How to cultivate a butterfly bush – Top Tips

10 Jan, 2024

How to cultivate a butterfly bush – Top Tips

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If you are a homeowner who loves nature and in particular gardening you need to read on. In this article we offer you the best methods and advice on soil and how to cultivate a butterfly bush.

How to cultivate a butterfly bush with the right soil and methods

cultivate a butterfly bush
Butterflies are drawn to specific nectars, but conditions must be right for you to cultivate a butterfly bushy

Photo by Karina Vorozheeva

If you’re in the gardening scene, you may have heard of the various ways to cultivate a butterfly bush. These beautiful flowering shrubs are an excellent way to add some color and texture to your outdoor area. And, since they can also attract butterflies, you may find that it’s a great addition to any garden.

How do you optimise growth when you cultivate a butterfly bush

This obviously sounds like a great plant to own, but the question is how can you make sure that it grows to best advantage?

When it is time for you to cultivate a butterfly bush, finding the right soil and cultivation methods are key. You can use this handy guide for the full details, but in this post, we’ll focus on the basics. Going over the appearance and needs of butterfly bushes, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview to get you started.

A range of floral attractions that draw butterflies

Even small urban gardens can draw a collection of butterflies as regular visitors with a strategic selection of plants. Consider these options when trying to cultivate a butterfly bush:

Buddleia –

A buddleia is also called a butterfly bush, and for good reason: its rich supply of nectar attracts a wide range of native British butterfly species. The blooms peak in August and do best when planted in a sunny or partially shaded area in a garden.

Common Lilac –

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that can be planted in Spring or Autumn. It provides a rich source of nectar for butterflies with blooms in May and June.  Lilacs need sun and good drainage to bloom, so choose a South, West or East-facing site that offers plenty of light and not too much water.

As usual deadheading the flowers regularly is also good for butterflies and keeps them coming back.

English Lavender –

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a fragrant shrub, and is best planted in the spring once the weather has begun to warm. Lavender blooms throughout the summer and is a food source for a variety of British butterflies during these months. Like the Lilac, lavender thrives in full sun and well-drained soils and does well in chalky, alkaline soils.

yellow butterfly on a lavender frond
Butterflies love lavender nectar in the Summer. Cultivate a butterfly bush with lavender

Photo by Marian Florinel Condruz

Common Honeysuckle –

Common honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a deciduous climber allowing you to cultivate a butterfly bush. It flowers during the summer months. The honeysuckle does well in a wide range of aspects and soils, either in full sun or partial shade and provides an excellent source of nectar in the Summer months.

Stinging Nettles –

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) though sometimes an irritant to gardeners, they are a crucial part of the ecosystem for many British butterfly caterpillars. They are host plants for caterpillars and are essential to promote butterflies in your garden. Adult butterflies generally feed from the nectars of flowers, but caterpillars don’t necessarily benefit from those plants, and often favour other host plants.

It is worth noting that Nettles are the food plant for the caterpillars of red admiral, small tortoiseshell, painted lady and comma butterflies.

Grasses –

Rewilding is increasingly popular in many gardens, to have one part where you allow the grasses to grow naturally to encourage the ecosystem to flourish and where you can cultivate a butterfly bush.  Leaving a wilder of area of the garden, featuring long-growing grasses, also provides habitat for butterflies.

butterfly feeding on nectar
Butterflies love nectar

Photo by Birger Strahl

The Wildlife Garden has meadow areas allowing you to cultivate a butterfly bush, offering ideal habitat for some butterfly species with both nectar plants, such as oxeye daisies and knapweed, and grasses including cock’s-foot and fescues for meadow brown, large, small and Essex skippers to lay their eggs on. Speckled wood butterflies thrive in dappled shade and lay their eggs on woodland grasses.

Appearance of the butterfly bush

Well first of all, it’s important to understand the physical characteristics of a butterfly bush. These plants usually have several stems that branch off from one trunk, and are covered with small oval leaves.

At the end of their blooming season, they produce cone shaped flowers in shades of purple, red, white and pink. Once these flowers die back after the cold winter months, the shrub goes dormant until the following year.

Here’s how to tell if things are bad:

If the leaves start to yellow, or if you notice any brown spots on them, it’s a sign that there isn’t enough water in the soil. Also, if you start to see wilting or curling leaves, it’s likely a sign of poor soil conditions.

Ideal soil and composition

cultivate a butterfly bush
The Buddleia is a classic draw and considered a way to cultivate a butterfly bush

Photo by Lamia Walker

When it comes to the soil needs of a butterfly bush, there are two key aspects to be aware of: drainage and nutrition. It will thrive in soils that drain well, so make sure your soil is not too heavy and wet. As for nutrition, adding fertilizer or compost to the soil can be beneficial. 

When you cultivate a butterfly bush with buddleia plants, you’ll want to make sure that your soil has a slightly acidic pH level of 6-7, as this will ensure optimal growth. Try a simple pH test to check your soil’s acidity levels, and then adjust accordingly. If it’s too acidic, you’ll need to add lime or dolomite in order to increase the alkalinity.

Top cultivation methods to cultivate a butterfly bush

The best thing you can do for cultivation is to prune the butterfly bush during its dormant period, just before spring comes around. This will get rid of any dead or diseased parts, and promote healthy new growth. Additionally, make sure to water it deeply but not too often – once a week should suffice. This will ensure that the roots get enough moisture without causing any rot or damage.

butterfly feeding on flower nectar
Butterflies are drawn to flowers bearing nectar

Photo by Ersin Aslan

How to cultivate a butterfly bush in conclusion

In summary, butterfly bushes are a beautiful addition to any garden and can provide you with gorgeous flowers in the blooming season. To ensure that it grows optimally, make sure to give it well-draining soil, feed it occasionally, and prune it regularly. With this combination of practices, your butterfly bush will be thriving for many years to come! 

Brief your housesitters carefully if they are garden sitting for you

If you have housesitters looking after your pets and garden while you are away in the Summer, and keeping butterflies happy in your garden is important to you you need to brief the housesitters. Share some of this information with them so that they know that when they are garden sitting they preserve the areas where you trying to cultivate a butterfly bush to preserve the wildlife.

Find housesitters

So if you are planning a trip and you need housesitters to keep your home, property and pets safe and well cared for in your absence look no further. We can help you at  We specialise in helping homeowners when they are looking for housesitters, to find the best possible match for their needs. So join us soon and we’ll help you to get started.



At Housesit we often share practical tips and tools that can help our members. Here are some blogs published earlier that offer more information and advice on gardening.

Create the perfect garden – 7 Top tips

Home gardening safety tips – Green thumb 101

Home gardening ideas – Artificial grass

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