When I was a (more) novice gar­dener, I made the mistake…

…of think­ing that the tiny but­ter­fly bush I dragged home from my local gar­den cen­ter couldn’t pos­si­bly grow to be 12 feet high as the tag described. I though that per­haps other people’s but­ter­fly bushes might get that big, but mine surely wouldn’t. The hard­pan Mary­land clay, my rel­a­tive inex­pe­ri­ence or a host of poten­tial per­ils would surely pre­vent 12 feet of unfet­tered growth.

Five years have proven me quite wrong.



I have spent three years star­ing at amaze­ment as the bush that I reli­giously hack to about three feet of sticks in the fall burst back to life and grow to nearly 12 feet by June. The but­ter­fly bush has been threat­en­ing to over­take the two Nikko Blue Hydrangeas planted on either side.

In fact, the but­ter­fly bush has grown so unwieldy that I planned on hav­ing Wal­ter, my some­times handy­man, dig up the beast and move it to a more suit­able loca­tion. Unfor­tu­nately, Wal­ter was a lit­tle late in arriv­ing this year and the bush was already in full leaf–not a good time for a major move.

We’ll be liv­ing with the mon­ster but­ter­fly bush again this year. The beauty of it, though, is that with all the blooms, the bush attracts dozens of but­ter­flies at any time. The don’t call it a but­ter­fly bush with­out a good rea­son. I can look out my kitchen win­dow and see but­ter­flies any time of the day.




It’s hard to beat that. And I’ll cer­tainly miss that nature show when the but­ter­fly bush is finally moved to roomier quarters.

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There are 20 comments
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20 Responses to “Never Underestimate a Butterfly Bush”

  1. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Says:

    Ah, you must have thought you lived in the Mid­west, where But­ter­fly Bush is a die back shrub that never gets that big. Neat for see­ing butterflies.

    Really? This one dies back in the win­ter, but that doesn’t slow the sum­mer growth. I know that they are also con­sid­ered inva­sive in some places. Not in Mary­land. I have never see any evi­dence of it spreading.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  2. Brenda Kula Says:

    Oh my good­ness! I just planted one about two feet tall a few months ago. In the midst of other bushes! And it will get that big? I didn’t believe the tag!

    If the tag said 12 feet, believe it!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  3. Robin Says:

    Maybe I need to move mine too. I live in the Mid­west, but I don’t want to take any chances that mine can get that large. It’s bloom­ing now, but I’ve yet to see a but­ter­fly on it. Hope­fully soon.

    If you still have the tag it’s worth check­ing to see what the size pro­jec­tion is. I think that dif­fer­ent vari­eties grow to dif­fer­ent sizes.

    It is odd about the but­ter­flies though. I really didn’t believe they would attract so many, but it does.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  4. Stacy Says:

    We live in Florida…and I bought FOUR???? Ack.

    I’m really laugh­ing here. i won­der if you have the 12 foot mon­ster variety.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  5. Benjamin Says:

    Hey, MINE won’t get that big. I have NEBRASKA clay, much thicker and harder. Oh, yesssssirrrrreeeee.

    Well, maybe you have a dif­fer­ent kind of but­ter­fly bush too. I wish I had kept the tag so I could tell every­one exactly what kind this is.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  6. deb Says:

    I put one in a four by four foot spot between two rose bushes. Total disaster.

    Hoh, I can see how that can hap­pen. You didn’t say what you did. Tear it out?

    Robin at Bumblebee

  7. cloverann Says:

    Robin — replace it with the new Pea­cock (or Pea­keep) series (only get 4′-5′ they say). But­ter­flies still love it.
    I planted one spring 07 — it’s lovely, branch­ing and well behaved here in hot Nor Calif.
    so far.

    I’ll look into the Pea­cock series. There are many other places I could put but­ter­fly bushes. And I do love them because they are like but­ter­fly magnets.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  8. Diana Kirby - Austin Says:

    Seri­ously — TWELVE FEET? I have three of them. Not in places for 12 ft trees! Mine are a year or two old. Hmm­mmm. I love them though — I have one laven­der and two stun­ningly beau­ti­ful magenta-ish col­ors that take your breath away. I love that one between your hydrangeas — which, by the way, are also beautiful.

    I’m think­ing that not ALL but­ter­fly bushes will get to be 12 feet. Mine is though.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  9. meems Says:

    If they really do grow to 12 feet I’m in trou­ble. Look­ing at the close up shot of the flow­ers mine look to be a dif­fer­ent vari­ety … let’s hope so.

    The hydrangea are absolutely stun­ning… I’m very jeal­ous of those blue beau­ties.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

    The hydrangeas were planted the same time as the but­ter­fly bush. They are Nikko Blue. i have so many flow­ers that we cut and bring them indoors.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  10. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    I made the same mis­take. I had two of them in cramped quar­ters. I even­tu­ally moved them, and they died within a year. They have these run­ner roots, and they were chok­ing out the other plants.~~Dee

  11. Gail Says:

    That is one big But­ter­fly Bush! It does a great job of block­ing your view, too! Where will it be relo­cated? Meems is right, those are good look­ing Nikko Blue Hydrangeas!


  12. sky Says:

    when i lived in atlanta i had a pur­ple mid­night vari­ety which i cut back to 2 feet each year and which grew each spring/summer to about 6 feet, but mine was never as bushy as yours. but­ter­flies loved it, and so did i. now here in puget sound i want to buy 3 or 4 which can grow about 12′ high behind the rock gar­den at the back of our prop­erty. in sum­mer they will be a glo­ri­ous back­drop, pur­ple and laven­der cones feed­ing but­ter­flies. i can hardly wait! i will be sure to check tags since i didn’t real­ize until read­ing here that they grew dif­fer­ent heights. :)

  13. jodi Says:

    Sigh. I can only DREAM about bud­dleia doing this–I buy them as lit­tle plants in 4 inch pots usu­ally each year, and they grow fairly well and flower…then die over win­ter. In some parts of North Amer­ica, they’re self­seed­ing and becom­ing a nui­sance but that will never be on this end of the con­ti­nent!
    I love the yel­low one the best, and it seems to be extra-spleeny and slow to flower here. But I keep hoping.…

  14. eliz Says:

    OH MY GOD!!! This will never hap­pen to me–as oth­ers have com­mented, you live in a pos­si­ble zone for this. But I am always encour­aged by the way my two but­ter­fly bushes res­ur­rect them­selves every summer.

  15. I have a crazy plant. : taofoo.com Says:

    […] big sis­ter has a crazy plant that she didn’t think would pos­si­bly grow as big as was adver­tised. I have one of those. I […]

  16. RuthieJ Says:

    That but­ter­fly bush (with accom­pa­ny­ing tiger swal­low­tail) is some­thing this Zone 4 gar­dener can only dream about!

  17. Kim Says:

    I have the same Hydrangea as you have beside your but­ter­fly bush. It is prob­a­bly 30 years old, and not in great shape; they’re in full sun, (I live on the south west coast of Canada), and every year the flow­ers bloom that beau­ti­ful cerulean blue and promptly turn brown. How do you care for yours?

    Kim in Van­cou­ver, BC

  18. joann rodriguez Says:

    please let me nkow if i can save mt but­ter­fly bush it looks dead after three years of boom­ing and I never touched it or any­thing why would it die? thank you joann

  19. Peggy Says:

    My white but­ter­fly bush is about 20 feet high and 20 feet round and I love it! Its always full of bees and but­ter­flys and hum­ming­birds. Robins build their nests in it every spring. I NEVER prune mine back ever. Its right off my porch and I sit and drink my tea and watch the show from my porch. The trunks or branches are 5 inches in diam­e­ter. It hangs close to the ground and my daugh­ter wants to build a fort under its branches. I would let her except for the ticks. I live in Har­ris­burg, PA where we some­times get some pretty bad ice storms and I thought for sure a cou­ple of times I would lose my beloved bush but it bounces back every singlr time.

  20. Diana Says:

    I have a but­ter­fly bush, its turn­ing brown and the leaves are start­ing to fall off. The bush is in its sec­ond sum­mer and did well over the win­ter and spring. I planted it in my but­ter­fly gar­den and with the record high temps (Mary­land) I water it every­day. What should I do? Pull it out and get a new one or just ride it out and see what hap­pens next spring? What else should I do? HELP!

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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