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How to Grow and Care for Fountain Butterfly Bush?

Loveleena Rajeev Jan 10, 2019
Native to Western China, the fountain butterfly bush is a tall shrub that can add a beautiful touch to the garden. They require very little care and are a sight to behold when in full bloom. Know how to grow and care for them so that your garden keeps blooming.
Did You Know?
The fountain butterfly bush, also called Buddleja davidii, was named after a French Jesuit missionary and explorer in China, Father Armand David, who had first noticed the shrub.
A fountain butterfly bush is a colorful plant with rich green foliage and flower panicles that come in all possible shades of blue and purple. Also called Buddleja davidii, fountain butterfly bush is a perennial shrub having a delightful and sweet fragrance that attracts an array of colorful butterflies.
This is probably the reason why it is known as a butterfly bush. It blooms from midsummer through September, hence, it is also called 'Summer lilac'. Silver fountain butterfly bush, is another variety that is equally popular for its blue gray or sometimes silver, fine textured foliage.


Common Name: Fountain Butterfly Bush
Botanical Name: Buddleja davidii
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Origin: China
Plant type: Shrub, Deciduous
Growth Rate: Moderate to fast
Height: 8-15 feet tall
Spread: 8-15 feet wide
Foliage: Green
Color: Blue, Violet, Lavender
Blooms: Summer, Fall
Attributes: Fragrant, Ornamental
The bush grows tall and slender and can reach a height of nearly 15 feet. Its long, slender branches require training, otherwise they tend to become a tangled mess with poor quality flowers on its panicles. A full-grown fountain bush resembles a weeping willow.
It is perennial and blooms more than once in a year; mid-spring and early summer. It grows best in US hardiness zones 5 through 10, having preferably full sunlight. It takes the shape of an umbrella or a fountain.

How to Grow?

Choose a spot that has full sun to partial shade. The bush can tolerate heat and drought only after it is well established. Seeds should be sown in a fertile, well-drained, and loamy soil. Maintain the pH of the soil between 6 - 8.5. For sowing seeds, layer the soil absolutely flat. Sprinkle seeds evenly and cover with a thin layer of soil.
Sprinkle water, and cover with a shade material. The seeds will germinate within a week, and when they reach a six-leaf stage, transplant them. Choose a healthy seedling, and plant it at least 15-20 inches deep in the soil. Water regularly, and start mulching, when the butterfly bush is established.
Dig a hole about one-foot wide and deep as the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole, but make sure you don't plant it too deep. Loosen the roots by making 4-5 slashes with a knife carefully, mix 2-4 inches of compost and cover the hole with the soil.
Make sure you place the plants 8-10 feet away from each other. Water the plant thoroughly at first. After that, only water when the soil feels dry to touch.

How to Care?

Fountain butterfly bush is hardy and needs very little care. When the plant is new, water it regularly enough and sparingly otherwise. If you want to fertilize the plant, use a low nitrogen fertilizer with high phosphate, but don't fertilize the plant too much.
Seed propagation is done by allowing the seed heads to dry on plants, removed and collected. Seeds should be kept in airtight container in a dry dark place. For new shoots and flower buds, remove spent flower spikes.
It can be propagated by five methods: semi-hardwood cuttings, woody stem cuttings, grafting, simple layering, and seeds. One can pick them from vendors, who have them the whole year. Seed propagation is done by allowing seed heads to dry on the plants, and then removed and collected. Seeds should be kept in airtight container in a dry dark place.
For growth of new shoots, flower buds, remove spent flower spikes. In winters, spread mulch six inches deep for nourishment. Prune in late summer or early fall once blooming season is over. It should not be pruned radically. Cut 1/3rd of the branch for new growth and dead stems to the ground.
As the name suggests, it attracts many butterflies as well as bees, moths, and hummingbirds. Watch out for common ailments like root rot or infestations of caterpillar and beetles. Remove the infected and damaged parts of the plant.

Training the Bush

The fountain butterfly bush is different from its cousins as they have long, slender stems and branches. Most gardeners use this to their advantage, and train them into beautiful climbers or small trees with single stems. Start with a young plant, select the most sturdy or the tallest stem, and prune the branches growing from close to the roots.
Insert a strong, treated wooden or metal support next to the bush, and use strings to tie and hold the long stem to the support. Allow the bush to grow the whole year, and gain 6-7 feet height. One may have to add extra support in a circular shape to hold the plant's weight well at the top. Since it is a fast-growing plant, it might need regular trimming.
Fountain butterfly is officially classified as a class "B" noxious weed, by Oregon's Department of Agriculture, in 2004. It is an aggressive shrub, and takes over vegetation around it. Still, if trained to grow in a garden, it won't intrude on other plants, and either way, for a gardener, this beautiful cluster of purple flowers can never be an intrusion!