Bring on the butterflies (Buddleja)
Butterfly bushes (Buddleja daviddii selections) have been extremely popular and successful plants for pollinator gardens in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, this popularity, ease-of-growth, and abundant seed-set have also caused them to become a menace, particularly in wetlands in warmer climates. In fact, few garden plants have caused so much controversy in recent years as B. daviddii.
GET THE RIGHT BUDDLEIA
Fortunately, a related species of butterfly bush, B. alternifolia, is much more “polite”: decades of Silver Fountain butterfly bush, a silver-leaved and more cold-hardy selection of B. alternifolia was selected as Plant Select® winner in 1998 for its adaptability to western gardens, gracefully arching branches, immense lavender flower clusters and beautiful silvery leaves.
Silver Fountain is a large shrub so needs plenty of space to really show off its cascading form. Blooming in late spring, the sweetly fragrant flowers are most attractive to butterflies in the heat of midday. When the blooms have faded, the plant remains attractive because of the interesting grey-green-silvery foliage.
Wildlife benefits: Silver Fountain butterfly bush attracts bees, butterflies, wasps, hornets, lady beetles, lacewings and moths. Nectar-feeding birds like orioles and bushtits sip on the flowers during the growing season; seed-eaters chow down on the seeds in winter. Buddleja act as both nectaring and food plants to many butterflies, including some that normally feed on other plants.
Some butterfly species attracted to Buddleja (list adapted from Plant Delights Nursery):
- American Snout
- Anise Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Common Buckeye
- Common Checkered-Skipper
- Compton Tortoiseshell
- Eastern Comma
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Mourning Cloak
- Painted Lady
- Pearl Crescent
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Sagebrush Checkerspot
- Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
Growing tips: Silver Fountain butterfly bush blooms on old wood, so prune immediately after blooming for shape. It’s okay to prune out dead branches at any time.
View the plant profile here.
At a glance:
Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush (Buddleja alternifolia ‘Argentea’)
- Height: 12-15’
- Width: 10-12’
- Growth habit: Large shrub with arching branches
- USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
- How to Use: Use in a large shrub border, as an informal hedge, as a specimen in a mixed border and to attract butterflies.
- Culture: Sunny spots with moderate to dry conditions in most soils–very adaptable. Doesn’t tolerate wet feet so be sure to provide good drainage, especially in winter.
- Reported to be deer and rabbit resistant
Thanks to Pat Hayward, Plant Select®, for writing this piece.