How to Grow Butterfly Bush Tree - Plant Care & Tips

By NorwichGardener Team   /   2024

Butterfly bush tree is a beautiful addition to any garden. They are easy to care for and maintain. Butterfly bush tree grows best in full sun and can tolerate some shade. They are drought tolerant and do not require much water once established.

How to Grow Butterfly Bush Tree - Plant Care & Tips

Alternative name

  • Summer lilac
  • Butterfly bush
  • Buddleja
  • Tree lilac
  • Japanese lilac

Common Knowledge

  • The Butterfly Bush Tree is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 15 feet tall.
  • It has long, arching branches with elliptical to lance-shaped leaves.
  • The flowers are borne in clusters and are usually pink, purple, or white in color.
  • The Butterfly Bush Tree is native to China and Japan.
  • It was introduced to North America in the early 1900s.
  • The Butterfly Bush Tree is often used as an ornamental plant.
  • It is a host plant for several species of butterflies, including the monarch butterfly.
  • The Butterfly Bush Tree is considered invasive in some parts of North America.
  • It can be difficult to control its spread due to its prolific seed production.
  • It is important to consult with a local expert before planting a Butterfly Bush Tree to ensure it is the right species for your area.

Related plant:
Kaleidoscope Butterfly Bush

Planting Process

  1. For butterfly bush tree, first step is to find a location where the tree will get at least six hours of sunlight each day. The ideal spot is in full sun.
  2. Once you have found the perfect location, dig a hole that is twice the width and depth of the tree’s root ball.
  3. Loosen the roots of the tree’s root ball. This will help the roots to spread out and grow more quickly.
  4. Place the tree in the hole and fill in the hole with soil, packing it firmly around the tree.
  5. Water the tree deeply, saturating the root ball.
  6. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the tree, keeping it several inches away from the trunk.
  7. Water the tree regularly, especially during the first year after planting.
  8. Fertilize the butterfly bush tree in early spring and again in mid-summer.
  9. Prune the tree in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.
  10. Enjoy the beauty of your butterfly bush tree as it blooms each summer!

Related plant:
Trimming Butterfly Bush

Considering the Soil

About soil condition, the butterfly bush tree prefers well-drained soil, but it can tolerate some standing water. It also grows best in full sun, but it can tolerate partial shade. The soil should be moist but not soggy, and it should be amended with organic matter before planting.

Light requirement

Just like other butterfly bush trees, sun light requirement is very important for this tree. It should be planted in an area that receives full sun. If it does not get enough sun, it will not bloom as much.

The Temperature

The temperature condition is really important for the butterfly bush tree. If the temperature is too hot, the leaves will start to droop and the flowers will start to wilt. If the temperature is too cold, the leaves will turn brown and fall off.

Humidity Requirement

Ideal humidity condition for this plant is around 50%. They don't like conditions to be too wet or too dry. If the humidity is too high, it can cause the leaves to drop and the plant to go into shock. If the humidity is too low, the plant will become stressed and may not flower.


Regarding fertilizer, usually the plant doesn't need much. Once a month with a standard plant food should be sufficient. If you want to encourage more flowers, use a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus content. When it comes to the roots, butterfly bush is not particularly fussy. It will do well in both sandy and clay soil as long as it is well-drained. If you have particularly heavy soil, you can improve drainage by mixing in some sand.

About light

Pruning a butterfly bush tree is important to encourage new growth and maintain the health of the plant. It is best to prune in the early spring, before new growth begins. Start by removing any dead or diseased branches. Then, thin out the canopy to allow more light and air to reach the interior of the plant. Finally, cut back any leggy or overgrown branches.

The Propagation

Propagation is typically done through softwood cuttings taken from new growth in late spring or early summer. The cuttings should be 4-6 inches long and taken from the tips of the stems. Cut just below a leaf node and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant in a well-draining rooting media. Keep the media moist but not wet and in a warm location out of direct sunlight. New roots should form in 4-8 weeks at which time the plants can be transplanted to individual pots.

Plant Growth

Usually, the plant growth rate is about 10 to 12 inches per year. Some may grow more slowly while others may grow more quickly, but this is the average. To ensure that your tree grows at its fastest rate, plant it in an area with full sun and well-drained soil. Fertilize it annually with a balanced fertilizer and water it regularly.

Basic Problems

Common problems for this kind of plant are the same as for any other type of plant. They include pests, diseases, and environmental stressors. pests can include aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, and other insects that feeding on the leaves and flowers. diseases can include powdery mildew, root rot, and leaf spot. environmental stressors can include drought, poor drainage, and too much sun or shade. Proper care and attention to these common problems can help keep your butterfly bush tree healthy and beautiful.

Basics of Growing

  • Make sure to plant your butterfly bush tree in well-drained soil.
  • Water your butterfly bush tree regularly, especially during the hot summer months.
  • Fertilize your butterfly bush tree every few weeks during the growing season.
  • Prune your butterfly bush tree regularly to encourage new growth.
  • Place a trellis or other support structure near your butterfly bush tree to help it grow tall and upright.
  • Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and treat them promptly if found.
  • Deadhead spent flowers regularly to encourage more blooms.
  • Cut back your butterfly bush tree hard in late winter or early spring to help promote new growth.
  • Be patient – it can take a few years for a butterfly bush tree to reach its full potential.
  • Enjoy the beauty of your butterfly bush tree for many years to come!

Similar Plants

  • Buddleia albiflora
  • Buddleia crispa
  • Buddleia davidii
  • Buddleia dixonii
  • Buddleia fallowiana
  • Buddleia falklandica
  • Buddleia farreri
  • Buddleia fruticosa
  • Buddleia globosa
  • Buddleia lindleyana

Butterfly Bush | Horticulture, Landscape, and Environmental …
Butterfly Bush | Mississippi State University Extension Service
ENH285/ST126: Cassia bicapsularis: Butterfly Bush - University of Florida

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Reviewed & Published by Richelle
Submitted by our contributor
Shrubs Category