Editor: Rick Bogren (email@example.com)
By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – Buddleias, known by most home gardeners as butterfly bush, are becoming an increasingly popular plant in the home landscape.
Highly regarded by butterflies as a nectar plant, these perennials are becoming available in an increasing array of sizes, flower colors and foliage characteristics. They have fragrant blossoms and can be used as cut flowers. Although buddleias are winter-hardy in Louisiana, they can also be used for annual color in the landscape.
The recent resurgence in buddleias at retail garden centers can be partially attributed to new varieties released over the past 10 years.
Buddleia flowers have traditionally been in shades of white, pink, purples and similar colors. A few light yellows have been available. New varieties bring new flower colors to the available palette.
Other buddleia breeding and selection objectives now include larger flowers, improved growth habit, dwarf forms, “self-cleaning” characteristics, bicolored flowers, double flowers, spider mite resistance and improved foliage variegation.
Some “new” butterfly bushes have been available from Proven Winners for a couple of years now and are beginning to see considerable industry acceptance. Blue Chip is a well-known variety. It is in the Lo and Behold group that also includes Purple Haze and others. They feature bluish-purple flowers with a tightly mounding habit on 24- to 30-inch-tall plants with dark green foliage. Blue Chip does best, of course, in full sun and well-drained soil. Ice Chip and Lilac Chip are new colors in this group.
These plants are excellent, intense bloomers with compact growth. They are reliably perennial with foliage retention through winter in south Louisiana. You can also try Miss Molly (sangria-red flowers with 4-foot height and spread) and Miss Ruby (rich pink flowers with 4-foot height and spread).
The Flutterby series from Ball Horticulture includes several growth habits – regular, flow, petite and grande. Uniqueness includes the Petite Blue Heaven, Petite Tutti Fruitti (also known as Petite Tutti Fruitti Pink), Grande Blueberry Cobbler and Grande Peach Cobbler.
The Buzz series buddleia from Thompson and Morgan has proven popularity in Louisiana. Plants grow 3 feet tall – and possibly up to 4 feet – with large, 6-inch flowers. Varieties are Ivory, Purple, Magenta Improved, Lavender, Blue Sky and Velvet. These were derived from attempts to develop a seed-propagated buddleia series.
When you’re ready to plant a buddleia, select a well-drained soil located in full or partial sun. Most people plant butterfly bushes too close together, so consider the plants’ mature size when spacing between them. Most varieties need at least 4 feet between plants, and the larger-growing varieties need more room. These plants are very drought-tolerant once established. Soil pH should be in the 6.5-7.0 range. Fertilize at planting with a slow-release fertilizer. Tip-pruning terminal shoots during the season encourages more continual bloom.
Many gardeners do not think about adding plants like buddleia to the landscape in late summer and early fall, but garden centers have many plants available now. These plants will be terrific fall performers with abundant blooms until the first killing frost. Plants will then begin regrowth next spring and provide great spring performance.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond. Also, like us on Facebook by going to www.facebook.com and typing Hammond Research Station in the search box. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.