants next to your home's southern foundation for added warmth and protection.  They may also be moved into an unheated area such as a garage or cellar.  If moved to a protected area, be sure to check the soil moisture every 2 to 3 weeks and water as needed.

In spring, remove the mulch from in-ground plantings.  Also, bring containerized plants back out into the garden sunlight where they will immediately begin to repeat their yearly garden performance.  


CAUTION: Not all plant material is edible. Though most plants are harmless, some contain toxic substances which can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other discomforts. As a general rule, only known food products should be eaten. In case of ingestion, please contact your local poison control center at once and advise them of the plant ingested. Keep out of reach of children.