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Planting butterfly bush: Why the butterfly bush isn’t so good for butterflies after all

Butterfly bush simply belongs to many amateur gardeners. No wonder, because the many species of butterflies that it attracts, make the garden particularly attractive. In addition, you provide the insects with plenty of food and do them some real good when you plant butterfly bush – or do you? More and more often it comes under criticism. It is far too invasive and not as good for our native insects as many assume. We explain what lies behind this claim.

The magnetic butterfly bush – What butterflies and insects does it attract?

Plant butterfly bush - What are the disadvantages for insects.

There is probably no one who does not love to watch these colorful butterflies. Especially rarer specimens, such as the swallowtail, are always a great pleasure. And during the blooming season from June to October, the butterfly bush provides an impressive variety of species. This is especially the case during the months of July through September. What butterfly species can you expect to see when you plant a butterfly bush?

Swallowtail is a visitor to the garden near lilacs

  • Admiral
  • Brown forest bird (chimney sweep)
  • C butterfly
  • Thistle butterfly
  • Large cabbage white butterfly
  • Large ox-eye
  • Emperor’s mantle
  • Karst white butterfly
  • Small fox
  • Small cabbage white butterfly
  • Royal Candle Monk
  • Land Cactus
  • Kidney Spotted Fritillary
  • Rapeseed white butterfly
  • Russian bear
  • Checkered
  • Swallowtail
  • Glider butterfly
  • Silvery pearl butterfly
  • Peacock butterfly
  • Lemon butterfly

Plant butterfly bush – Who else does it attract?

Dove tail also feeds on nectar of butterfly bush

Butterfly bush provides food for butterflies, but not only! But who else eats butterfly bushes? Other insects such as bumblebees and bees are also attracted to it. You can even see more of the interesting dove-tail, which looks so much like a hummingbird. At night, when all these garden visitors are resting, the moths (such as the Gamma Owl) show up in turn, which is also a beautiful sight.

What attracts the insects so strongly?

Plant butterfly lilacs and which ones attract butterflies


There are many flowers that attract butterflies. But the summer lilac, or Buddleja davidii, as the shrub is also still called, seems to be particularly good at this. But why does the butterfly bush attract butterflies? On the one hand, it is the attractive color – the purple has an extremely attractive effect on the insects. For another, it’s the scent that reinforces that.

Apparently, the fragrant flowers with their nectar are a real treat for the little garden inhabitants and it looks like you are doing something good when you plant butterfly bushes. So why does it have such a bad reputation with some people?

The negative sides of the butterfly bush

Plant butterfly lilacs in the garden for insects

The beautiful butterfly bush is not a native plant. Originally it comes from Tibet and China. This makes it a so-called neophyte, as a “new citizen” to which our insects are not adapted. While this is not a problem with some other neophytes ( Mediterranean herbaceous plants, for example, are of great benefit to our insect world, while others have no impact at all), this is not the case with this shrub. We will now explain why butterfly bush is not good for butterflies:

Buddleja davidii attracts admiral, but does not provide quality food


  • It is very invasive. The butterfly tree produces exceedingly large amounts of seeds, which causes it to spread rapidly. And even though the shrub itself looks wonderful and beautifies even the most unsightly corners, it thereby displaces other native specimens that our insect species need.
  • Lilac is said to make butterflies drunk, which makes them easier victims for birds and other insectivorous animals. However, this claim is based only on observations by a butterfly expert and is not yet supported by any other evidence. However, the caffeine contained in the nectar does indeed make them addicted.

Plant butterfly bushes and attract insects to the garden

  • At the same time, the nectar is not of particularly high quality. As a result, the insects are attracted but don’t get what they need. They waste your time looking for non-existent food instead of reproducing. This is true not only for the butterfly, but for all species of insects that are attracted to it.
  • It’s not enough to just plant butterfly bush. As beneficial as it may seem, it by no means provides everything necessary for our native insects. Because before the butterfly becomes a butterfly, it is, among other things, first of all a caterpillar, which also needs food. So provide them with food as well, for example by creating a small corner with suitable plants (e.g. nettles, purple loosestrife, alder buckthorn, common waterweed, horn clover, cabbage, wild carrot, wild fennel and some grasses).

What can you plant instead of butterfly bush lilac?

What alternatives are there to the neophyte, the summer lilac

If you already have this type of lilac in your garden, you can limit propagation by cutting off the faded flowers immediately, even before seeds have formed. Also, provide biodiversity by adding other nectar-rich native plants to your garden. Phlox, for example, is popular with nectar-sucking insect species.

If you’re still thinking about buying a lilac shrub, you could also choose common lilac instead, which is no less beautiful and even has more flower colors to offer. Either way, you’ll be doing all our insects some good with native wild perennials, and that includes endangered species.

Bees are also attracted to the butterfly bush

The following flowers, among others, provide ample food for butterflies, caterpillars and other insect species:

  • Bearded Flower
  • Bluecissus
  • Dill
  • thistles, including globe thistle and noble thistle
  • Stonecrop
  • Common privet
  • Common water astragal
  • Autumn aster
  • Horn clover
  • Honeysuckle – Honeysuckle
  • Judas Valley
  • Nasturtium
  • Carthusian carnations
  • Lavender
  • Viper’s bugloss
  • Phlox
  • Splendid card
  • Red currant
  • Saltwillow
  • Rockweed
  • Thyme
  • Spotted St. John’s wort
  • Fragrant violet
  • Meadowflower
  • Wild marjoram (oregano, common thistle)
  • Zinnias

Summer lilac is very invasive and crowds out native plants