Butterfly bush and how to attract butterflies with native plants

Ban the Butterfly Bush!

Like butterflies? Your butterfly bush isn’t doing them any favors…and it’s causing problems for other insects, plants, and animals.

Ban the Butterfly Bush!

Bad bush: Butterflies are better off with native plants, not butterfly bushes.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—People love butterfly bushes. They’re beautiful, colorful, and there’s no debating it, they draw tons of butterflies into your yard. But there are two big problems with these plants, explains Doug Tallamy, PhD, professor and chair of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at University of Delaware in Newark, and author of Bringing Home Nature: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, April, 2009). They stem from the fact that Nature never meant for these bushes to be here, so the plants aren’t equipped to feed the beneficial bugs and birds in our region of the world. This disrupts the entire food web—and that can come back to bite us in the butt.

THE DETAILS: The first problem? The butterfly bush has been placed on a number of government and university invasive species lists because of its ability to spread easily and outcompete native plants. Originally from Asia, these plants have virtually no natural predators here, so they infest areas and crowd out native plants that provide food for native bugs, birds, and other animals. The second problem with the beloved bush? While it draws butterflies with its nectar, it does not supply butterfly larvae with food, which means they’ll have to expend time and energy finding another place to lay their eggs. So if you want the best for those butterflies that visit your garden, it’s good to have plants that offer not just the nectar, but also act as a host site. Especially since some of the plants that are better for butterflies are getting crowded out. “Many people think all plants are the same. But when invasive plants grow, they take up space native plants could occupy,” says Tallamy. “We’ve got to put the right ones back where they belong.”

Filed Under:

Published on: August 4, 2009

More from our Authors

Ready to turn your tired soil into no-toil garden gold? Learn how you can enjoy bumper crops, less watering and fewer weeds in one easy step.

Daily Azadi Swat

I'm not impressed with this article. I'm not a great gardener, but from what I've been told, there are several different plants that are called "butterfly bush."thankx to share me such a nice article


These bushes can become a little out of hand, and they do tend to grow on wasteland but they really are good for bees and butterflies.


Interestingly, I started gardening to beautify my home as well as do my bit for Mother Nature. But I never thought I’d have to consider about the well being of insects as well.

Fair enough

Fair enough to ban the butterfly plant in pristine places where native plants had not previously invaded, but to say ‘ban’ it for good seemed a tad bit overkill. If you have butterfly plant and home throw or burn away the deadheaded parts instead of putting them in the compost to prevent them from going viral around your backyard.

Butterfly Bush

Another aspect is that many butterflies rely on different plants for nectar and for food for their caterpillars.

which butterfly bushes ?

I am surprised that Rodale would print an arcticle that is so vague & inconclusive.I was shocked by the title & kept reading to find out which "butterfly" bushes since it is a common name for several varieties I know of! For all butterfly lovers,I hghly reommend the movie "The Blue Butterfly" with John Hurt inspired by a true story.Be sure to watch the special features with info from "Butterfly Experts"!

Butterfly bushes don't support all stages of butterfly life

Hi Sarah--please see information below from plant expert Dr. Doug Tallamy:

"There are several cultivars of butterfly bush, but they all come from the same alien species. What differs is flower color. They probably differ in their attractiveness as nectar plants, but none of them will support butterfly larvae."

yes, but WHICH butterfly bushes?

I'm not impressed with this article. I'm not a great gardener, but from what I've been told, there are several different plants that are called "butterfly bush." The article doesn't give the genus and species, so which plant is the bad one?

If we are talking about Buddleia, there are over 100 species worldwide, some of which are native to Asia as stated, but some of which are native to the southern part of the US: Is Ms. Zerbe implying that all 100 species are to be avoided, including those native to the US?

What about Clerodendrum ugandense, which is also called butterfly bush?

I understand that this issue is not to be taken lightly, but I don't appreciate things that sound like panic noise without substance. In future, I hope both Ms. Zerbe and Rodale will make a greater effort to be certain that their articles either contain all the pertinent information or have appropriate links to support their claims.

butterfly bush

Btterfly bushes are not invasive if people take care of them Maby people are th real problem not the bush!!!!!! Ithink you are taking thi way to far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lot of other plants are invasive like mint- yucca-lemon balm etc..... Gardenrs like to share extra plants.

Butterfly Bush

It's hard for me to believe that my butterfly bushes should be banned. It's one of my favorite plants and it's not invasive.
I cut it to the ground in the winter. I also have the milkweed plants and cone flowers for the butterflies. I also have rocks with a little water where they can land. We live in the woods so they have plenty of shade to rest. I don't plan to rip out my noninvasive beautiful lavender and purple butterfly bushes. They make me happy to just see them out my kitchen window.

Butterfly bushes

I have NEVER had a butterfly bush become invasive....they seem to die out after a few years.....

Start Your Wellness Journey!
Sign up for updates on Rodale Wellness and get your FREE wellness journal to help you find your path to vibrant health. Click here to start your unique journey!

Free Newsletter
Sign up for our FREE newsletters to stay up to date on all of our wellness news.

  The Daily Fix
Useful news and practical tips to help you live a healthy life on a healthier planet.

  Wellness in Action
Find your path to vibrant health, and get your free wellness journal as our thanks!

You may unsubscribe at any time.

Your Privacy Rights. About Us.