Buddleia – Buddleja alternifolia – Garden plants – Butterfly tree – Buddleja alternifolia – Shrubs



Buddleias are easy to grow, flowering shrubs that are available in a wide range of colours and sizes. For this reason they are very common in our country, in Europe and in the United States, although they are native to Asia, Africa and South America.

In recent years they have become increasingly popular in our gardens, mainly because of their ability to attract insects, especially colorful butterflies (they are also known as “butterfly shrubs”.

It is important to note, however, that these plants have become very invasive, especially along the course of the rivers, taking away space from native essences. In some regions this is a real alarm and serious thought is being given to restricting the sale and planting of these plants.

In order to limit possible damage, it is extremely important to monitor the plants and keep them always clean by removing as soon as possible the exhausted floric cobs, absolutely before they go to seed.

In fact, it is precisely the extreme ability to self-disseminate that makes the buddleia so intrusive. A single specimen, if not controlled, can produce in one year up to 3 million seeds which, among other things, germinate with great ease.

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buddleiaBuddleys prefer very bright positions, both in the sun and in partial shade. They are usually not afraid of the cold, even if in places with very cold winters it can happen that the aerial part dries completely, in spring a new plant will sprout again. B. davidii should be pruned vigorously in spring, to obtain prolonged blooms; other species, such as B. globosa or B. covillei, should be pruned after flowering, as they produce flowers on the wood of the previous year.

To prolong the flowering period, top off the ears of wilted flowers.

History and description

Buddleia are all native to the tropics, particularly Asia, Latin America and South Africa, and are almost always shrubs with persistent foliage. They take their name from the reverend Adam Buddle, author of an important herbarium at the beginning of the year. XVIII century.

The first to reach Europe was B. globosa. Initially it was considered delicate and to be grown in a greenhouse, but soon it was moved outwards as it was also very well able to withstand the English winters.

The most widespread species, however, is undoubtedly the Davidii. Native to China, it was discovered by the English in 1887 and named after a Jesuit father who lived there.

Also from China comes the B. alternifolia, introduced in the old continent in 1914. It proved to be the most rustic and resistant to extreme conditions.

It is also worth mentioning the b.colvilei. It comes from the Himalayan region and arrived in Europe at the end of the XIX century. It is characterized by very flashy pink flowers.

Among the species suitable only for areas with a very mild climate, we cite the auriculate, coming from South Africa, and the Asian one. In Italy they can only be grown outdoors in the southern or coastal regions where they have the undoubted advantage of blooming even in the middle of winter.


buddleia alternifolia These shrubs definitely prefer the dry climate to the humid one, therefore they don’t need much water; watering occasionally during the warm months. In autumn and spring, bury mature organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant to provide the right amount of nutrients; from April to October, add flowering plant fertilizer to the water of the watering, every 15-20 days.

Soil Budleia

Budleia plants grow without any problems in any garden soil, as long as it is rich in organic matter and well drained. If you need to transplant this species, make sure you have purchased a soil rich in organic matter and with porous material that allows the soil to breathe. They are usually sold both in nurseries and in garden centres, soils enriched with pumice stone or medium-perlite, which are the top of the range for these plants.


At the end of winter sowing the buddleja in warm bed, the new seedlings should be planted the following year, although they will flower already the first summer. Semi-woody cuttings can be made in autumn. Usually, these plants tend to self-seed, but often the daughter plants do not produce flowers identical to those of the mother plant.

Pests and diseases

This shrub is hardly affected by pests or diseases.

Gut pruning

budleia Buddleia is a fairly vigorous plant that is capable of discreet growth every year. In order to give her new stimuli to produce new branches and beautiful new flowers, she needs to be pruned fairly vigorously every year and the plant will react in the best possible way. Therefore, annually in the period between February and March, depending on the area and the vintage (i.e. on the basis of how harsh the winter is), the buddleia must be pruned.

To prune it, we will use scissors and well-sharpened shears that should be sterilized before use.

With this pruning operation we will have to cut all the shoots grown in the previous year leaving only 10-15 cm from the base of the branches. Once this is done we will remove all dry, weak or poorly placed branches trying to leave more space for healthy and vigorous branches.

In pruning the buddleia we will have to free the central area of the plant going to remove the branches that grow inside the plant trying to let more light penetrate in this area. In general with pruning we should try to give the plant a certain balance on the foliage and branches.

Buddleia davidii

Buddleia davidii This species is by far the most widespread in our country and is found quite commonly on the market.

It is a deciduous shrub, very resistant and flowering. It has lanceolate leaves ranging from medium to dark green, whose lower lamina is however grayish, as well as the entire plant. It forms a round shrub (if well cared for) with slightly arched branches. The flowers are produced on the new vegetation, starting in the summer. It can reach 5 metres in height, but recently several dwarf cultivars have spread, suitable for small spaces and often grown in large containers.


is very tolerant in this respect. It grows well in heavy, clayey substrates, as well as in light or medium-textured substrates.


The only special care required is constant watering. It is a plant that naturally lives on the riverbeds and therefore needs to have constant access to water. This does not mean that if we neglect this aspect the plant will deteriorate, but it will certainly lose in beauty and in abundance of flowering. It is therefore advisable, in the absence of precipitation, to proceed at least once a week.


These shrubs bloom abundantly for many months. To support the production of new cobs, a good amount of slow release organic fertiliser for flowering plants should be distributed at the beginning of the season. However, it is always a good idea to add a little liquid to each irrigation.

When winter approaches, mulching with mature manure will help to protect the root system and revitalise the soil.


This species is very resistant to cold and generally has no problems up to at least 800 meters above sea level. In addition, even if the branches are damaged by frost, you can always resort to a drastic pruning that will only be beneficial to our bush.


As we have already said, it is extremely important to frequently clean up exhausted flowers in order to avoid compromising the surrounding environment. In addition to this, the only important care to keep the specimen young and flowering is to devote to pruning at the end of winter. You can proceed in different ways, but essentially, since the flowers are born from the new vegetation, it is important to stimulate the growth of new shoots.

Usually it is used to cut leaving a maximum of three buds from below so that the shrub is completely renewed.

Buddleia alternifolia

Buddleia alternifolia It is a deciduous shrub more compact and less erect than other species (it reaches a maximum of 4 meters between height and diameter). It has alternate leaves, small, lanceolate, dark green on the upper lamina and glaucous on the lower one. It blooms on the vegetation of the previous year producing axillary racemes about 3 cm long, fragrant, light purple, very numerous, in June. It is literally covered and is therefore decorative and perhaps the most spectacular.

It requires the same care as davidii, with the only difference that absolutely must not be pruned in early spring. In that period we will intervene only for the cleaning of the broken, dead or crooked branches. For the rest, you can tick slightly at the end of flowering by encouraging the production of secondary branches for the following year.

Globular Buddleia

Buddleia globosa This is an evergreen shrub native to Chile and Peru. It is the only American species, but it was the first to be discovered and imported to our continent.

In temperate climates (i.e. in the Centre-South of our peninsula) the leaves can be persistent. In the Centre-North, on the other hand, it is mostly a deciduous shrub that must be protected from frost by non-woven cloth and thick mulch. A useful measure is to place it in a sheltered area and absolutely not damp in the winter months.

It has a widespread deportment and lance-shaped leaves, up to 20 cm long, dark green on the upper page and brownish on the lower one. It generally grows up to 5 metres in height and diameter.

From May to the beginning of July, it produces abundant globe-shaped inflorescences, about 3 cm in diameter. The colour in the species is orange-yellow, but other shades are also available, especially in some hybrids.

For the rest, the same care and precautions must be taken for this species as for davidii.

Gut species for mild climates

budleia asiatica Asian Buddleia is a shrub or sapling that reaches about 3 meters high and blooms in January-February. It is suitable for gardens on the Riviera or in the Centre-South. The white flowers are very fragrant and the leaves are small and evergreen. It wants warm exposures and well-drained soil.

Buddleia followiana reaches a height of 4 metres and flowers between September and November. It grows vigorously and erect. The young branches are covered with a slight down and the leaves, up to 35 cm long, are glaucous, but over time turn to dark green. The inflorescences are terminal panicles, usually lilac or purple in colour. There are also white or pink cultivars.

Buddleia auricolata came to us from South Africa, can reach 4 meters high and blooms in mid-autumn. The leaves are lanceolate, small, dark green on the upper page and silvery on the lower. The white and yellow panicle-shaped flowers are axillary or apical, very perfumed and rise on the new vegetation. It wants warm and protected positions, calcareous soil, light and well drained.

Propagation Budleia

All buddleies can be easily multiplied by seed or by cutting.

The seeds should be placed in a small bed in a warm greenhouse, towards the end of winter. They germinate within a month. The seeds are then pruned several times. The plants are ready for final planting, usually the following year.

By vegetative way, instead, it is possible to take both herbaceous and woody segments and plant them in a very nourishing soil, on a warm bed and in a shaded position. Rooting usually takes place in two months. They can then be transplanted into larger containers.

Also the layering and the offshoot always succeed quite well, especially if we operate at the beginning of the summer.

Varieties and cultivars

As we said, this is a very popular plant. For this reason, breeders have dedicated themselves to the search for new varieties capable of meeting the needs of all lovers of green.

Families and Generations



Colore fiori foglie



 Fino a 2 metre long

 Rosa con centro bianco

Black Knight

 Fino a 3 metre long

 Viola scuro

Ellen: Ellen Blue.

 Fino a 1,5 metres



 Fino a 2,5 metres

 Viola, foglie variegate

Marbled White

 Fino a 1,5 metres

 Bianco con centro giallo

Nanho Blue

 Fino a 120 cm


Nanho White

 Fino a 120 cm


Nicholas Choice.

 Fino a 150 cm

 Rosa con centro giallo

Royal Red

 Fino a 3 metre long


Nanhoensis blue

 Fino a 150 cm

 Blu con centro giallo



 Fino a 4 metre long

 Fiori porpora porpora e foglie argentee

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