Not Your Mama’s Butterfly Bush
By Steve Bender
Butterfly bush has been a Grumpy favorite for many years, because it blooms for months, offers many different colors, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and sings “My Way” when I’ve had four or more beers. Lately, though, plant breeders have been making a good plant even better in three important respects.
"Learned so much about the new varities of butterfly bushes...I love butterfly bushes but have not been able to use the older larger sizes in my yard... Love all the variety of colors..." 5 stars by Carole
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The Butterfly Bush
Butterfly bush has been a Grumpy favorite for many years, because it blooms for months, offers many different colors, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and sings “My Way” when I’ve had four or more beers.
Lately, though, plant breeders have been making a good plant even better in three important respects.
‘Pink Delight’ Butterfly Bush
Image by Steve Bender
First, butterfly bushes are getting smaller. Older types could grow up to 12 feet tall.
This is fine if you live at Versailles, but it’s hard to fit into most residential gardens unless you keep hacking it back into an ugly meatball. However, more recent introductions cut that size way down. ‘Pink Delight’, is an outstanding clear pink selection that grows 6 to 8 feet tall. Remove spent blooms to keep new ones coming.
Want something a little smaller? Try this eye-popper. Meet ‘Miss Molly’ from Proven Winners.
Buckeye Butterfly on ‘Miss Molly’
This compact beauty grows 4 to 5 feet tall with vibrant, sangria-red flowers.
Image by mgc-old.zurka.com
And if that’s still too big, try this one: Lo & Behold ‘Purple Haze.’ Also from Proven Winners, ‘Purple Haze’ grows only 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
This means butterfly bush doesn’t have to be a back-of-the-border plant any more. You can mix it with annuals, perennials, and other small shrubs just fine. Or you can plant it in a container. ‘Purple Haze’ is one of the low-growing Lo & Behold Series that includes pink, blue, and lilac versions. They don’t set seed, so they never stop blooming and don’t need deadheading, a trait shared by ‘Miss Molly.’ No deadheading is the second big improvement.
Lo & Behold ‘Purple Haze’
Image by springmeadownursery.com
The third big improvement relates to the second.
The old butterfly bushes produced lots of seed and their seedlings became invasive in many areas. I remember traveling by train in England and seeing hundreds of butterfly bushes growing in the gravel by the side of the tracks. Well, many of these new butterfly bushes I’m telling you about are sterile. Sterile flowers mean no seedlings.
That’s the case with Ball Horticulture’s Flutterby butterfly bushes. The Flutterby Grande Series grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.
Flutterby Grande ‘Peach Cobble’
This is Flutterby Grande ‘Peach Cobbler.’ I’m a sucker for peach and apricot-colored flowers.
Image by vanbelle.com
How To Grow
Plant butterfly bush in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Moisture is appreciated, but it tolerates drought. Flowering occurs on new growth, so except for the low-growing types, prune back by two-thirds in late winter. As mentioned before, older types need spent flowers removed to stay blooming. The new seedless types don’t. Don’t worry about deer. Deer don’t eat them.
Image by vanbelle.com