Darrell Blackwelder: Butterfly bush — good or bad??

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

Butterfly bushes are now in full bloom and literally covered with butterflies. I’ve counted as many as 10 butterflies covering one of our bushes. Usually early in the morning or late afternoon observation is the best for butterflies. However, there seems to be somewhat of a dark side to this profuse butterfly magnet.

Many environmentalists believe that butterfly bushes are not a good choice for landscapes. Butterfly bushes have profuse and scented blooms that often overly attract many butterflies and other pollenating insects. The biggest problem seems to be the overabundance of seedlings that sprout everywhere becoming a noxious weed as a mature butterfly bush can produce over 100,000 seeds. These seeds are often carried by the wind to natural outlying areas and industrial sites.

These have become such a problem that butterfly bushes are considered an invasive weed in 25 states, including the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions and are banned from nursery sales. Fortunately, North Carolina has not issued this ban. Too help avoid this potential problem, keep spent blooms deadheaded often to prevent excessive spread of seed. Fortunately, there are new butterfly bush varieties that are recommended and considered non-invasive. “Miss Ruby” is a popular cultivar that was developed at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. Go to   https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/buddleja-miss-ruby/ for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.