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Butterfly BushOne of the easiest ways to attract butterflies; bees and hummingbirds to the garden is by including a 'Butterfly Bush' in your landscape. Butterfly bush, buddleia alternifolia and b, davidii are old-time garden plants that are making a strong comeback. Ease of care and the many new colorful varieties account in large measure for the renewed popularity of this showy summer flowering shrub.

Butterfly bush is sometimes called the 'summer lilac'. The long pointed flowers somewhat resemble those of the lilac. Each pointed flower cluster is 10 to 18 inches long and composed of hundreds of small tubular flowers, tightly grouped, similar to a lilac blossom.

Although they are most noted for attracting butterflies, the plant we have in our garden also attracts hummingbirds. The old common garden variety B. alternifolia has purplish-lilac blossoms. Some of the newer varieties of B. davidii, have fragrant flowers in shades of blue, pink, red, white, gold and purple. The variety of alternifolia blooms in early summer, while the others flower in mid to late summer and continue into the autumn months.

The long narrow leaves on B. alternifolia tend to be gray-green in color, while many of the B. davidii varieties have darker green leaves which tend to be grayish-green to white underneath. Many of the new ones only grow three to five feet tall, while some of the old ones may grow up to ten feet or more. Although most are deciduous, some are known to hold their foliage all winter, during mild winters.

This is one garden plant that seems to thrive on a certain amount of neglect. The tall ones are rather fast growing and all are prolific flowering. They will grow and flower best when planted in full sun or part sun and shade. Be sure to plant them in a spot where the soil is well drained.

All deciduous shrubs like the 'Butterfly Bush' are best transplanted during the winter dormant season months of November through February. However, container grown plants can be planted at any time. In fact, I purchased another one just a couple of weeks ago.

Planting is really very basic. Simply prepare a large planting hole, about twice as large as the root ball of the plant you are planting. Mix a little peat moss, compost (if available) and processed manure into the planting soil. Set the plant at the same depth as it was previously planted. Then mulch lightly with bark or sawdust.

These plants are not heavy feeders. In fact, the plant I have has not been fertilized since planting a couple of years ago. If feeding is necessary use a 'Rose' type of fertilizer. The best times to fertilize are in late February or late May. Of course, read and follow application directions to the letter.

The plants of some varieties tend to get rather leggy, unless they are pruned back each season. They will tolerate severe pruning, but it is seldom necessary. The best time to prune them is immediately after they have finished flowering.

The plants are seldom bothered by insects or disease. And, because of the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds the plants should never be sprayed when they are in flower.

As mentioned, there are many new varieties. Not all nurseries or garden outlets will carry all of them. Most can be obtained by simply asking your dealer 'if they can obtain them for you', because local growers are now growing most of them.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • 'Black Knight' - dark violet-purple. 6-8'. (Highly rated.)
  • 'Harlequin' - reddish-purple. Leaves have cream variegated margins. 6-8'.
  • 'Petite Snow' - white. Dwarf growth habit.
  • 'Petite Indigo' - lilac-blue. Dwarf. 4' high.
  • 'Petite Plum' - reddish-purple with orange eye. 5' high.
  • ' Pink Delight' - bright pink. 6-8'.
  • Needless to say, these are only a few of the newer varieties.

You can encourage some interesting creatures to the garden and add a bright spot of color at the same time, by adding one of the showy 'Butterfly' bushes to your garden.


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