Bee-friendly butterfly bushes are now more varied than ever
The butterfly bush, or buddleja, straddles the divide between hero and villain. On the virtuous side it's one of the most pollinator-friendly plants we can place in our gardens, attracting bees and butterflies galore when in full flower, and providing us with a heavenly honey-scented, visual feast. On the downside, B. davidii is so adaptable that it'll grow virtually anywhere, whether it's wanted or not! The tiny, windborne seeds lodge in soil, moist cracks in brickwork or guttering on buildings and cracks in paving with the tenacity of a superhuman comic book hero. Thankfully, breeders have now started to produce sterile-flowered varieties, particularly in the compact Buzz series, but also in other hybrids such as B. alternifolia 'Unique' and B. 'Morning Mist'. There are 140 species of buddleja, mostly deciduous to evergreen shrubs from Asia, Africa and the Americas. The vast majority, including B. davidiifrom central China, were discovered and introduced from the late 19th century. Some are tender and need the shelter or a warm wall or conservatory treatment, others will flower during the winter months. Buddlejas are generally easy to cultivate, love a sunny position and grow in most well-drained soils. Hard prune in late spring to control height and produce larger flower spikes. Deadheading will encourage more blooms to form, improve appearance and, in fertile species and forms, prevent the formation of seeds.