Which buddleia do butterflies prefer?

17 August 2013

I’ve spoken in a previous article about the buddleia trial going on in Dorset and the first year results.  This suggested ‘Dartmoor’ (bright purple, huge flower heads), ‘Autumn Beauty’ (Lavender colour, late flowerer) and ‘White Profusion’ (white!) were top as far as the trial had gone at that point, though as all the bushes in the trial were not fully mature, this may change. What I didn’t discuss, however, was the impact of where they are planted.

Butterflies need warmth to function: that’s why you so often see them sitting on paving stones, walls etc: they are soaking up the heat from whatever they are sitting on, plus the rays of the sun (if it’s out) directly. Many of the species in Britain are at the far northern edge of their natural range, so they don’t always find the warmth they need, though it is possible there are some changes underway due to climate change. The impact of this on their choice of buddleia is as simple as whether the bush is in the shade or in the sun.

Six Peacocks in the sun on buddleia Weyeriana.

Six Peacocks in the sun on buddleia Weyeriana.

This has been being brought home to me recently by watching the butterflies on two buddleias I’ve got close together. Usually, I’d say that they would prefer ‘Lochinch’ (lavender-coloured flowers set off nicely by rather more silvery leaves than usual) to Weyeriana, which is pale orange – see the article I did on it back in April. However, my Weyeriana is now very tall – 12-15′ (4m+) I’d guess, so it’s getting sun for most of the day, especially on its top flowers. the photo above illustrates this – it isn’t a particularly good photo, because I was pointing the camera way above my head and into the light.

‘Lochinch’, by contrast, is in shade for quite a bit of the day, as you can see below, thanks to a laurel hedge becoming rather over-enthusiastic. The results are obvious: I’ve counted up to nine Peacocks, six Red Admirals, two Commas and numerous Whites on the Weyeriana simultaneously, while at the same time there were only 2 Peacocks, 2 Red Admirals and the odd White on the ‘Lochinch’.

Two Peacocks in the shade on buddleia 'Lochinch'.

Two Peacocks in the shade on buddleia ‘Lochinch’.

So – if you are thinking of planting a buddliea, or another buddleia (and please do), it need to be in the sunshine – or let it grow very tall, but then don’t expect to be able to take good photographs of the butterflies enjoying it!

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8 Comments to “Which buddleia do butterflies prefer?”

  1. Great article! I’ve panted four patio buddleias (from Thomson & Morgan) & they’ve flowered for weeks now and have been smothered with butterflies.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I was actually thinking yesterday about putting one in!

  3. Ive just bought a house (early July) that has a medium sized lavender coloured buddleia in the garden. I also have lots of wasteland behind my shed and the veg beds I have recently put in which is covered for a thick belt about 35 yards deep with up to 6 foot stinging nettles.

    That one buddleia has been absolutely swamped with butterflies since I moved in. I haven’t had a garden for over 20 years (having been a city dweller living in apartments). I have never had such a beautiful and relaxing environment to sit in of an evening in my life. It’s just stunning.

    I am definitely going to plant some more buddleia come next Spring.

  4. GREAT POST! I have a ‘White Profusion’ and it is my first of many to come.

    • That’s brilliant. Don’t forget they need things for their caterpillars to eat, too – see some of my earlier posts: ; ; . A subject I must get back to!
      Happy gardening. Lyn

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