|Though pretty this shrub is INVASIVE AND SHOULD BE REPLACED!!|
I'm surprised that I have not yet climbed up onto my soapbox, but I have heard and seen so many mentions of this plant over the last week the time has come. Contrary to popular belief, Butterfly Bush (or Buddleia davidii) IS NOT A GOOD PLANT FOR BUTTERFLIES. It is highly invasive though I have heard so many of my friends say, "as long as I keep it under control it does not spread." I assure you it spreads as one showed up in my garden last spring, and there is not a single butterfly bush on my property!
Check the nearest open area that is not mowed, and you will find a butterfly bush growing happily and continuing to spread. I will concede that the flowers are pretty, and that it seemingly attracts butterflies and moths. However, this plant does not support the larval stage of ONE of the sixty plus Lepidoptera species that are native to PA. To these insects, this is just a pretty smelling plant that gives them little to no nutritional or life value!!! Please do not perpetuate this myth by planting this plant on your property. If you have been talked into planting it on your property, I recommend replacing it with another plant.
If you are really offended by this plant, or at least you have become offended after you have read this blog, please help me on my crusade to stop magazines, and nurseries from selling this plant. Once a year, I submit my woes of Butterfly Bush to Birds and Blooms and repeatedly ask them to stop touting the plant. As a general rule of thumb, the Birds and Blooms magazine has many great articles with the exception of the invasive plants that they continue to tout. Stop in your local nursery and ask them to stop selling the plant. If you as a buyer stop buying the plant, the market for the plant will disappear. If you are a homeowner who uses a landscaper, make sure to tell him that you do NOT want butterfly bush on your property.
Some awesome alternatives that will support the larval stage of different butterflies include:
Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed (or as I call it THE MONARCH FLOWER) This beautiful orange flower will grow in full sun and reaches about 1 foot in height. It is a member of the Asclepias family, which is the only family of plants that will support the larval stage of the monarch butterfly. Depending on your area all of the Asclepias are wonderful plants!
Asimina triloba Paw-Paw. This great fruiting tree has a neat brown flower and produces some of the most amazing fruits once it is approximately seven years old. It is also one of the two native species that supports the larval stage of the zebra swallowtail.
Some great nectar plants:
Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet clethera or sweet pepperbush) This is a great alternative for butterfly bush. It is a shrub with white flowers that can be grown anywhere from sun to shade but prefers moist soils.
Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood) or Cornus amonum (Silky dogwood) are both plants that can be grown in sun to shade and dry to wet soils. They are also great alternatives to butterfly bush.
There are many great native alternatives to butterfly bush, and there are many great upcoming native plant sales in our area.
Check your local papers for a full listing, but a few in our area: London Grove Meeting Plant Sale (May 12--not all native, but typically has a great selection); Brandywine Conservancy Native Plant Sale (May 12 and May 13), Bowman's Hill Native Plant Sale (May 6th and May 7th) and Delaware Nature Society Native Plant Sale (April 28 and April 29).