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Butterfly bush

Butterfly bush in full flower.

A long-blooming shrub or woody perennial with dense clusters of fragrant flowers, butterfly bush attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Often considered a sub-shrub because it dies back to the ground. A great addition to sunny borders and dry open gardens. Also known as Buddleia davidii.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Buddleja davidii

All common names:

Butterfly bush, summer lilac

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial,
  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • midsummer,
  • late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • Blue,
  • Pink,
  • Purple,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

A medium shrub or woody perennial, grows 6 to 8 feet high and 5 to 8 feet wide.
A butterfly magnet with long season of blooms. Regular dead-heading will promote new blooms.
Late to leaf out in spring.
Thrives in full sun, requires well-drained, organic rich soil.
Will die back to ground in winter, prune in early spring to promote vigorous new growth and flowering.

Disease, pests and problems

Mites, and cold, wet soil can cause root rots.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of heat, humidity, drought, and poor soils as long as they are well-drained.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China.

Attracts birds & butterflies

This plant is a nectar source, attracting the monarch, buckeye, black swallowtail, pipevine swallowtail, snout butterfly, great spangled fritillary, pear crescent, red admiral, painted lady, common checkered-skipper, and nymphalid butterflies.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite leaves; lance-shaped, 4 to 6 inches long.
Blue-green to silver-gray; no real fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small flowers in long, upright terminal clusters.
Flowers on new wood.
Color varies with cultivar from white, pink, purple to deep blue.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Two-valved brown capsule; not ornamentally important.

Cultivars and their differences 

Black Knight (Buddleja davidii 'Black Knight'):  Dark purple flowers in terminal spikes in June through September.

Blue Chip (Buddleia 'Blue Chip'):  2 to 3 feet high and wide;  small, compact miniature with continuous bluish-purple flowers, excellent for containers.  Part of the Lo & Behold® series.

Ice Chip (Buddleia 'Ice Chip'):  18 to 24 inches high and 2 to 3 feet wide; low-spreading ground cover with white flowers.

Location of Buddleja davidii (Butterfly bush) at the Arboretum