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Butterfly bushes have got to be one of my favourite shrubs but the usual common varieties have a reputation for being invasive and growing very large and are not always suitable for smaller gardens or growing in smaller pots. However, they are great for attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects into the garden.
This is where some of the new dwarf varieties of buddleia are turning the tide by proving less invasive than their taller counterparts, as most of them are sterile or produce very few seeds. Another advantage that dwarf varieties possess is that they take up less space, making them suitable for small gardens and pots.
Below I go over some of the best dwarf buddleia varieties and how to care for them including pruning.
Buddleia Buzz varieties
Buddleia davidii Buzz is famous for its small stature, pleasant fragrance, beautiful blooms, and sterile cultivars. This variety was bred in the UK specifically to remain compact but present sizable blooms with vibrant colours. Under this variety of butterfly bushes, there are several cultivars you can choose from, all displaying different coloured blooms from spring to autumn.
Buddleia Buzz cultivars include ‘Ivory’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Soft Pink’, ‘Hot Raspberry’, ’Purple’, ‘Velvet’, and ‘Sky Blue’. These well-behaved plants require little maintenance, preferring full/partial sun and well-drained soils. Buddleia Buzz and its cultivars, on average, grow to 1.5 metres in height making them suitable for smaller gardens as well as perfect for growing in pots.
In terms of pruning, they don’t require heavy pruning to maintain the shape or control the height of the plant. I recommend for the first couple of years pruning down to around 20-30cm tall to form the main framework and then cutting back to 2 to 3 buds to give them a trim every year. I always prune my buddleia around March April just after the new growth has started to show. They grow in a rounded shape, unlike the taller varieties that grow upward too.
In terms of feeding, I recommend adding fertiliser in spring after pruning to help promote vigorous growth for the coming season. I usually use a high in potash (potassium) feed such as Vitax Q4 but you can also use a rose feed too as this also promotes better flowering.
As winter approaches, move the plants to a protected area even though they can withstand lower temperatures, as hard frost can damage them. If you have a cold greenhouse, you could move them into there is grown in pots, alternatively, you can just move them to a more sheltered part of the garden. Plants grown in the ground are usually at much less risk. I also like to wrap my pots in ragging or bubble wrap to protect the root system.
Buddleia ‘Nanho Blue’
This deciduous shrub native to the UK presents purple/light blue conical flowers full of nectar to attract pollinators. This variety prefers hours under the direct sun to maintain the large number of flowers produced, thus partial sunlight is not ideal so try and find a nice sunny location for this variety. Blooming ideally in summer and autumn, the plants thrive in loam, chalk, and sandy soils with proper drainage to prevent root issues. If growing them in pots I like to use a soil based compost such as John Innes potting compost as it retains the moisture better.
This buddleia variety is classified as a zone-7 hardy plant but winter will cause them to die back, especially in severe winters. It is advisable to cut them back close to the ground in late winter or early spring to encourage better development and prevent the plants from becoming too leggy.
Apart from pruning in early spring, deadheading is also crucial in maintaining the continuity of blooms throughout the flowering season. Like all buddleia, they can be propagated through softwood cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in autumn.
If grown in the ground they can still reach a maximum height of 2.5 metres with a spread of about 1.5 metres but in pots there much more contained and seem to grow very well in pots.
Buddleia Blue chip, white chip & red chip
These cultivars are part of the Lo and Behold butterfly bush hybrids presented by Dr Dennis J. Werner. There are several hybrids under this banner including ‘Blue Chip’, ‘Miss Molly aka ‘Red Chip’, ‘Lilac Chip’, ‘Ice Chip aka ‘White Chip’, ‘Pink Micro Chip’, ‘Blue Chip Jr’ and ‘Purple Chip’. Named by the colour of their flowers, these cultivars attain different heights ranging from 1 metre to 1.5meteres so still try dwarf varieties and perfect for containers.
Compact and displaying vibrant blooms, these hybrids flower from the middle of summer through autumn. They are not particular in terms of soil pH, but they grow best in loam, chalk, and sandy soils with good drainage as do most buddleia varieties. To ensure that they produce a good show, they prefer full sun.
Pruning these hybrids is not a must since they are already compact naturally but, I still highly recommend giving them a good trim. The ideal time to prune back these plants is in early spring or late winter before the new growth sets in. Adding fertiliser in spring after pruning helps the new growth emerge more vigorously, thus presenting quality blooms in summer.
Buddleia ‘Summer Bird Snow’No products found.
A newer variety in the market, Buddleia Summer Bird Snow, offers an abundance of tiny, densely packed white blooms that attract pollinators with ease. These flowers emerge from late spring and, depending on the climate conditions, can bloom into early winter (for warmer climates).
The dwarf variety grows to a height of 60cm so a true dwarf variety, and is compact; therefore, they are perfect for growing in pots. Just like the other varieties, this variety does well in full sun with well-drained soils.
Cutting them back hard in late winter or early spring promotes better growth in the coming season. Because this variety is hardy, it can survive tough conditions with little water but, ensure the soil is not completely dry, especially in pots as this will cause wilting. After pruning, feed the plants so that the new growth emerges vigorously.
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Buddleia ‘Summer Bird Blue’No products found.
Last on my recommended list of dwarf buddleias, looking gorgeous is the small, fragrant, and compact Buddleia ‘Summer Bird Blue’. This variety blooms from mid-spring to autumn, manifesting purple-blue 14cm panicles that project from the green foliage.
Growing to about 50cm in height, this cultivar is perfect for growing in containers. All it needs is humus-rich soil with enough moisture and access to full sunlight for maximum growth. Maintenance of this variety includes hard pruning in late winter or early spring so that the new growth emerges healthier. Deadheading is also part of the package because it encourages continuous blooms and prevents any formation of seeds.
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General care of dwarf buddleia
Dwarf buddleia is probably one of the easiest shrubs you can grow, water frequently for the first season if planted in the ground being careful not to overwater.
If grown in pots, use a soil based compost such as John Innes potting compost, because it is soil based it retains moisture better. With buddleias grown in pots and containers, you will need to water more regularly than those grown in the ground.
I recommend pruning all varieties in spring once the worst of the frost is over, usually March/April for where I live and prune back to around 20-30cm.
I also always feed with a high in potash feed after pruning to give them a good start to the season to promote better flowers.
Butterfly bushes are beautiful plants that are sure to add colour to your surroundings, whether planted in the garden or pots. If it is your first time attempting to plant buddleia, try these low maintenance varieties first and see how it goes.
If your looking for plants perfect for growing in containers then check out my garden on the best plants for pots all year round here
Last update on 2024-01-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API