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Reasons for Pruning Butterfly Bush

Plant Buddleja Davidii in Gardens to Attract Hummingbirds, Too


Picture of butterfly bush.

Need help with identification? A picture of butterfly bush.

David Beaulieu

A shrub that has had a prime place in hummingbird gardens is butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), shown in the picture at the top of this page. Butterfly bush can get 6'-12' tall and have a spread of 4'-15' in warm climates. That's too big for some growers (especially those with small yards), so consider pruning it back to the ground in the winter garden. It will re-emerge from its roots in spring.

If you need further incentive for pruning butterfly bush, take into account that blooms tend to be larger and more prolific on butterfly bush's new growth. You essentially want to treat butterfly bush as if it were an herbaceous perennial rather than a shrub. Blooms on butterfly bushes can be purple, pink, white, or red, and they usually have an orange "throat" in the center. Grow it in zones 5-10. Unfortunately, butterfly bush is now considered to be an invasive plant in some areas, including the Pacific Northwest.

Catawba rhododendrons (Rhododendron catawbiense) are broadleaf evergreen bushes that have dark green, leathery foliage, and spectacular flowers in the spring that are effective for attracting hummingbirds. This rhododendron shrub is easy to transplant, but it does require an acidic soil. Blooms can be white, lavender, rose or the red that hummingbirds so love to find in the garden. Catawba rhododendron bushes can reach a height of 6'-8' with a spread of 4'-6'. A rhododendron display is most effective when rhododendron bushes are massed together. Warning: toxic -- do not allow children to ingest. Zones 4-8.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is an upright growing shrub that can reach a height of 8'-10' with a spread of 4'-6'. These bushes profit from pruning. Blooms can be red, pink, blue or white. Works well in shrub borders. Zones 5-9.

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans, pictured on Page 1) produces orange or reddish-orange to salmon flowers throughout most of the summer months. Zones 4-9. Provide it with an arbor, trellis or fence and let it climb! This vigorous vine needs to be pruned back in order to keep it "within bounds." Indeed, even in the southeastern U.S. (to which it is native) this vine is sometimes considered a weed. Meanwhile, Magnifica honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Magnifica'), with its large scarlet flowers that attract hummingbirds, can be grown in zones 3-9. Unlike trumpet vine, this plant is a creeper, meaning a bit more maintenance is required to achieve maximum display effect. I have purposely placed these two vines together (#7 on the list) in order to make a distinction between them. Since the names of both contain the word "trumpet," people sometimes confuse the two of them. But as you can see from their scientific names, they are two totally distinct plants.

As its name suggests, cardinal vine (Ipomoea x multifida), has a striking red bloom. Cardinal vine must be treated as an annual north of zone 6. Do not confuse this plant with "cardinal flower" (Lobelia cardinalis), a perennial (zones 2-7) that also attracts hummingbirds. Because it likes moist soil, Lobelia cardinalis is an excellent choice for the rim of a water garden.

These three vines and three bushes are important for those who want to combine effective landscape design with the hobby of watching hummingbirds or butterflies. Bushes can be used as structural elements to form a border to separate two properties. They can be similarly employed within your own property bounds to define distinct outdoor spaces. Even a driveway can be transformed from a utilitarian component of a landscape to an aesthetic achievement, if bordered by attractive bushes. A vine-covered arbor can likewise be an important structural element on a landscape, furnishing it with a focal point.

On Page 3 we'll see how hanging plants provide further options for the hummingbird gardener, along with one exotic tree....

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