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Why You Shouldn't Plant Butterfly Bush

Choose Native Shrubs for Your Butterfly Garden


Though butterfly bush does attract butterflies, it's not a good choice for a butterfly garden.

Though butterfly bush does attract butterflies, it's not a good choice for a butterfly garden.

Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

Gardeners who want to attract butterflies to their gardens often plant butterfly bush (genus Buddleia), a fast growing shrub that blooms prolifically. While butterfly bush is easy to grow, inexpensive to buy, and a good attractant for butterflies, it's one of the worst choices for a butterfly garden.

Buddleia is native to Asia. In North America, butterfly bush is a highly invasive, exotic plant that crowds out native plants, including native butterfly plants. A number of states now ban the planting of butterfly bush on public lands. Some states even prohibit the sale or commercial cultivation of Buddleia.

While butterfly bush provides nectar for butterflies, it offers no value for butterfly or moth larvae. In fact, not a single native North American caterpillar will feed on its leaves.

Butterfly bush spreads easily because it produces thousands of seeds during the course of a growing season. If you insist on growing butterfly bush in your garden, do the right thing: deadhead Buddleia flowers as soon as the blooms are spent, all season long.

Better yet, choose one of these native shrubs instead of butterfly bush. In addition to providing nectar, some of these native shrubs are also larval food plants.

Shrubs to Plant Instead of Butterfly Bush

Abelia x grandiflora, glossy abelia
Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey tea
Cephalanthus occidentalis, buttonbush
Clethra alnifolia, sweet pepperbush
Cornus spp., dogwood
Kalmia latifolia, mountain laurel
Lindera benzoin, spicebush
Salix discolor, pussy willow
Spiraea alba, narrowleaf meadowsweet
Spiraea latifolia, broadleaf meadowsweet
Viburnum sargentii, Sargent's cranberry bush

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