delights impart a summery aesthetic to designs from spring through
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Butterfly bush, Summer lilac
1. speak and spell.
The spelling of this flower, which is pronounced either “bud-LEE-uh” or
“BUD-lee-uh,” is often seen as Buddleia, but Buddleja is more often
considered the correct form. The reason for the spelling controversy,
which is centuries old, is as follows: In the usual practice of
botanical Latin, the spelling of a genus name made from the surname
“Buddle” (Buddleja was named after the English cleric and botanist, Rev.
Adam Buddle) would be “Buddleia”; however, Swedish botanist Carolus
Linnaeus, who devised our system of binomial plant names in the 18th
century, wrote it “Buddleja,” so by the rule of naming priority,
“Buddleja”—the earliest spelling—should be given preference.
2. family of five.
Buddleja is a member of the small Buddlejaceae/
Loganiaceae, or logania, family. There are only four other genera in
3. sweet nectar.
This flower is most commonly known as butterfly bush because of its
attractiveness in gardens to butterflies, which feed on its scented
nectar. Another common name is summer lilac. The flowers also are
attractive to bees, hummingbirds and other nectar drinkers.
4. color and fragrance.
Buddleja is best known for its deep purple flowers, but there also are
magenta, pink, lavender, blue-violet, red-violet and white varieties.
Most have tiny orange centers (“eyes”). The blossoms are tiny, frilly
and highly fragrant, and they occur densely clustered on spikes that
grow up to 10 inches long.
5. spring into fall.
Buddleja is available from April through November from California
growers as well as during the summer months from some specialty cut
flower growers throughout the United States.
6. limited life.
Buddleja’s typical vase life is only two to three days, but with careful
handling, these flowers can last up to 10 days. Buddleja should be
purchased when about one-third of the florets are open.
7. handle with care.
Unpack these flowers immediately upon their arrival in your store, and
remove all bindings and sleeves. Cut the stems at an angle with a sharp
knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of stem. The stems are usually
bare, but if foliage is present, remove any that would be submerged in
the vase solution. Immediately dip or place the stems into a hydration
solution, then place them into a clean container with properly prepared
8. cool buds.
Place these cut flowers into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F immediately
after processing, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours
before selling or designing with them. Refrigeration can extend
Buddleja’s vase life for several days. Frequent misting also is
9. daily check in.
Check the water level daily. Recut the stems and change the flower-food
solution every other day. Remove florets as they fade. Advise customers
to follow the same procedures and to keep Buddleja in cool, well-lit
10. confusion says.
Common names can be very confusing, so be specific when ordering. Don’t
confuse butterfly bush (Buddleja) with butterfly weed or butterfly
flower (Asclepias). Both butterfly bush and butterfly weed are sometimes
referred to simply as “butterfly plant”; however, the two are entirely
Botanica; R.J. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Dave’s Garden; http://davesgarden.com
David Repetto; Repetto’s Nursery;
Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Duke University; www.duke.edu
Hortus Third; Liberty Hyde Bailey and
Ethel Zoe Bailey
Missouri Botanical Gardens; www.mobot.org
The Royal Horticulture Society; www.rhs.org
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and
department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San
Francisco with 29 years of consulting and educational experience in the
floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at
or by phone at (415) 239-3140.
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