Substitute for Butterfly Bush

better2boutside(6)September 11, 2006

I planted (2) butterfly bushes 2 years ago. The one in the shade is fine- but the one in full sun will grow to 7 foot tall in one summer after being cut down to 18". The "trunk" has become significantly large. Only recently did I learn that Buddleia is invasive.

Since the yellow bush is so out of control, I am planning on digging it up this fall. But what can I replace it with that will attact the butterflies and provide nectar to insects? How about lillacs?

The only other plants that I have that really attracts insects are sun flowers & sedum- the bees love them.

I am in zone 6, LI NY- the site is full sun with a clay sand soil.


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oh candace, I envy you. I have purchased sooooo many B. davidii that have all died, one is just barely hanging on. I wish they would grow weel for me. I have a Bfly garden and I would suggest planting specifically for the Bflies that live in or travel through your area. there are great web sites that list can search butterflies of north america's web site. you can also post to the Bfly forum and also check their FAQ area. they have 2 extensive lists that I take shopping with me.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 4:24PM
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Michelle- You are sooooo right. I have never been on that forum. I found the list and will have to cross reference with my zone and see what is available.

I was hoping for another flowering shrub- but will keep searching.

I see that butterfly bushe is on that list. If they are invasive, why are they listed? And in what manner are they invasive. Mine is just so fast growing- I am concerned about the roots taking over the flower bed and it getting so big that I wouldn't be able to get it out later on. I have never seen them seed or send up suckers other than at the main trunk area.

Thanks for the re-direct- Candace

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 12:33PM
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I am constantly AMAZED at how a plant grows out of control in one area and just wont live in another one. It is one of the more upsetting things for see a plant I want to grow so badly and yet i cant keep it alive.

If you are looking for a a flowering shrub, just post to the Bfly forum. They will give you a list of choices that they have good luck with. I would love to recommend a few, but your winters would be a major factor that i know nothing about. sorry.

let me know what you decide on.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 12:46AM
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butterflygal21797(z7 MD)

Candace -
Until a few years ago, I grew several butterfly bushes very successfully in several different areas of my garden. I don't remember having any problems with suckering. To the best of my knowledge, buddleia is considered invasive because it is a prolific self-sower. That's why I got rid of mine. Deadheading each bush before it went to seed was way too time-consuming (you never realize just how many flowerheads one bush produces until you try to remove them all), and I got tired of pulling the dozens of seedlings that sprouted each year all over my garden. I stopped growing caryopteris (blue mist shrub), another butterfly-attracting shrub, for the same reason.

As for replacements, Virginia sweetspire (itea) attracts lots of butterflies, but it blooms earlier in the season than buddleia. Sweet pepperbush (clethra) blooms in mid-summer and attracts butterflies and bees. Both of these have white flowers, but there are also pink-flowered forms of sweet pepperbush (I grow one called "Ruby Spice"). Neither of these shrubs will attract as many butterflies (especially the big showy ones like swallowtails) as buddleia will, but both are North American natives and very beautiful plants well worth growing.

One of my all-time favorite native butterfly plants is Joe Pye Weed. It grows to shrub-like proportions, and its large flowerheads attract dozens of butterflies starting in early August here in Maryland. The tiger swallowtails seem to especially love it.

Just my two cents worth. Good luck with your plant search.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 7:56AM
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Michelle- yeah- it is amazing how one area a plant can be prolific and the other it just doesnt have the will to live. I've got a few things that are just unhappy and will be moved this fall. Actually the thing I cant seem to handle is lawn grass (ha ha)- but I dont feel so bad about that!

Butterfly gal- thanks for the direction. I had recently tried deadheading my purple bfly bush, it is only 3' high so it was not a big deal. The yellow one is way too much work for dead heading.
Someone had recommended Ruby Spice to me- I will have to reconsider it. (I had opted for Viburniums for berries to feed the birds instead) I really like the Joe Pye Weed, but I dont recall seeing plants or seeds available. I will have to look again.

Thank you both.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 10:40AM
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anninmd(z7a MD)

I would not give up on butterfly bushes. There are dwarf varieties, such as the Nanho series. I have 11 butterfly bushes, all nanho white and nanho blue. They grow to around 5 to 5 1/2 feet. I do have volunteer buddleias that came up from seed, but not enough that I would call it invasive. I've maybe seen 20 in my garden this year.

But the main reason to plant them is that there is not another shrub to compare for attracting butterflies. They bloom when butterflies are most numerous, and butterflies love the nectar.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 12:46PM
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you know I am shocked to hear that your buddleias drop seeds to the ground and then you get a new plant. that has never ever happened for me and I sure wish it would. what I like most about them is that they seem to please all types of BFs that come to my house.

do you guys who find them invasive have them well mulched? I do and I wonder if that is allowing the seed to die before germinating????


    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 4:48PM
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I haven't found that it is invasive, just that it grows so vigorously (sp?). I cut is down to 18" above the soil and it has grown to over 7'!

Well, my husband noted to me that it was covered with butterflies on saturday morning. (can you believe he noticed?!) And after starting my fall cleanup- I am not so sure I want to actually dig it up. Now I am thinking that if I can change the shape to a more upright vase, that I can access/plant under/around it- that would satisfy my complaint.

My original post was to understand why this plant is on the invasive list, other than vigerous growth, I have not had a problem. I have more of a problem with Rose of Sharon seeding too easily and have to pull volenteer from the lawn regularly.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 2:18PM
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loris(Z6 NJ)


Plants end up invasive lists because they're found in natural areas. You may never see the volunteers in your own yard when this happens. This is especially common for plants spread by the wind or with fruit or seeds eaten by birds or other animals.

I'm mostly into native plants and have had luck with butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, and blue lobelia as perennials. I know many people have success with the various joe-pye weeds.

A non-native I used that worked well was Hyssop 'Blue Fortune'. It bloomed from the time we bought it which was July if not earlier, and is still going although starting to fade. Other non-natives that have worked for me are various salvias.

If you want a shrub, you might consider Clethra (summersweet) which is native to my area at least.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 9:22PM
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If you live on long island and haved visited fire island you will see for yourself the aggresive nature of Buddelia.There it rivals jap knotweed.I can't believe property owners still cultivate it.I myself couldnt get it to survive the winters in my area.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 7:29PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

My back yard is caddy corner from a small park put in by Master Gardeners. Just moved in here a year and a half ago and just started my gardens. Which take up the whole yard, I'm not into grass, I want trees, shrubs and perennials to take up all the space. Anyway, last year, before I had much of anything in, I noticed Monarch butterflies coming over and having a peek at what I had. But mostly they flew back over to the butterfly bush over in the park. I know those things are invasive, I've seen it happen, I've had in happen. Anyway, this year, my plants have gotten a little bit of size, plus more was added last fall and this spring. I noticed this year, the park was mostly empty of butterflies because they were all over here. They like the Ironweed (Vernonia angustifolia), Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Joepyeweed (various varieties of Eupatorium), Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) and a lot of different asters. Actually I did a mini prairie of sorts, and they like most everything in there. If given a choice between my plants and the butterfly bush, the butterfly bush loses.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 10:28PM
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There are plenty of native plants that butterflies like. I let regular milkweek grow because it is such a great plan for butterflies. I would just stick with those instead of contributing to the problem of non-native invasives. I'm linking to a list of substitutes for popular invasives. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Subsitutes for Invasives

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 6:44PM
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terrene(5b MA)

My little microcosm of a garden is subjected to strong and bitterly cold winds in the winter, so whereas the area might generally be zone 6, the garden is zone 5. I have several Buddleia and I mulch them heavily in the fall and feel lucky if they make it through the winter. They sure aren't doing any procreating here.

The butterflies and other pollinators LOVE the Buddleia. But I also have lots of other plants for them, including perennials like Agastache, Asclepias, Eupatorium, Liatris, and Asters, but these generally have shorter-blooming times.

I also planted some non-native annuals that they love like Cosmos, Zinnias, and Mexican Sunflower.

I have gotten very interested in native plants, but I think there is a place in the garden for a *well-behaved* non-native, and particularly if it has wildlife value.

And I have a major problem with exotic invasives in the back of my lot to worry about anyway. Honeysuckle, Autumn olive, Glossy buckthorn, burning bush, barberry, you name it - are all out of control! And the worst of them all - Oriental bittersweet - everywhere!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 10:13AM
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What about Vitex, Chaste Tree? Mine bloomed this year for the first time (was winter sown & planted in 2004). It gets morning and very early afternoon sun only, but is very pretty and was visited by a few butterflies. I have 6 buddleias, the oldest being 10 years old (with a huge trunk). I've never had problems with them reseeding; I deadhead quite frequently. I did manage to find one blooming white reseeder this year, so I simply dug it up and gave it to a friend. I'm actually hoping to find a few more reseeders, since my butterflies adore the white buddleia over all of the other colors. This year I'm letting them go to seed for trades. IMO, there worth the hassle of frequent deadheading, and an important butterfly attractor, even if the carpenter bees adore them too!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 1:10PM
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I have a volunteer butterfly bush that appeared just this year. The nearest plant is two houses up from ours. Their plant is on the farthest upper side of the house, not even visible from here. Plant showed up on the lower side of our house in the shade.

I've always avoided planting this one and will probably pull it up, but it sure is pretty.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 8:50AM
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I know buddleia is considered an invasive non-native. I think if you live up north (as I do) they don't really cause a problem as they die back to the ground every winter (I did have one here before I knew better, but it ended up not coming back after winter). The thing about invasives is that they can often adapt to climates and end up being a problem where they weren't one before. There are lots of beautiful natives that pollinators will love. No doubt they are pretty, but why add to the problem? Bittersweet is a great example of an invasive gone bad. Drive along any highway and you will see it is taking over all of the landscape! :o(

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 11:28PM
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If you like butterflies, try Blazing Star (liatris) and Coneflowers (purple or yellow) - or Rudbeckia - hirta is the easiest. But, they also like my dandelions!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 5:33PM
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I was reading all the posts on this particular thread, because I wanted to go ahead and plant butterfly bushes that I'm going to grow from seed. I have 'Nanho Blue', but it doesn't attract them at all.

Sometimes, I think it depends on the butterflies that frequent your part of the country, and not what someone in Canada may use that is a very good attractor.

I am on the Butterfly forum constantly, and I raise Monarchs, Black Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails, Red Admirals, Gulf Fritillaries, among other butterflies. I wanted something to attract the Swallowtails, though. I get plenty of eggs and caterpillars, but never see the BSTs nectaring. Several people on the Butterfly forum suggested buddleia, and the pink and white cultivars are the ones that most attract swallowtails. I asked about vitex (chaste tree), and most people said they do not attract the masses of butterflies that buddleia does.

I had a B. davidii at one time, and it died after two years. I grew it in partial shade; never had any seedlings, but had plenty of blooms even in part shade. I wonder if the growing conditions prevented self-sowing? I don't know. But, I think I might just put mine in the partial shade to see if that will work.

Glossy abelia was also suggested as a plant that attracts numerous butterflies, and the great thing is that it blooms all summer and into fall. I think I'll try that, too. There is a cultivar that apparently doesn't sucker very much.

Placement is also part of the issue with butterfly bushes - I mean, placing them in a location where reseeding occurs at a minimum, like a strip garden located between a sidewalk and driveway. Anything in the lawn gets mowed anyway.

I found my common zinnias and cosmos to be great nectar plants, as well as tropical milkweed. Now, before anyone gets upset because I planted tropical milkweed. It's not hardy in my zone for one thing. Also, it's the favorite host plant of the Monarchs over any other milkweed, because it is higher in cardiac glycosides, which is what the Monarchs NEED for protection from predators. The most palatable Monarchs are those that eat milkweed with lower levels of CGs, like cynanchum, for instance (milkweed vine).

Other substitutes for butterfly bush are native perennial plants like verbesina encelioides (Golden Crownbeard), verbena hastata, eupatorium maculata (as mentioned above), but Gregg's mistflower (native mistflower) is a great one, too. Early season nectar plants are spring beauty, larkspurs, linums, and phlox divaricata. Ceananthus americanus is another native shrub good for nectaring and the clethra mentioned is good, too.

Bidens, monarda fistula, native echinaceas, rudbeckias, dogbane, blazing stars (liatris), and solidago are also fantastic nectaring plants.

Non-natives like lantana, pentas, oregano, mints, agastaches, and globe amaranths are good, too.

Wish me luck with my Buddleia plantings - I hope they don't prove to be too...

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 4:48PM
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