Not Your Mama's Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush has been a Grumpy favorite for many years, because it blooms for months, offers many different colors, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and sings "My Way" when I've had four or more beers. Lately, though, plant breeders have been making a good plant even better in three important respects.

First, butterfly bushes are getting smaller. Older types could grow up to 12 feet tall. This is fine if you live at Versailles, but it's hard to fit into most residential gardens unless you keep hacking it back into an ugly meatball. However, more recent introductions cut that size way down. 'Pink Delight', shown above, is an outstanding clear pink selection that grows 6 to 8 feet tall. Remove spent blooms to keep new ones coming.

Want something a little smaller? Try this eye-popper.

Meet 'Miss Molly' from Proven Winners. This compact beauty grows 4 to 5 feet tall with vibrant, sangria-red flowers.

And if that's still too big, try this one.

Also from Proven Winners, 'Purple Haze' grows only 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. This means butterfly bush doesn't have to be a back-of-the-border plant any more. You can mix it with annuals, perennials, and other small shrubs just fine. Or you can plant it in a container.

'Purple Haze' is one of the low-growing Lo & Behold Series that includes pink, blue, and lilac versions. They don't set seed, so they never stop blooming and don't need deadheading, a trait shared by 'Miss Molly.' No deadheading is the second big improvement.

The third big improvement relates to the second. The old butterfly bushes produced lots of seed and their seedlings became invasive in many areas. I remember traveling by train in England and seeing hundreds of butterfly bushes growing in the gravel by the side of the tracks. Well, many of these new butterfly bushes I'm telling you about are sterile. Sterile flowers mean no seedlings.

That's the case with Ball Horticulture's Flutterby butterfly bushes. The Flutterby Grande Series grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. Below is Flutterby Grande 'Peach Cobbler.' I'm a sucker for peach and apricot-colored flowers.

Plants in the Flutterby Petite Series grow 24-30 inches tall and wide. Below is Flutterby Petite 'Tutti Frutti Pink.'

How To Grow Plant butterfly bush in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Moisture is appreciated, but it tolerates drought. Flowering occurs on new growth, so except for the low-growing types, prune back by two-thirds in late winter. As mentioned before, older types need spent flowers removed to stay blooming. The new seedless types don't. Don't worry about deer. Deer don't eat them.

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