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How to Grow a Butterfly Bush From Seed

butterfly image by palms from

Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is a perennial garden plant well known for its brightly colored blooms, rich fragrance and beneficial bug-attracting properties. This bush is native to China and was first introduced to Europe in the 1700s. Since then this small shrub has flourished across the globe where it is used to attract butterflies as well as add a splash of color across the landscape. Starting butterfly bush plants from seed requires a more time than typical bedding plants but will produce viable plants that once established should grow for many years.

Ready, Set, Sow

  • Germinate butterfly bush seeds by chilling the seeds for approximately four weeks prior to planting.

Germinate butterfly bush seeds by chilling the seeds for approximately four weeks prior to planting. This helps the seeds germinate by mimicking the seeds' natural dormancy period. To do this, place an envelope of seeds in a freezer bag. Press the bag to remove all extra air and place it in the freezer for four weeks.

Fill peat pots with potting soil. Peat pots are effective for starting seeds because they break down naturally in the soil and can be planted in the garden when seedlings are ready for transplant.

Place three seeds in each pot. Use your finger and push the seeds into the dirt.

Water each peat pot. It is important that the dirt remain moist without any standing water.

Germinate in a sunny window for 20 to 30 days. Butterfly bush seeds need full sun and 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures to germinate.

Transplant the seedlings when at least two sets of true leaves sprout. Plant in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.

Butterfly Bush & A Butterfly Weed

A mature butterfly bush typically reaches 6 to 10 feet tall with an equal spread. Butterfly weed, on the other hand, is a perennial flower reaching only 1 to 3 feet tall. Where color is concerned, the many cultivars of butterfly bush have butterfly weed beat. White, different shades of pink, purple and blue are all commonly seen in nurseries and garden centers. Fertile, well-drained soil is an essential requirement of the butterfly weed, although butterfly bush will tolerate nearly every soil condition except for wet, particularly once it's established. Butterfly weed is tricky to transplant, but readily self-seeds -- a decent patch of this colorful, native perennial is possible after a few years from just one plant. Throughout summer, butterflies, moths and other pollinators will swarm butterfly bushes in grand displays of fluttering color. As a native species, the butterfly weed is an important host plant to native wildlife.


Since butterfly bush plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil, do not transplant the seedlings if there is still a threat of frost or cold weather.

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