Hardiness zone range
Magnificent, easy to grow, deciduous shrubs that are of great value when it comes to creating color and attracting butterflies into the garden. They grow into rounded bushes that flower for an incredibly long period from mid summer all the way through to autumn. The individual flowers are small but they are packed into huge clusters called panicles or arching sprays (Buddleia alternifolia) and together make an impressive display of massed color. They are all sweetly scented and are available in a wide range of colors from white through pink and red, to mauve and dark purple.
Culture & Care
They are resilient, easy to care for plants that are seldom attacked by any pests or diseases. They thrive in most soils, so long as they are well drained. They cope well with adverse conditions, tolerating soils that have a high pH and even putting up with sites that are dry and poor (as a visit to derelict urban areas, railway embankments, or old quarries will bear out). While they are remarkably tenacious, they grow and perform best in good conditions; improving the site at planting time and then following up with good cultural practices is well worth the effort. Incorporating extra organic matter (peat, planting compost, etc.) into the surrounding soil and mulching after planting will help retain valuable moisture during dry weather and supplement the fertility. They do not need a lot of fertilizer, but a dressing with a well-balanced fertilizer worked into the surrounding soil in early spring will pay handsome dividends.
The familiar Buddleia davidii types flower best on the growth made during the current year, so they should be pruned hard (cut back to 6-10 inches of ground level) in the early spring of each year, this stimulates strong vigorous growth and eventually larger, more showy flowers. In colder areas, this often happens naturally; the branches die back to the crown rendering them more herbaceous than woody. In this case, it is best to wait until the new basal growth begins to sprout in spring, removing the dead wood and trimming back those remaining, as described above. Buddleia alternifolia on the other hand, flowers on the wood made the previous season so they should be pruned using the renewal technique. This means only taking out a proportion of the older shoots when they have finished flowering to encourage younger, vigorous, renewal shoots; these will then grow out set with flower buds and flower the following season.
These rapid growers are ideal for placing in new gardens among other slower to mature species. They establish quickly and give an almost instant display without becoming invasive or overpowering. Buddleias should be given plenty of room to develop and be displayed to best advantage. For this reason, it is worth thinking of placing them in the midst of low ground cover or low growing perennials. They make great screening plants, so they can be used around patios, decks, swimming pools, or even strategically placed to screen windows and doorways. They last quite well as cut flowers and a few blooms placed in a vase will brighten and freshen a room with an enticing fragrance. They have an endearing quality that fits in perfectly in cottage or old fashioned style gardens. They are great plants for massing in shrub plantings, or adding height, color, fragrance, and activity to perennial and mixed borders. The activity comes from hordes of butterflies that flock continually to feed on the nectar rich flowers. There can be few experiences more idyllic and relaxing than to be in a garden on a warm summer's evening, surrounded by the color and wafting aroma of Buddleias and watching the industrious and gentle activity of butterflies flitting from flower to flower. They appear to be less palatable to deer and rabbits.
Buddleias are native to South America, South Africa and Eastern Asia. The botanical name commemorates the Rev. Adam Buddle (1660-1715), an amateur Botanist who compiled a comprehensive study and collection of British plants. Despite its botanical accuracy, his work was never published and he largely went without recognition until Dr. Houston, a plant explorer and ship's surgeon, dedicated a new shrub that he discovered in South America in his honor. Linnaeus adopted the name and when Dr. Augustine Henry (sometimes referred to as "the scholarly Irishman") found Buddleia davidii near Ichang in China around 1887, this name was established. The species name commemorates the French missionary Armand David who discovered it in 1869 while undertaking a nine month long exploration that led him to an area with "an incredibly rich flora". Here he discovered not only this buddleia but also the giant pandas, a rare type of deer, and the celebrated Handkerchief tree Davidia (which also commemorates his name). Ernest Wilson collected some superior forms at the turn of the last century; it is from these collections that most of the cultivars in cultivation are derived. Over the years we have grown a wide selection. The following list represents those that we have found perform best in our experience. Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight' : Rated by many (including the Arnold Arboretum) as the best Buddleia of all, it has long trusses of deep dark-purple flowers. The rich, regal color is intensified when viewed in bright sunlight. The Royal Horticultural Society gave an Award of Garden Merit it in 1969. We believe it to be one of the hardier cultivars of the B.davidii type. Buddleia davidii 'Dartmoor' : Huge, broad 12 inch long flower clusters (often branched at the base) make this medium lavender-purple colored variety with a delightfully fruity fragrance, one of the most striking cultivars. It was awarded The Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Merit and a First Class Certificate (which is one of the highest awards bestowed). Buddleia davidii 'Dubonnet' : A strong growing selection with large dark purple flowers, also very pleasantly scented. Buddleia davidii 'Ellen's Blue': This is a most impressive selection, with the truest blue flowers we have ever seen on a Buddleia. The flowers are large and produced in great quantity above silvery-gray foliage that blends beautifully with the color. Buddleia davidii 'Pink delight': This relative newcomer has pure pink flowers that are superior to some of the older purplish-pink cultivars. The habit is nice and compact and the foliage more silvery than most. Awarded a First Class Certificate in trials at Boskoop, Holland. Buddleia davidii 'Royal Red': One of the older tried and trusted cultivars with rich purplish-red flowers and plenty of fragrance. A vigorous grower (up to 12 feet or more), it makes a good subject for screening or placing towards the back of a border. Buddleia davidii 'Summer Beauty': Just as its name suggests, this is real beauty with silvery foliage, compact habit, and beautifully formed, large conical trusses of deep rose-colored flowers. Buddleia davidii 'White Ball': A breakthrough in Buddleia breeding, the shape of this incredible plant is compact and rounded (like a silvery ball), quite unlike any of the other Buddleias. It is an excellent choice for smaller gardens or for placing towards the front of borders. It produces an abundant supply of white flowers that are prominently displayed above the silver foliage. Buddleia davidii 'White Profusion': A superb selection with 8 inch long, conical shaped white flowers that are carried in great profusion above soft green foliage. It is very free flowering and responds well to deadheading. In fact, it is possible to keep it looking fresh and bushy all the way through the season by taking a few minutes to remove the spent flowers. See Splendor Suggestions for more details. Given an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1969. Buddleia 'Lochinch': This wonderful selection is presumed to be a hybrid between Buddleia fallowiana (a tender Chinese species with dense, white, woolly leaves and pale lavender-blue flowers) and Buddleia davidii. It is remarkable in that it combines the hardiness of the Buddleia davidii with the silvery-gray foliage and intensely fragrant lavender-blue flowers of Buddleia fallowiana. We consider it to be a first class plant; the habit is nice and compact, the flowers blend beautifully with the foliage, and the fragrance is devine. It occurred in the garden at Lochinch castle (the ancestral home of the earl of Stair) in the west of Scotland and was awarded an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society 1969. Buddleia 'Nanho Blue': A very nice compact selection with numerous fragrant blue flowers and narrow willow-like silvery leaves. This selection was raised in Holland, reported to be a hybrid with Buddleia davidii 'Royal Red' and a compact growing sub species Buddleia davidii var. nanhoensis. Reginald Farrer introduced B. davidii var.nanhoensis, in 1914 from Kansu, China; he is famous for his plant collecting and for popularizing rock gardening. He collected with William Purdom and later with Euan Cox. He died in 1920 while plant hunting in Burma. Buddleia nanhoensis 'Nanho Purple': Similar to B. 'Nanho Blue' but with purple flowers and the same compact habit. Buddleia alternifolia: A superb species with gracefully arching branches that are wreathed with fragrant, vivid lilac flowers in early summer. It was also collected in Kansu, China by Reginald Farrer and described by him as "a gracious, small-leaved, weeping willow when it is not in flower and a sheer waterfall of soft purple when it is". This species is quite different from the other Buddleias that are commonly cultivated; as the name suggests, the narrow silvery leaves are arranged alternately along the branches. Buddleia x weyeriana 'Honeycomb': This is a most unusual, yet very beautiful, Buddleia with large, vivid yellow flowers, delightful fragrance, and a long flowering period that lasts from summer all the way to the first frosts of autumn. It is, without doubt, a fine plant and worthy of a treasured spot in any garden. The quest for a hardy yellow Buddleia was pioneered in England by Mr. Van de Weyer. He crossed the flowers of Buddleia globosa (Chilean Orange Ball Buddleia) with pollen from Buddleia davidii var. magnifica and raised several seedlings in 1914. He was hoping to create a hardy Buddleia davidii type with the yellow coloring of B. globosa. The seedlings varied considerably, most were globe shaped and had varying colors intermediate between the parents. Two distinct forms were selected and put into commerce; they were named Buddleia 'Golden Glow' (soft orange -yellow with mauve shading) and a paler colored version 'Moonlight'. It appears he was not entirely satisfied with his seedlings (he was hoping for a larger panicle shape and clear yellow color) and it is recorded that he selected another unnamed seedling that he described as like 'Moonlight' but "fifty per cent better". As far as we know, this seedling was never put into commerce and these two were the main ones grown. In 1966, another cultivar of Dutch origin was introduced with stronger, clearer color. Named Buddleia 'Sungold', until quite recently it was the most favored yellow cultivar. Then to the surprise of, Michael Dirr (Professor of Horticulture at University of Georgia), a plant that was purchased from Crathes Castle Garden, Scotland that was supposed to be a lavender form of Buddleia davidii turned out to be yellow when it flowered! After a period of evaluation, this unknown form was considered to be superior to any of the known forms and Mark Griffith a nurseryman from Watkinsville, Georgia, suggested the name 'Honeycomb'. This perfectly descriptive name was adopted and the new plant was distributed. The exact origin of this fine plant remains a mystery. Is it one of Mr. Van de Weyer's seedlings? Is it the "fifty per cent" better seedling? Who knows? One thing is for certain. It is the best form that we offer and we are proud to list it as the best yellow Buddleia available today.
Most of the cultivars are capable of flowering from June or July all the way through to the cold weather of autumn or early winter. To keep the plants flowering well, it is worth doing some periodic dead heading. Removing the old flower heads as they begin to turn brown and set seed, trimming back to new shoots that have embryonic flower heads, does this. Later these will flower and in turn be trimmed to make way for a succession of new flowering shoots. By spending a few minutes every couple of weeks, it is possible to keep them looking fresh and colorful for a remarkably long time.
They can be used with ease and confidence to blend with almost everything else in the garden. Many perennials are well suited to the same soil conditions, so there are plenty to choose from. Iris germanica (Bearded Iris), the tall slender spikes of Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers), the spherical heads of Echinops (Globe Thistle), the silvery foliage of Lavendulas (Lavender) are very effective partners. The fluffy white and soft pink mounds of Gypsophila (Baby's Breath), the cute little flowers of Dianthus (Pinks), the almost perpetual flowering Scabiosa and Salvias all make great companions. Other summer flowering shrubs like Potentillas, Hibiscus and even Hydrangeas work well, adding color to the summer display. The darker colored forms, i.e. Buddleia 'Black Knight', 'Dubonnet', 'Nanhoensis Purple' or 'Royal Red', are particularly effective when viewed against a silvery or light colored backgrounds: examples are Cornus 'Argenteo-marginata' or 'Ivory Halo' (Variegated Cornus), Vitex (Chaste Tree), Caryopteris (Blue Spiraea) and the silvery blue foliage of Juniperus 'Skyrocket' and 'Wichita Blue'. Other evergreens, like Ilex (hollies), Buxus (boxwood) and of course different types of ornamental conifers, make good partners, providing shape and attractive foliage during the autumn, winter and early spring when the Buddleias are dormant. Use them with perennial plantings, too. The green summer foliage and rounded habit makes a good background in perennial and annual borders. Most flower well into the autumn so late flowering Japanese Anemones, Nipponicanthemums (Montauk Daisy), Asters and of course the big fluffy flower heads of grasses like Miscanthus, Panicums or rustling heads of Chasmanthiums will complement them well at this time.