Plant butterfly bushes alone, among other flowering plants or in groups. Because most types die back and seem to disappear in the winter in most areas, they do not work well in a shrub border. However, they are very effective at the back of a perennial border, giving height and a graceful branching backdrop to the shorter flowers. In the South where they do not die back in winter, they develop woody stems. With judicious pruning, these shrubs can be trained to a single stem with multiple top branches or espaliered on a wall or fence. Dwarf types of butterfly bush are suitable for container growing.
Attracting Wildlife: Butterfly bushes’ tiny florets attract many beneficial insects that help control pest insects on your property. The shrubs’ fragrant, colorful flowers also attract many adult butterfly species. Swallowtails, commas, Milbert’s tortoiseshells, monarchs, painted ladies and red admirals are among the frequent butterfly visitors to the blossoms for their nectar. To encourage more butterflies grow other plants in your yard that host their larvae, which are caterpillars. Typical larval food plants are asters, cabbage, dogwood, clover, lupine, marigold, milkweed, spirea, Queen Anne’s lace, snapdragon, fennel, thistle, violet and willow.
Cutting/Interior Design: Cut stems of butterfly bushes with blooms that are newly opening. Slit the cut end of each woody stem up about two inches to help them take up water and strip off any leaves that will be underwater. Put them in water promptly. Later, arrange them alone or with other flowers in a vase with water that has either a commercial floral preservative or some carbonated citrus-based soda in it to help preserve freshness. ‘Pink Delight’ is particularly good for cutting. For more information see the files on Keeping Cut Flowers and Cut Flower Supplies