Orange Eye Butterfly Bush

Photo: TobyOtter

Coming from China, two indigenous species of orange eye butterfly bush are Alba and Magnifica.   

  • Buddleia davidii - This is the species that can grow to 16 feet (5m) and is the definition of exotic.  It grows out of control in many places around the world while naturalizing in other areas. Medium purple flowers have orange eyes.  This very hardy shrub has seeds with tiny wings fly creating new plants.  One way to know if you may have come across this is by the branches are quadrangular. 

  • Alba, meaning 'white', was introduced from Southwestern China to North America around 1900. These flowering shrubs can become invasive.  Leaves are dicotyledonous, or dicots and are simple leaf blades with 2 leaves per node along stem.  They grow up to 5 inches long (15cm) and are narrower than other buddleja species. 

  • Magnifica - Like 'Alba' this is a wildflower butterfly pant. Magnifica is not widely in cultivation.  Fragrant dark blue-purple flower panicles grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) giving the butterfly plant its translated name -magnificent.

These are hardy deciduous shrubs that can be more controlled if planted in winter plant hardiness zones.

In warmer planting zones the summer lilac hybrids and cultivars can grow large and usually require constant trimming and pruning.  Depending on geographic location some can also become invasive. 

If left unattended, Orange Eye butterfly bushes can grow high and spread beyond boundaries that have been created in gardens and landscapes. Bushes spread 10 feet and most grow up to 15 feet, with a few exceptions.

Inflorescence clusters can grow up anywhere from 8 to 18 inches (30 cm). Outside of the usual lance shaped (lanceolate) green leaves, many leaves can be green on top and more whitish underneath.  Leaves can be opposite and have toothed margins.

Summer Lilac
Photo: Dvmsimages

These fragrant plants produce flowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators.  It's also wonderful to see that they are great hummingbird plants as well.

For those creating their perfect butterfly garden below is a list of hybrids and cultivars.  Besides orange there are a few that are known as yellow eyed butterfly bush.  Should the gardener ever come upon these plants with yellow centers in the flowers, use the same caution with regards to growing out of control.

Hybrids and Cultivars of Orange Eye:

These are Buddleja davidii Franch.

 Outside of white, colors that can be found include 

purple, pink and white and 'red'.

  • White bouquet - Blooms have yellow inside of them.  This can be a better contained plant and grows up to 4 feet tall (1.5 m).  It is a more recommended species because it grows very full.

  • Empire blue - Growing up to 8 feet tall (2.75 m), the flowers are a rich lavender-blue and can be quite fragrant.  Flowers can be smaller, which can disappoint some gardeners.

  • Pink delight - Growing up to 6 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, flower color is a vibrant pink to a faded pink.  Leaves appear silvery because of the color underneath.  

  • Royal red - This is a great performing shrub but does require continuous trimming, even in planting zone 5.  It grows up to 8 feet, is very fragrant and the blooms are actually a dark magenta-violet in color.  The Monarch butterflies picture at the top of this page is actually on Royal red butterfly bush.

  • Black knight butterfly bush - This is the darkest blooming of buddlia species and considered one of the hardiest.  Flowers are a dark-grape color and fragrant.  Overall these grow up to 5 feet tall, but sometimes higher.  

  • Dartmoor - Unlike other buddleia, flower panicles are racemes, or an individual flower atop individual pedicels which sit on one common branch (axis).  This is a very tall growing (16', 5m) hardy variety with lowers that are lilac purple in color.

  • Sultan(a) - Aka Santana butterfly bush.  This is a very inconsistent shrub to grow.  If can grow right away or take a few seasons to get going.  Once established it can become weak, even die.  Leaves are a soft narrow green with irregualar edges and a yellow margin.  Flowers are a deep reddish-purple.  It grows about 6 feet.

  • Blue Heaven - Having blueish-lavender flowers, this shrub is a compact variety that grow about 3 feet (.9 m).

  • Peace - Named to commemorate the end of World War II, this is a fast growing shrub that gets up to 7 feet.  Ivory white panicles grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) and leaves are a light grayish-green.

  • Fortune - Growing up to 8 feet (2.5 m), this shrub can have panicles that grow up to 16 inches (40 cm).  Flowers are purple and can have both yellow eye and orange.

  • Ile de France - Growing up to 10 feet (3 m), this hardy shrub has flowers that are purple with yellow eyes.  Flower trusses grow about 25 inches (63.5 cm).  This is a large growing shrub that can grow spread out 15 feet (4.6 m) wide.

  • Lindleyana (Lindley's butterfly bush) - This is known to be especially invasive throughout Florida, helping plant grow are the stolons (stoloniferous).  Flower panicles are lavender, drape like a willow tree and grow up to 2 feet long and are. Leaves are green and shiny.  

Cultivars & hybrids not B. davidii are:

  • Buddleia 'Butterfly Ball' - A mid-sized growing plant that is more difficult to find.  Flowers are white with a dark yellow to gold eye.

  • Buddleia 'West Hill' - Also harder to find, flowers are purple with an orange eye.

Overall these varieties are deer resistant, but sometimes it has
been noted that depending on the geographic location,
deer have found them to be tolerable.

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