Have you ever seen a shrub alive with butterflies delicately moving from flower to flower? Then you have seen Buddleja davidii, the Butterfly Bush. This lovely shrub with gracefully arching branching is in full bloom right now at The NCSU Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum).
The Butterfly Bush is sometimes called the Summer Lilac because the flowers are reminiscent of lilac blooms, but the Butterfly Bush really does not resemble the Lilac as a whole. Buddleia is a relatively open, rambling plant which is grown as a perennial up north but develops into a shrub here in the South. The blue-grey foliage is somewhat coarse textured but makes an attractive foil for the flower clusters which nod gracefully from the ends of the branches.
Buddleia is easily transplanted and survives most stresses. It prefers well-drained, fertile soils and needs full sun for best flowering. If pruned back to the ground each Spring, growth will be more vigorous and flowering will be stimulated. The Butterfly Bush is a lovely plant for a mixed shrub border or for a mass planting combining different cultivars. Because it flowers later than many shrubs, the Butterfly Bush adds color and interest to the mid-summer landscape.
There are many widely available cultivars of the Butterfly Bush which flower at slightly different times and come in a range of colors. 'Black Knight' displays deeply intense purple flowers against vigorous growth, 'Charming' blooms in pretty pink clusters, 'Royal Red' produces rich purple-red flowers, 'Empire Blue' has deep violet blue blooms with orange eyes, and both 'White Profusion' and 'White Bouquet' offer panicles of pristine white to the gardener and the butterflies.
No matter what color the blooms are, all Butterfly Bushes attract many different kinds of butterflies. There's nothing more magical than a Buddleia in full bloom, its lilac blossoms a bouquet of jewel-toned butterflies slowly opening and closing their dusty wings in the sun against the blue-grey foliage. Walk through The NCSU Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum) and find a bit of summer magic with Buddleia and the butterflies!