How to Propagate Butterfly Plants

Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with your butterfly bush. image by Cornish.pixie07/, Sidelong/


Butterfly bush, also know as Buddleja Davidii, is a popular, hardy plant. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are drawn to its delicate blue, purple or white flowers. Thanks to it's beauty and entertaining visitors, gardeners enjoy having many butterfly bushes in their gardens. Propagating (growing new plants from the original) is best during the late fall, early winter, according to Fern Marshall Bradley and Trevor Cole, editors of Reader's Digest The All New Illustrated Guide to Gardening. This plant will repay your efforts by doubling in size as long as its located in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Vegetative Propagating

Step 1

Choose a vigorous stem or offshoot close to the base of the plant. Don't pick a soft tip because it will hinder the chances of its growth.

Step 2

Slice below the bud making each stem 9 to 12 inches long. Make a clean cut. You can remove a sliver of wood near the base of the shoot (the part that goes into the soil) to help your plant grow faster.

Step 3

Plant the vertical shoots in a trench, covering half of them within the soil. After a year, transplant them to a permanent place in your garden. If you're short on space, use a tub or container for your shoots until they can be transplanted.

Sowing Seeds Propagating

Step 1

Pick seed pods, which are brown and cocoon-shaped, off your butterfly bush and crush them in a plastic bag so the seeds come out. The seeds are tiny, about one-eighth the size of a sunflower seed.

Step 2

Bury your seeds 1/8 inch deep in a row. If temperatures are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit then the seeds will not germinate or will grow too slowly. Use a soil thermometer to see if it's warm enough to plant.

Step 3

Apply leaf mold mulch to enrich your soil, as Pauline Pears, editor of Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, recommends.

Tips and Warnings

  • Beware of "crusting" when soil has poor structure and forms a hard crust similar to little "rocks" of dirt. Add potting soil or leaf mold to help. Pears recommends adding mulch over the winter to improve your flower beds.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gardening gloves


  • Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening; Pauline Pears, Editor; 2002
  • Reader's Digest The All New Illustrated Guide to Gardening;Fern Marshall Bradley and Trevor Cole; 2009
Keywords: propagating butterfly bush, growing butterfly plant, hardwood shoots with butterfly tree

About this Author

Michelle Bermas has been a freelance writer since 1994. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the "Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," "2008 Writer's Market," "The Social Cause Diet" anthology, "South Shore Living Magazine," "Hudson Valley Life," "The Boston Globe," "The Patriot Ledger Newspaper" and more. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pace University, New York.

Photo by: Cornish.pixie07/, Sidelong/