Butterfly Bush is Invasive Do NOT Plant

Tiger Swallowtail on Invasive Butterfly Bush

Tiger Swallowtail on Invasive Butterfly Bush

Invasive Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

I’m sure you’ve all read books about butterfly gardening, and almost every one of them recommends Butterfly Bush (Budleia spp). But did you know that Butterfly Bush is a highly invasive plant and is destroying native butterfly and wildlife habitat?

States Where Butterfly Bush Invasive

States Where Butterfly Bush is Invasive

This is a plant from Asia, and now it’s spreading out of control along stream banks and other areas all over the country. How long do you really think we have until  Butterfly Bush is listed as invasive in Wisconsin? Or Iowa? Or any of these other states in the middle of this map?

Why take a chance when there are so many better choices in native plants that butterflies will flock to that are much healthier for butterflies and also for our fragile ecosystems?

Each Butterfly Bush produces over 100,000 seeds, and they are distributed in the wind, so even though you may not see seedlings popping up in your garden, your Butterfly Bush is probably responsible for spreading devastation in natural areas like stream banks and disturbed industrial sites. You don’t want to be the one responsible for this damage to our ecosystems do you?

Irresponsible Conservation Organizations

It’s sad and shameful that organizations dedicated to the protection of butterflies, especially the Monarch, are spreading information that is ultimately harmful to our wild areas when there are so many better alternatives.

Even though they may be dedicated to doing good for a particular species and had a lot of success in reaching out to the general public and raising awareness about declining species and how we can help them, it’s really not helpful in the longterm if that supposed “help” is destroying the habitats that all other wildlife is dependent on for their very survival.

For example, MonarchWatch.org has butterfly bush at the top of their recommended planting list, with no disclaimer that it’s listed as an invasive plant in over 20 states and counting, and also no instruction that if you’ve got this problematic plant in your garden, you MUST deadhead it before it produces the abundant seeds that are wreaking such havoc.

In reality, how many home gardeners are actually going to spend the time to remove every one of the multitude of flower heads every week or so? Not many, sadly.

No matter how much we want to help the Monarchs and all the other butterflies, native bees, and other wildlife, it is very irresponsible of these organizations to continue to promote a plant that causes so much damage, and not educate their supporters about the many, many better native alternatives to the invasive Butterfly Bush.

If the goal really is to save Monarchs (but why single out just one species when so many other butterflies are in trouble?), why would we do something that can be so harmful? Why wouldn’t we work to save, restore, or create more habitat for ALL butterflies?

We can all do so much better. And organizations and educators have a duty and a responsibility to give their supporters the best information that doesn’t cause more problems down the road.

It is my most sincere wish that MonarchWatch and other similar conservation organizations would be very careful and much more thoughtful about the plants they recommend. The MonarchWatch recommended nectar planting list is kind of a sad and useless joke with no scientific names, no disclaimers about Butterfly Bush, and no specifics about regional differences. It’s not really helpful at all because the best nectar plants for butterflies will depend completely on where you live. Each region of the country is very different, and there are many native plants that will work well in one ecotype and not in others.

It would be so much more helpful if the good folks at MonarchWatch took some time to update this page. My suggestion is that they model their plant recommendations after the excellent resources at The Pollinator Partnership. You simply enter your zip code and you’re directed to one of the 31 ecotype-specific Pollinator Friendly Planting Guides, and in there you’ll find a calendar of native plants appropriate for your region so that you can have year round value to butterflies and other wildlife.

I would happily become a big fan and supporter of this otherwise worthy organization if this were to happen.

Even my favorite butterfly organization, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has contributed to this confusion, which makes me very sad. They devoted their entire Summer 2012 issue of Butterfly Gardener to “The Great Butterfly Bush Debate,” which showcased the two opposing sides about Butterfly Bush.

One article was written by Mary Anne Borge, a New Jersey naturalist:

It’s not that Butterflybush is inherently a bad plant. It is native to China, not North America, Europe or New Zealand. The insects, birds and other residents with which it evolved in China and that depend on it for food there aren’t present in the areas in which it was introduced. So there are no species here that will naturally keep it in check. This is always a potential danger when a species is introduced in an environment in which it is not native, where its food web partners are missing.

The other side was written by Lenora Larson, a Kansas Master Gardener:

Now the Butterfly Bush is under attack from well-meaning native plant lovers…Native Plant Absolutists gnash their teeth in frustration, but butterflies are not ideologues If their foot’s chemical receptor and the molecule match, the plant’s origin is irrelevant. Why be so rigid? Our Regional Director of the Kansas Native Plant Society has a greenhouse and raises hundreds of butterfly bushes to sell at area Master Gardener plant sales. My sense of justice is offended by Americans who eat predominantly non-native foods, but would refuse that same pleasure to butterflies.

What accounts for these opposing views? Mary Anne lives in New Jersey, where Butterfly Bush is running rampant along stream banks and other natural areas and is a huge problem and concern for environmentalists.

Lenora lives in Kansas, where Butterfly Bush has not yet become invasive, so it’s no big deal to her, but she at least makes an appropriate disclaimer:

Gardeners in at-risk states do not need to deny butterflies their favorite adult beverage. Buddleja spreads by seed, so if the flowers are deadheaded just as they start to wither, there will be no volunteers. Do you have the resolve and discipline? If not, look for another plant choice. If you can commit to religious deadheading, the butterflies and many other pollinators will thank you.

We have to remember that for folks living in the interior and southern states Butterfly Bush is not (yet) classified as invasive in those states (but we know that it’s probably only a matter of time), so they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I’d love to see the organizations that continue to promote it at the very least do it with a disclaimer about potential problems. I’d be even more thrilled if they would start recommending native plants as more beneficial alternatives

The thing is, people really want to help butterflies. We all know the Monarch butterfly population is well below normal this year, and this is a big concern to all of us. But in trying to do good, are we really making other problems with our beleaguered natural areas worse?

I have worked for almost 30 years teaching people to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources and create welcoming habitat for wildlife in their gardens so that they will attract more birds, butterflies, native bees, and other wildlife to their gardens. But educating the educators may now need to become my primary mission.

Dr. Thomas Barnes of Kentucky Native Plants has a great article dispelling the myths and misinformation about the invasive nature of Butterfly Bush.

In Why You Shouldn’t Plant Butterfly Bush, Debbie Hadley talks about the many harmful impacts this plant is having on our environment.

Conservation organizations have a duty and responsibility to give the best information to their audiences. Many home gardeners have no idea that butterfly bush (the Buddleia species) is invasive. And they also are not aware that there are MUCH better native alternatives to the invasive butterfly bush.

So it is irresponsible of butterfly experts to not educate people and give them the tools and information that would help these home gardeners make much more beneficial choices for butterflies and the environment.

Our experts have made many mistakes over the years, at some points recommending the planting of multiflora rose, crown vetch, russian olive, and so many other plants that, despite their best intentions, have gotten out of control and are now costing millions of dollars every year to try to control. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes in recommending invasive plants.

Butterflies PREFER the native plants

Yes, butterflies DO come to nectar and butterfly bush, but this plant is not a larval host plant for ANY butterfly species. You’re getting just one ecosystem service for a few weeks every year, when if you planted native alternatives to the invasive butterfly bush, you’d be providing a wide variety of ecosystem services in all seasons of the year.

If a wildlife garden has a wide variety of native plants you’ll begin to discover that the butterflies actually prefer the natives and won’t even bother going to the butterfly bush.

So forget about wasting your time trying to deadhead your butterfly bush at this time of year, and instead plant some of these native plants. Your butterflies will thank you!

If you are trying to attract more butterflies to your garden, the first thing you need to understand is that more butterfly bushes do not mean more butterflies. Yes, butterflies do feed on the nectar of butterfly bushes but that’s where the attraction ends.

The real key to having more butterflies in your garden is to find out which of the more than 700 species of butterflies in North America are common to your region. Once you know which butterflies are likely to visit your garden, you can start making of a list of appropriate plants to entice them into making your garden their home. ~Debbie Roberts in Butterfly Bushes Do Not Mean More Butterflies

Native Alternatives to Invasive Butterfly Bush

Joe Pye (Eupatorium spp)

42 species of butterflies and moths will use Joe Pye as larval host plant in addition to providing abundant nectar for butterflies, native bees, and other pollinators

Goldenrod (Solidago spp)

135 species of butterflies and moths use Goldenrod as a larval host plant, and many species of insects also use parts of this plant for shelter and food. Go to Cape May during the peak of Monarch migration, and you won’t find many Monarchs on any butterfly bushes, they are all over the Seaside Goldenrod.

Aster (Symphyotrichum)

112 species of butterflies and moths use the Asters as larval host plants, in addition to providing abundant nectar. New England Aster is gorgeous planted alongside your Goldenrod, and you’ll spend many happy hours watching all the pollinators who come to visit.

The Top 10 Native Perennials for Butterflies

For more native plants that support a lot of butterflies at all stages of their lives see:

And for a compilation of the best resources and tips for attracting butterflies, see The Ultimate Guide to Gardening for Butterflies and Moths

Check out my new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week, teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden.

© 2013 – 2014, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of EcosystemGardening.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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  1. Edith says

    Good article. 20 years ago, before I was aware of gardening issues, I planted 7 butterfly bushes. In that time I’ve had exactly two new plants start. So in S. Calif. at my house they’re not invasive at all.

    Since I’ve taken gardening classes I’ve realized I should be planting natives, but I don’t have the heart to dig up my beautiful buddleias.

    • Linda Kuczwanski says

      I am sorry to disagree, but I’ve heard this about butterfly bushes for a long time, probably at least 20 years and in all that time I’ve never known anyone who had one have new plants start and I hang out with a lot of native plant gardeners. We all plant native plants as well but we don’t believe they are invasive in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas or Oklahoma. I agree that they don’t feed larva and native plants should be used also, but I don’t think butterfly bushes are as invasive as is rumored. They can provide shape, color, and timing your garden may otherwise lack.

      • says

        The invasiveness of buddleja is not “rumored”: it is fact.

        While it is true that this plant has not YET become invasive in all 50 states, the fact remains that we have in buddleja a plant whose only value is ornamental and which HAS been shown to be invasive in climates from Florida to New York and California to Oregon.

        And buddleja HAVE escaped cultivation in Tennessee including reports from Shelby county, which I’m sure has ecologists in Mississippi and Arkansas plenty worried about this species.

        • Kerry W says

          Edith and Linda-I hear this argument a lot. Butterfly bush has tiny, wind-dispersed seeds and while you may not see it spread in your yard, it is certainly spreading elsewhere. I am seeing butterfly bush pop up in more natural areas around Maryland. There are so many destructive invasive species out there, and once they establish, it is almost impossible to eradicate them from the landscape. Why continue to plant these species when they are known to be invasive elsewhere? Why also choose to plant species that do not support food webs? Butterfly bush does not support native insects and most of the species which nectar from it are generalists. Why not plant species that provide larval habitat to complete the butterfly’s lifecycle?

    • says

      Edith, unfortunately buddleia have already been observed to have escaped into the wild in California (north and south). Those two plants you spotted were likely just the tip of the iceberg.

      • says

        I’m a garden designer in Atlanta and have been addictively gardening here for more than 20 years and Buddleia is definitely not invasive in our area. It was introduced as a garden plant about a hundred years ago and we’ve had plenty of time to know if its invasive or not.
        Adversely, the regional municipalities in our area use broadleaf herbicide on the roadsides and virtually all of the native flowering forbs that would have fed our swallowtails have been eliminated. I am glad for those butterflies to feed off my buddleia, abelia and clerodendron – all non-native plants that the butterflies love. If gardeners weren’t planting these plants, the butterflies would be all but gone!
        Its important to remember that gardening is a creative persuit of humans and has very little impact, positively or negatively, to real nature. We are wasting our breath preaching doom and despair to people who like petunias. Real habitat and species destruction is happening everyday at the hands of much larger human efforts and that’s where we should focus our attention.
        Making gardeners feel afraid or guilty to plant their favorite flowers is pointless and only serves to discourage people from gardening.
        This is a non-issue for most of us.

    • says

      It’s important to realize that Butterfly Bush has tiny seeds that are dispersed by wind and can travel great distances, so you may not be seeing sprouts in your garden, but I’m sure you’ll see them popping up along stream banks and other disturbed areas nearby.
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..A Moment of Silence

  2. T Neal says

    I hate to see such a negative article about Buddleia. I will agree that it is a non-native shrub, and that there are many other native shrubs that will provide nectar and act as a host plant. But there are now many cultivars of Buddleia available that are sterile, and provide a lot of nectar. If we are trying to attract people to butterfly gardening, we need to let people plant what is available (and Buddleia is widely available in the nurseries), while still encouraging them to plant natives.

    And bashing Monarch Watch is simply unacceptable. As an organization they have done more to promote butterfly conservation than any other organization out there. Monarchs need all the nectar they can get during the fall as they fly south. They are the only animal that migrates that actually increases their weight as the migrate. These fat reserves are what keep them going during the winter down in Mexico. Without large nectar sources available, this cannot happen.

    We need to encourage people in a positive manner…not alienate people that are trying to do wonderful things.

    • says

      Unfortunately there are organizations that continue to actively promote buddleia so it is important to set the record straight on this species.

      From my perspective, the author of this post is not “bashing” anyone. Monarch Watch is behaving in such a way that the author says she cannot support them: what could be a more civil reaction than that?

      We now know a lot more about the crucial interactions between butterflies of all species – including Monarchs – than we did Monarch Watch was founded. No doubt Monarch Watch accomplished a lot of good things over those years and it may be time for them to take a fresh look at their advice. After all, facts are facts.

      Buddleia is invasive, native plants – including milkweed, asters, and goldenrods – have never been easier to find and purchase, and yards filled with buddleia but no asclepias may be worse than nothing for Monarchs (Google “ecological trap” for more on what I mean by this).

    • says

      T Neal, I am not at all bashing Monarch Watch. They have done a lot of good to raise awareness of the issues that impact the Monarch Butterflies. I have one rather large disagreement with them though, and my wish is that they would spend as much energy raising awareness about the value of native plants as they do for the Monarch. All of our wildlife would greatly benefit if we taught people how to choose the best native plants for their region.
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Container Gardening for Wildlife Habitat

      • says

        Wild Ones has partnered with Monarch Watch’s Bring Back the Monarch campaign.  Wild Ones has also joined the Monarch Joint Venture.  As a result of this partnership, Wild Ones created a national committee to help save the monarch migration.  The committee has started a National campaign called “Wild for Monarchs.” The committee has created numerous educational materials, including a brochure that lists host and nectar plants for native lepidoptera, with emphasis on monarchs.  Our committee has also created a Power Point presentation, based on my personal Power Point presentation.  The presentation includes a script, with links to other resources.  There are numerous other educational materials, see the “Wild for Monarchs” homepage  at http://www.wildones.org/learn/wild-for-monarchs/.

        The buddleia debate is a fierce one, even within conservation organizations.  It would be far more productive to focus on what unites us, rather than divides us.

        Candy Sarikonda
        Conservation Specialist
        Monarch Watch
        Chair–Wild Ones National Wild for Monarchs Education subcommittee

  3. Linda says

    In Europe, where B. davidii was introduced long ago, it is an invasive. It grows ten feet high in vacant lots, but more interestingly, it invades buildings. In many European cities, B. davidii can be seen growing on roofs, out of chimneys and out of cracks in brick walls–all places where it is impossible, dangerous or difficult to remove. If we can avoid that kind of invasion, we will be doing homeowners everywhere a favour. Just because you do not see it as an invasive in your life does not mean that it is not possible. Look at international reports about this plant, and you will be impressed. Maybe impressed enough to put it up and plant something butterflies, esp Monarchs depend on–milkweed, aster or goldenrod.

    • says

      I agree Linda, it is precisely because we already have a case study in Europe to see what can happen when this plant gets out of control that I’m so concerned that we continue to recommend it and plant it here. And there are so many awesome locally native plants that support not only Monarchs but all other butterflies and other wildlife as well. My concern is with all of our butterflies, not just one.
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Gardening for the Birds

    • says

      The Buddleia society in Britain observes that Buddleia davidii is a weed of disturbed ground in England and does not seem to pose a long term threat to native plant populations. It’s simply an early secession weed that eventually is overtaken and eliminated by native species as nature corrects the damage…

      • Elina says

        It has become invasive in France, I see it a lot along the woods or along the streams, and not only in disturbed areas.

  4. Elizabeth La Grua says

    The butterfly bush has never been invasive where I live. We have one. We cut it way back in March and it grows beautifully and attracts many butterflies including Monarchs. No new ones have ever popped up and happily I am not allergic to it as I am of some of the substitutes recommended. I think I will just stick with it for now.

  5. says

    Here in Washington it has been declared a Class B Noxious Weed and is also listed as a Noxious Weed in Oregon.

    Just because you haven’t seen it sprouting in your yard doesn’t mean it isn’t reproducing. This quote is from the King County website:

    “Butterfly bush spreads by producing abundant amounts of very lightweight, winged seeds that are dispersed by wind and water over many miles. A study at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania found that a single flower spike produced 40,000 seeds. The germination rate of several cultivars was 80 percent or higher. This species is quick to mature, often producing seeds during its first year of growth. Also, butterfly bush is adapted to surviving along riversides and can develop roots on branches that have been buried or broken off.

    Once established, butterfly bush is tough to eliminate. Seeds remain viable in the soil for 3 to 5 years. Butterfly bush can re-sprout from the rootstock after it can been damaged or cut down to its base, and the cut stems can grow into new plants if not disposed of properly.”


    When I certified my yard as habitat with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife they sent a packet of information, one page which stated that in the past they listed Butterfly Bush as a wildlife plant, but now that we have seen it spreading they are trying to educate people to not plant it.
    Kelly Brenner recently posted..Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens Roundup

  6. says

    Butterfly Bush is 100% invasive. I had one and it started sprouting all over my paver patio in the joints between the pavers, as well as between the stones in my water feature. It is for sure invasive.

  7. says

    This depends on where you’re located and what species of butterfly bush you are planting. There are non-invasive varieties like ‘buzz’ and even sterile varieties like the “flutterby” series that don’t seed at all.

    Posting blanking statements about butterfly bush is unfair when you leave out important information like this.

    I have had the buzz variety of butterfly bush in our a garden for a few years now and it’s one of the FAVORITE nectar plants of monarchs, swallowtails, hummingbirds, bumblebees, and other more!

    In the years I’ve had it, I have not had to dig out ANY volunteers, nor have I seen any volunteers popping up in our close-by neighbors garden. I can’t say this for MANY of the native plants in our garden.

    If you think, that just because something is native means it attracts more pollinators, than you obviously have never planted top attracting nectar plants like mexican sunflowers, butterfly bush, verbena bonariensis, or tropical milkweed.

    A variety of both native AND non-invasive annual plants is the key to attracting more pollinators to your garden. I know this from my own experience, and not because I read it in a book that bashes all non-native plants as evil.

    Tony recently posted..Are You Ready To Raise Monarch Migration Butterflies?

    • says

      I’m well aware that there are so-called “sterile” varieties of Butterfly Bush, but if history is a clue we’ve been told this before. There were “sterile” varieties of Purple Loosestrife, but all it took was cross pollination between it an the non-sterile plants and it reverted back. Same story with Callery Pear, supposedly sterile, but reverted when cross pollinated and now they’re running rampant through our natural woodlands. No thanks. I’m not willing to take that chance when there are so many better locally native alternatives that support all different kinds of wildlife and cause no harm to our natural areas.
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Seed Bombing for Wildlife Habitat

      • says


        I am a proponent of ‘responsible’ gardening, as opposed to native gardening. If you’re someone that just wants to throw in a bunch of seeds/plants and watch what happens than native plants probably are the best way to avoid these potential issues.

        For those of us that like to work in the garden regularly, non-native plants are a great way to enhance the local ecosystem and attract more wildlife.

        Try planting a non-invasive buddleja buzz butterfly bush, and THEN tell me your native plants support more local wildlife.

        Until then, I’ll believe what I see, Tony
        Tony recently posted..Late Season Butterflies Swarm Minnesota

  8. lenora says

    why are non-native plants invasive, but native plants multiply rapidly? I have had butterfly bushes for 15 years or more and never until this year ever saw any evidence of spread, invasive or not. Mostly, they just died after a few years. I was very surprised this year to find several small woody plants in odd spots on the property. They must have arrived from a neighbor’s yard, since my one surviving bush has been in the yard since 1996 and alone for at least 5 years.

    • says

      The definition of an invasive plant is that is has been brought in from another location. While some native plants may be aggressive, especially in disturbed areas, they are not by definition invasive. The Butterfly Bush has very tiny seeds that are dispersed by wind and water. Your seedlings may have come from quite a distance away.
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Red Admiral Butterfly Sipping From Sap Flow

  9. Lisa H says

    There was a very detailed discussion about this on the MassLep listserve.

    I wish I could totally trash buddleja. But:

    — The map is confusing, possibly misleading. E.g.,Massachusetts does NOT list buddleja as invasive. It is clear that in quite a few states it is invasive, and with climate change, things will keep changing.

    –From what I’ve read, it is the older, purple variety that is the problem. Newer varieties seed much less, and some (e.g. “Lo and Behold) are even permitted in Oregon. I know we have to be careful here, because there has been a history of problematic exotics before that were said to be sterile, and they turned out not to be.
    — The argument that Buddleja doesn’t host butterflies doesn;t make sense to me. Not all nectar plants can be hosts. Obviously, native plants are the key to a butterfly garden, including native host plants. But echinacea, phlox, etc., are great butterfly plants but as far as I know, are not hosts.

    –The only native plant that I can in all honesty say attracts butterflies more than the one buddleja I have, is Liatris LIgulistylus, a total Monarch magnet. But it is not easy for this to thrive in my New England garden for some reason. I have a Miss Ruby buddleja and I deadhead it diligently, just in case. It outperforms everything else I have crammed into my tiny garden: silphium, ironweed, phlox, echinacea, heliopsis, native lupine, milkweed etc–and those are great plants. But if it weren’t for the one butterfly bush, I don’t think I’d get nearly as many butterflies to come around and use the hosts (milkweed, spicebush, switchgrass, etc.)

    –Much more worrisome to me is all the Black Swallowwort, which attracts Monarchs to lay eggs on it and then they die. That stuff is ALL over the place. I wish the Buddleja would replace it, at least it wouldn’t kill the butterflies!

      • Lisa H says

        Thanks Carole–I do have ambivalent feelings about this one butterfly bush in my otherwise mostly native garden. Probably one day, it will need to go. I guess I will have an easier time with that loss if it can be acknowledged that butterflies really DO love it, and at least in my garden, prefer it over everything else (except that liatris ligulistylus that I can’t keep going).

        I wonder if for small gardens, like mine (less than 200 square feet), the draw is that this one buddleja plant packs a lot of power. If I had the room, I would love to have a field full of goldenrod, etc. My few goldenrods, and my other natives, perhaps by themselves just can’t draw in as many butterflies as the one buddleja, which apparently has a special scent. (Liatris ligulistylus has a special chemical too, that draws in Monarchs specifically–darn I wish mine wouldn’t keep dying!)

        Also, I’m competing with other people’s buddlejas in the neighborhood. I figure, better I have one too, mine is probably not likely to be invasive, and it’s surrounded by host plants. Then I can try to raise the caterpillars safely and hopefully increase their survival chances. I do get dismayed when people who want to have a butterfly garden think all they need to do is plant butterfly bush, and I do try to butt in and educate about natives, potential eventual invasiveness of buddleja in our area, deadheading, and the need for host plants.

        I actually love deadheading plants anyway, more excuse to be in the garden and observe! Ms. Ruby is easy to deadhead because it doesn’t get taller than me.

  10. says

    well I’m glad i’ve never planted any butterfly bush! i like the beautiful plants in my yard to have an ecological purpose, so if they aren’t helping local insect species and the like, i normally pull them out.

  11. says

    About a year ago I was asked by the editor of Butterfly Gardener, a publication of the North American Butterfly Association, to take the ‘con’ side in a debate about whether to use Butterflybush. I knew it was invasive, but until I started to research the article, I didn’t realize the extent of its reach. The USDA list it as naturalized in 20 states, British Columbia, and Puerto Rico, it’s one of the top 20 noxious weeds in Western Europe, and banned in New Zealand. While Massachusetts may not formally list it as invasive, it is known to have naturalized in Nantucket. Read on for more information, including links to the USDA website for details on where Butterflybush is naturalized, and alternative plants: http://the-natural-web.org/2013/09/11/butterflybush-are-there-better-alternatives/
    Mary Anne Borge recently posted..Butterflybush – Are there better alternatives?

  12. Steve says

    In a state where Goldenrod is the native wildflower of the state, what else will you be recomending we plant… Ragweed? Obviously you don’t have allergies! I suspect that if the truth be told the decline in butterfly populations have more to do with climate change AND habitat destruction due to urban sprawl and humanities overpopulation of this planet. In the grand scheme of things complaining about butterfly bushes invasiveness is like complaining about a fly on a bulls’ A3< when you are not feeding the bull! As with may organizations who's only focus is on one particular issue, you mean well but completely miss the point!

  13. Keith Evans says

    I am certainly not commenting from the perspective of expertise in either the flora or fauna being discussed here, but I do see a problem with such disparage of the Butterfly Bush. It would appear that much of the argument against it is based upon a label that applies to a narrow segment of the available varieties. Why is this such an “all or nothing” position with available varieties that don’t meet the invasive criteria? I see more infighting between factions of a movement than practical advise for those of us who want to do what we can to bring back our butterfly populations. I see here an excellent example of what Voltaire meant when he said “The perfect is the enemy of the good”.

    It should also be kept in mind that the “invasive” label is one that is given by USDA, who’s job it is to facilitate commercial agriculture. If there is an invasive factor at play it is the practices of modern agriculture that deems anything not a cash crop as invasive. Considering the deep deficit these practices have placed our pollinators in, I think a beneficial plant that pushes back a bit against them may be exactly what is needed. Shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts against the real villain that encourages the decimation of the entire environment and the fenceline to fenceline sterility of chemical laden soil? From the weak starting point we suffer is it wise to discourage any beneficial because it accomplishes what we want too well?

  14. Melodae says

    I would gladly trade every Russian/Autumn Olive shrub for a butterfly bush. I live in northern Zone 6, and butterfly bushes have to be protected to live through a harsh winter.

    Those of us who have been gardening for years can recognize plants without fancy Latin names on them. They’re nice to know, but not necessary at all.

  15. Diane Semmling says

    Butterfly bushes are absolutely invasive. They are commonplace all along Interstate 78 in PA and line railroad track through Lehigh & Carbon County there.

    They do not sustain all cycles of life for butterflies. Plant Joe Pye weed & buttonbush instead.

  16. Tracie says

    Thank you for speaking out about Butterfly Bush. Yes, it’s pretty, and yes, it IS INVASIVE.
    Plants that are NOT-NATIVE to USA are INVASIVE. To those who disagree, please read our author’s article on the importance of native plants to wildlife. Native plants don’t have to look like scraggly weeds. Texas has a native Butterfly Bush that Butterflies will flock to also. Japanese Maples aren’t native to USA, but Purple Smoke trees are and will attract and sustain more native wildlife, meaning birds and butterflies. Your library may have a book that names a substitute native plant for a popular invasive plant.

  17. DeAnna B says

    Carole this is another excellent informative article that I will share on my facebook page in the hopes of sharing this knowledge with others.
    I had no idea that butterfly bush was invasive when I planted it. My thoughts were, here in Chicago, with our brutal winters, there is no way it could possibly be invasive. It couldn’t survive the cold, below zero temperatures. Was I every wrong!! It is invasive in Illinois! It’s on the invasive plant list for our state! When I learned that each bush produces over 1000,000 seeds, that was alarming to me. Most gardeners are not going to faithfully dead head every week.
    Those who promote the bush & don’t or refuse to see the danger that this plant poses, are acting in a very irresponsible manner. These are often the same people who think it’s ok to be “responsible” gardeners & plant exotic Milkweed & other non native potentially invasive plants as well. Then the plant escapes from the garden, & into the natural areas, causing big problems to native habitat. Do they take responsibility for their part in that?
    I learned from this article that even “non invasive” butterfly can become invasive. I believed I was playing it safe with this bush, I was so wrong! I will be sad to see that bush go, but, I’m not willing to risk the harm it may do to the environment.

  18. Elina says

    I live in the United States but come from France, when I go to France (every summer), I see a lot of butterfly bushes who escaped in the woods or along the streams. Nobody planted them there. Butterfly bushes come from China, not from Europe, so yes, they escape from the gardens. And if you read the book Bringing nature home, it explains the process very well. Sometimes, it takes the alien plants up to 100 years to become invasive. In fact, all alien plants have the potential to become invasive, given the fact that there are no predators for these plants on the host country.


  1. […] Butterfly Bush is Invasive, Do NOT Plant–I’m sure you’ve all read books about butterfly gardening, and almost every one of them recommends Butterfly Bush (Budleia spp). But did you know that Butterfly Bush is a highly invasive plant and is destroying native butterfly and wildlife habitat? […]

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