Butterfly Bush Varieties: 20 Different Types Of Butterfly Bushes To Grow

Butterfly bushes are a go-to plant for anyone who wants to attract pollinators to their garden. These shrubs not only attract butterflies, but they also provide nectar for hummingbirds and honey bees.

But even if you aren’t interested in pollinators, butterfly bushes are still a great addition to your garden. These plants have showy flowers some of which persist for the majority of the growing season.

You will find many butterfly bush varieties when it comes to butterfly bush flower colors. These include but are not limited to, purple, pink, blue, and white. 

In addition, most butterfly bushes have weak wood and deciduous leaves. At times, these leaves themselves are attractive with a few varieties having two-toned variegated foliage.

Regarding care, butterfly bushes are relatively low maintenance. Almost all varieties have the same growing requirements. Butterfly bushes love full sun and well-drained soil. Beyond that, it is hard to go wrong in caring for the plants.

One of the most common tactics for encouraging butterfly bush blooms is to cut the plant back to the ground each season.

Since butterfly bushes usually have a very fast growth rate, they will return to their mature size very quickly. This practice also promotes more blooms which sometimes continue to bloom for months on end.

For more information on different types of butterfly bushes, read on.

Naming the Butterfly Bush

Naming the Butterfly Bush

The genus of all butterfly bushes is ‘Buddleja’ named for 17th-century botanist Reverend Adam Buddle. In recent years, botanists have started to refer to the genus with an alternative spelling, ‘Buddleia.’

However, the true botanical name is spelled with the silent ‘j’ rather than an ‘i’. This should not interfere with your ability to purchase and plant a butterfly bush, but it is helpful to point out this discrepancy to prevent future confusion.

Additionally, the common name ‘butterfly bush’, while not a misnomer, does, not fully support butterflies throughout their entire lifespan.

Butterfly bushes have nectar for adult butterflies, but they don’t supply any food for caterpillars.

If you are interested in truly supporting butterflies, you will need to include some companion plants in your garden that will support butterflies in all stages of their lifespan.

Additionally, there are many more plant species that butterflies will feed on.

Is Butterfly Bush An Invasive Species?

Throughout large portions of the United States, the butterfly bush is considered invasive. In states like Oregon, the sale of traditional butterfly bushes is outlawed.

But over the years, there have been efforts to resolve this issue without eliminating butterfly bushes from nurseries and gardens.

First of all, there are a handful of native butterfly bush species. Most of these species live in the southwest United States and Northern Mexico. A few of these species are on this list.

However, it would not be fair to imply that the blooms of native butterfly bushes are anywhere near as beautiful as the invasive varieties. Still, the environmentally friendly choice is to always opt for natives over invasive.

But there are more options available for those who wish to avoid invasive species.

In recent decades there have been many efforts to produce new butterfly bush cultivars. These new butterfly bushes are often sterile. 

This means that they are unable to effectively spread their seeds for reproduction. This is a positive development for those partial to butterfly bushes.

When planting these cultivars, the invasive effect is eliminated, and the visual appeal of the flowers remains.

20 Butterfly Bush Varieties To Grow 

Now we’ll proceed to the list. Here are 20 butterfly bushes varieties to consider for your next pollinator garden.

Popular Varieties

Popular Varieties

The first ten list items represent some of the more popular butterfly bush species. Many of these varieties are cultivars of the Buddleja davidii species. This species originates from China.  

Remember, these species are likely invasive if you live in the United States. Please be responsible when planting them. Check with your state government before you plant one of these butterfly bushes.

If the name of the plant your want is on your state’s invasive species list, I recommend refraining from planting it. Instead, look for a native species or sterile cultivar with similar characteristics.

1: Buddleja alternifolia (alternate leaf butterfly bush)

Buddleja alternifolia

Alternate leaf butterfly bush looks like a miniature weeping willow. The branches have a similar drooping habit, but the overall size is much smaller. This type of butterfly bush usually grows to 15 feet tall. 

The common name of this shrub references its alternate leaves. This is not a common feature of cultivated butterfly bushes which makes this variety stand out as unique.

The leaves are longer than they are wide with a slender overall appearance. Their color is a muted green on top. The underside of the leaf is light grey.

The alternate leaf butterfly bush also blooms a bit earlier than other butterfly bushes. This species has purple flowers that appear in May.

Remember an important difference between alternate leaf butterfly bush and the Buddeja davidii varieties. The flowers of alternate leaf butterfly bush grow out of old wood.

This means it is not a good idea to cut this butterfly bush to the ground at the end of the growing season.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 8-15’
  • Mature Spread: 10-18’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade                 
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: May
  • Bloom Color: Purple

2: Buddleja davidii ‘Santana’ (Santana butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Santana’ (Santana butterfly bush)

The Santana butterfly bush can come in a few different colors. But the most common color is purple. This is a deep purple that has a reddish tint. The cone-shaped flowers have a similar hue to red wine.

Santana butterfly bush has attractive deciduous leaves. These leaves are often variegated, combining green and yellow in an irregular pattern.

At maturity, this is a mid-sized shrub with a somewhat loose form.

Flowers on the Santana butterfly bush will bloom in summer and persist until early fall.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-10
  • Mature Height: 5-6’
  • Mature Spread: 4-5’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Reddish-Purple

3: Buddleja davidii ‘Les Kneale’ (Les Kneale butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Les Kneale’ (1)

Les Kneale butterfly bush is one of the hardier butterfly bushes. This variety is a clone of a butterfly bush species from the Isle of Man.

Les Kneale was the first to report the discovery of this plant. As a result, this butterfly bush now bears his name.

The Les Kneale butterfly bush holds its flowers in panicles. The color of the flowers if a pale purple. But at times, the flowers can be almost completely white.

The leaves of this shrub contrast the white flowers. They are long and pointed with a light green, almost lime, color.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 5-6’
  • Mature Spread: 5-6’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Light Purple to White

4: Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ (black knight butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ (black knight butterfly bush)

The flowers of black knight butterfly bush form dense spike-like clusters. Their color is a dark purple with occasional orange accents. 

This butterfly bush is a medium shrub that usually grows taller than it is wide. This growing tendency can produce a vase-like form.

This deciduous shrub grows vigorously and requires full sun. However, the dark knight butterfly bush can suffer in extreme weather. Make sure to give this butterfly bush plenty of water during heatwaves.

In colder climates, the dark knight butterfly bush may die back to the ground in winter.

However, this is not usually a cause for concern. More often than not, the dark knight butterfly bush will return in the spring as healthy as ever.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 6-8’
  • Mature Spread: 3-5’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Dark Purple

5: Buddleja davidii ‘Adokeep’ ADONIS BLUE (Adonis blue butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii 'Adokeep' ADONIS BLUE (1)

Adonis blue butterfly bush is a dwarf butterfly bush variety. The mature height and spread of this shrub rarely exceed 5’. 

This variety developed in England as a part of a larger group of cultivated butterfly bushes. Since its inception, this butterfly bush has remained a popular commercial plant.

This is partially due to the color of the Adonis blue butterfly bush’s flowers. These flowers are dark blue and come in large quantities each season.

Pairing copious amounts of flowers with a compact size, Adonis blue butterfly bush can ass a big splash of color to a small planting area.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 3-5’
  • Mature Spread: 3-5’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Dark Blue

6: Buddleja davidii ‘Harlequin’ (harlequin butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii Harlequin

Like many butterfly bush varieties, this butterfly bush is a deciduous drought-tolerant shrub. The harlequin butterfly bush grows to about 6’ tall with an irregular but mostly rounded growing habit.

The striking color of the harlequin butterfly bush is a deep purple tinted with red. This color stands out against the foliage which, like the Santana butterfly bush, is variegated.

The leaves of the harlequin butterfly bush are covered primarily with amorphous green splotches. The leaf margins, on the other hand, are beige and sometimes almost white.

  • Hardiness Zone: 6-9
  • Mature Height: 4-6’
  • Mature Spread: 3-5’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple

7: Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’ (royal red butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’ (royal red butterfly bush)

Royal red butterfly bush is a large fast-growing shrub. It prefers full sun and fertile soil with good drainage. 

When it doesn’t receive the sun it needs, the foliage can become a bit sparse. Upon first planting this shrub, be sure to give it a deep watering.  This will help to establish its root system.

The flowers of this butterfly bush are long, measuring up to 14”. Their color is a strong magenta that will add an intriguing color pop to any sunny garden.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 6-8’
  • Mature Spread: 4-6’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Magenta

8: Buddleja davidii ‘Monite’ (snow white butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Monite’

Snow white butterfly bush offers large panicles of white flowers from spring to fall. These appear in great qualities at the ends of the shrub’s stems

Overall this shrub is easy to maintain.  It is generally a compact shrub and you can prune it easily to maintain the size you want.

Consider using this as a mass panting.  The snow white butterfly bush can grow fast and fill a large space.  When flowers are spent, remove them to promote future blooms.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 4-7’
  • Mature Spread: 3-9’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: White

9: Buddleja davidii ‘Potter’s Purple’ (potter’s purple butterfly bush)

Buddleja davidii ‘Potter’s Purple’ (1)

Potter’s purple butterfly bush is another long-blooming shrub. This species features big panicles that are deep purple.

The flowers are known to be especially fragrant. This shrub also has a fairly vigorous growth rate.  

This particular variety is named for Jack Potter who was first to find a seedling while working in Pennsylvania in the 1980s.

About a decade later, this butterfly bush entered the market where it has remained as a popular variety ever since.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-10
  • Mature Height: 5-7’
  • Mature Spread: 5-7’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple

10: Buddleja x weyeriana ‘Sungold’ (sungold butterfly bush)

Buddleja x weyeriana ‘Sungold’

The sungold butterfly bush is a cross between Buddleia davidii and Buddleia globose. One of the main benefits of this hybrid variety is that is both drought-tolerant and rarely receives damage from deer. 

This species can be a bit denser than other butterfly bushes. This expands its potential use to include privacy screening.

Like all butterfly bushes, the sungold butterfly bush has beautiful flowers. They are orange to yellow and bloom in summer.

Rather than form a spire-like other butterfly bush flowers, these flowers create small rounded clusters.

  • Hardiness Zone: 6-10
  • Mature Height: 6-10’
  • Mature Spread: 6-10’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Preference: Slightly Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Yellow and Orange

11: Buddleja marrubiifolia (woolly butterfly bush)

Buddleja marrubiifolia (1)

Woolly butterfly bush grows well in the southwest portion of the united states. This is because this species is native to the Chihuahuan desert which has a similar climate.

This species has an irregular growth habit that rarely matches one specific shape. It has pale leaves that are rounded and covered with tiny hairs. The color of the leaves is almost like a grayish mint green.

The flowers are small and orange with black at the center. They are held in ball-like clusters and are present for a large portion of the growing season.

Unfortunately, this native butterfly bush has some common problems. When overwatered, the woolly butterfly bush may droop and even experience rot.

Additionally, the woolly butterfly bush can have problems with aphids as well. Keep an eye out for these insects and be sure to remove them to prevent an infestation.

  • Hardiness Zone: 8-11
  • Mature Height: 4-6’
  • Mature Spread: 3-4’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: March-August
  • Bloom Color: Orange

Natives Of The U.S.

The next five list entries are all native to the United States. Unfortunately, the native range of these plants is fairly small. All these species originate from the American Southwest and Mexico.

If you live outside of these regions, you will need to look to the cultivars to find a butterfly bush for your region.

As you will see, many of these natives are not cold hardy.  They like hot climates and, often, tall limestone cliffs.

12: Buddleja sessiliflora (Rio Grande butterfly bush)

Buddleja sessiliflora

Named after the river dividing Texas and Mexico, the Rio Grande butterfly bush grows in a variety of locations. It is common to find this plant in low-lying stream beds. But they also grow at elevations exceeding 2,800’ above sea level.

Unlike the sungold butterfly bush, the Rio Grande butterfly bush has a more limited native range. This plant thrives in Texas and Arizona, but it is less prevalent in the northern regions of Mexico.

The flowers of this species are not the most remarkable compared to other butterfly bushes. They are yellow and green and grow in segmented panicles.

  • Hardiness Zone: 7-10
  • Mature Height: 4-6’
  • Mature Spread: 4-6’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: April-July
  • Bloom Color: Yellow and Green

13: Buddleja utahensis (Utah butterfly bush)

Buddleja utahensis (Utah butterfly bush)

Utah butterfly bush continues the trend of native butterfly bushes with less than stellar blooms. In this case, the flowers persist throughout much of the growing season.

However, they are far from vibrant. Instead, they take on a dull cream color.  Structurally, they are similar to the Rio Grande butterfly bush.

Utah butterfly bush is a very compact variety. It forms a small, irregular shrub with small silvery-green leaves.

The Utah butterfly bush can also survive at differing elevations. You can find it growing near sea level and on limestone cliffs thousands of feet higher up.

  • Hardiness Zone: 8-11
  • Mature Height: 2-3’
  • Mature Spread: 2-3’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: April-October
  • Bloom Color: Yellow

14: Buddleja racemosa (wand butterfly bush)

Buddleja racemosa

Wand butterfly bush is native to one small region of Texas. There it grows on steep slopes with a preference for the alkaline nature of limestone. 

It is a very small shrub with a loose wispy form. Through summer it has small yellowish-white to cream-colored flowers.

Compared to the overall size, the leaves are somewhat large. They take a sharp tapered form with an undulating margin.

Most often, you will find this shrub growing on cliffsides and small crevices.

  • Hardiness Zone: 8
  • Mature Height: 2-3’
  • Mature Spread: 2-3’
  • Sun Requirements: Part Shade
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-August
  • Bloom Color: White and Yellow

15: Buddleja scordioides (escobilla butterfly bush)

Buddleja scordioides

Escobilla butterfly bush is similar to the wand butterfly bush in multiple ways.  Both have a relatively small range and cream-colored flowers.

Escobilla butterfly bush grows in the extreme heat of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It can also survive in some regions of northern Mexico.

Unlike other butterfly bushes, this species is semi-evergreen. The leaves, along with all other parts of this plant’s anatomy, are very hairy. The prevalence of these small hairs gives a unique overall texture to the plant.

The leaves are about equal to the flowers in aesthetic value. Generally, this is a very irregular shrub with a spiky character.

  • Hardiness Zone: 7
  • Mature Height: 3-4’
  • Mature Spread: 3-4’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-August
  • Bloom Color: White and Yellow

Sterile Cultivars

Now for some good news, there are some non-invasive butterfly bushes that still have showy flowers. The last five species on this list are of that character.

Because of the popular nature of butterfly bushes, botanists have been working to produce more butterfly bushes that are environmentally friendly. 

One of the most successful groups of sterile cultivars is called “Lo & Behold” These cultivars are usually low growing, and a few of them are on this list.

However, there are other great cultivar groups including “Inspired,” “Miss,” “Pugster,” and “Summer Skies.”

All these plants are sterile meaning that even though they may have seeds, they cannot reproduce. In addition, many of these cultivars are much hardier than the native species.

This means that gardeners in cold climates can now plant non-invasive butterfly bushes in their yards.

With the growing concern for the environment, I would expect the number of these cultivars to continue to grow. Even now, it is likely there is a sterile cultivar that has the appearance you are looking for.

If you know of an invasive butterfly bush species, I suggest you find a non-invasive cultivar with similar size shape and color. The growing variety of such plants makes this switch completely possible.

16: Buddleja x ‘Blue Chip’ (blue chip butterfly bush)

Buddleja x ‘Blue Chip’

Blue chip butterfly bush is a dwarf shrub that develops into a mounded form. It has a large number of purple flowers that will continue to bloom throughout the season.

The best part is that you don’t need to deadhead this plant to experience the ongoing bloom.

This award-winning butterfly bush is easy to manage because of its limited size. The longstanding flowers add value through their fragrance as well.

As a sterile plant, this is one of the butterfly bush varieties that you can plant with no guilt.

There is no risk of invasive spreading and butterflies enjoy this shrub as much as any other variety.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 2-3’
  • Mature Spread: 2-3’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple

17: Buddleja ‘Miss Ruby’ (miss ruby butterfly bush)

Buddleja ‘Miss Ruby’

The miss ruby butterfly bush is a rounded deciduous shrub. Its leaves are pointed and green. Its overall form is rounded.

The flowers of this plant are very impressive. The blooms are cone-shaped with a vibrant fuchsia color. At times, the miss ruby butterfly bush will continue to bloom all the way until the first frost of the season.

This is another non-invasive butterfly bush cultivar. It arose from a cross between Buddleja ‘Attraction’ and Buddleja ‘White Ball’.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 4-5’
  • Mature Spread: 4-5’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple to Pink

18: Buddleja ‘Asian Moon’ (Asian moon butterfly bush)

Buddleja ‘Asian Moon’ (1)

Compared to other butterfly bush cultivars in the same group, the Asian moon butterfly bush is generally larger. It maintains a rounded form but can reach up to 7’ tall.

Like the last list entry, this butterfly bush variety blooms for an exceptionally long time. The flowers are purple and widespread throughout the plant. They include some small orange accents on their throats.

The leaves usually about 6” long and only a little over 1” wide. These dimensions make for a very narrow leaf that has a finely serrated margin. The tops of the leaves are green while the bottoms are silver.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 3-7’
  • Mature Spread: 3-7’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: June-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple

19: Buddleja ‘Ice Chip’ (ice chip butterfly bush)

Buddleja ‘Ice Chip’

Ice chip butterfly bush is another valuable sterile butterfly bush. This variety blooms a bit later in the summer than its relatives. When it does, the flowers are starkly white.

This is a dwarf butterfly bush with a multi-stemmed habit. It is deciduous and grows in a rounded mound shape.

The ice chip butterfly bush is also tolerant of a wider range of soil PH than other butterfly bushes.

Provided that it gets full sun and a proper amount of water, there are little to no issues with this shrub. In proper conditions, its lifespan can exceed 20 years.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5
  • Mature Height: 2-3’
  • Mature Spread: 2-3’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: August-September
  • Bloom Color: White

20: Buddleja ‘Purple Haze’ (purple haze butterfly bush)

Buddleja ‘Purple Haze’ (1)

Purple haze butterfly bush spreads low to the ground. As it grows it typically expands more in the horizontal direction rather than upward. 

The blooms of this species are purple and persistent through much of the season. When they emerge, they usually droop downward, weighing down their branches.

The leaves are a dark green and have a shape and texture like a feather. This is a resilient butterfly bush that grows best in a full sun location.

  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Mature Height: 2-3’
  • Mature Spread: 3-4’
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Preference: Neutral
  • Soil Moisture Preference: Medium Moisture
  • Bloom Time: July-September
  • Bloom Color: Purple

Conclusion

Those familiar with butterfly bushes are aware of their beauty. Not only do they provide their own colors, but they also attract color in the form of many different butterfly wings.

Sadly, they come with a massive downside related to their invasive status. But things are looking up as more and more sterile cultivars continue to come into existence. 

If you accidentally plant an invasive butterfly bush, or there is already one planted on your property, there is still responsible action you can take.

To minimize the negative environmental impact, remove the flowers of your invasive butterfly bush in October. In most cases, the seeds don’t drop until November or December.

By doing this, you can help to reduce the spread of this harmful species. Other than that, try to find a different butterfly bush variety.

By choosing your butterfly bush carefully, you can add color to your landscape and please the butterfly population without causing harm to the world around you.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

3 thoughts on “Butterfly Bush Varieties: 20 Different Types Of Butterfly Bushes To Grow”

  1. I have a butterfly plant in my yard and it attracts them well.. They leave eggs.
    The problems is there is a little black and gold bug that is on the plant and I believe it eats the eggs. If I’m right how do I get rid of the bug?

    Reply
    • You can use mesh bags with drawstrings to enclose either entire plants or just a few branches or vines. You can either make mesh bags, or buy them. Keep in mind that butterflies will not be able to lay any more eggs on the plant while it’s socked in.

      Reply

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