Garden notes // Buddleia

Early morning, high noon, the long hot dusk in our garden, throughout this summer, have all been a frenzy of fluttering. Butterflies everywhere! And it's courtesy of today's feature plant: buddleia. 

Buddleia (Buddleja davdii and other Buddleja species) is commonly known as the butterfly bush, with good cause - butterflies smother these shrubs when they are in flower. They become the garden honeypot in midsummer, attracting all the pollinators - honey and native bees, hoverflies, and every kind of weird and wonderful beetle you can imagine.


Buddleia is a deeply unfussy plant. It needs watering, but not a lot, and that’s about it. Oh, and a vigorous prune at the end of every autumn or in early spring, as the flowers will only grow on new wood the following year. Don’t be gentle - the harder the prune the better. To keep a nice, manageable shape and avoid the bush getting leggy, you really want to get off all the old wood. We take ours all the way back to about a foot of growth.

But really, it couldn’t be easier to grow. And the reward for such little effort seems undeserving. Buddleia is madly floriferous - depending on the variety, you might get long “spikes” made up of thousands of tiny flowers, or small perfectly round balls of them. They bloom all through summer and into autumn, and will continue to reflower if you remove spent heads. Buddleia flower spikes also work beautifully as cut flowers and smell like honey - heavenly!

We have bushes growing very successfully in full harsh sun, with very little protection from strong winds. They are perfectly tolerant of our hard frosts/light snow, but as buddleia are deciduous they don’t offer much interest throughout those winter months. In fact, from our experience it also takes them a little longer than most plants to get going again in spring, so don’t rush to worry that they died over winter. 

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The only thing to be mindful of is that these bushes do grow quickly - really quickly! They can easily grow a couple of metres (yup, metres!) in height and width over early summer, so planting them in the right spot is important, to avoid them outcompeting smaller plants. As they are self-seeding, buddleia do have the potential to spread out of control in some areas. Whilst not listed as a weed in Australia, they are in many parts of the world so do your homework before planting. 

And then sit back and watch in awe as the pollinators of your area go mad with delight!