The Wonderful World of Buddlejas

(Pictured: Buddleja davidii 'Black Knight')

The buddleja is a garden favourite so well known for its attractiveness to butterflies that it has earned the common name 'butterfly bush'. Native to many highland regions of the world, including the Andes, the Himalayas, Tibet, Western China, and the African Great Escarpment, this sweet-scented ornamental shrub is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and growing conditions, and is a rewarding plant for beginners and enthusiasts alike. At Hollyhock Hill we sell a range of varieties, available for purchase at the Ballarat Farmers' Market and the Creswick Market.

Buddleja salviifolia is native to the mountainous regions of southern and eastern Africa, including Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. First described and named by the famous French naturalist Lamarck in 1792, this species is hardy to -12˚C and is a large shrub growing to around 5m (sometimes more) making it suitable for larger gardens. In Africa, it is also known as Mountain Sage (in Zulu, Iloshane). Not the tidiest of shrubs, it has long, drooping branches and sage-like leaves. The most striking feature of this plant, however, is its amazing perfume, which some say is the best of all the buddlejas. This variety differs from the semi-deciduous summer-flowering varieties, being evergreen, and having blossoms arrive in late winter and early spring.

Buddleja davidii (Chinese:大叶醉鱼草) is native to central and western China and was first documented and collected from eastern Tibet by the French missionary Armand David in 1869. Incidentally, at the same time, he also became the first European to record the existence of the Giant Panda, an animal previously unknown to the Western world. This summer-flowering species is semi-deciduous and enjoys a severe pruning at the end of winter. It is frost-hardy Australia-wide (to -20 ˚C).

  • 'Royal Red' is an old American cultivar with rich purple flowers raised by Karle Lucal and introduced by the Good & Reese nursery of Ohio in 1942. Grows to around 4m.
  • 'Black Knight', the darkest of all the varieties, was introduced by the Moerheim Nursery of Dedemsvaart, Holland, in 1959. Grows to around 5m. Both 'Royal Red' and 'Black Knight' are recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
  • 'Nanhoensis' is a smaller variety endemic to Kansu, China, with pale lilac flowers. Introduced to cultivation by the famous plant hunter Reginald Farrer in 1914, it grows to around 1.5m.

Buddleja ‘Silver Anniversary’ was originally named ‘Morning Mist’ and is a hybrid of two species – Buddleja crispa (the Himalayan Butterfly Bush, native to Nepal and Bhutan) and Buddleja loricata (native to the mountainous regions of South Africa and Mozambique). This cultivar was bred by Peter Moore in Hampshire, UK, in 1994. It is remarkable for its beautiful woolly white foliage and honey-scented white flowers in late summer. It is a smaller variety, growing to around 1.5m high. Unlike the species varieties, this hybrid is sterile and will not self-sow. Frost hardy to -10˚C, it thrives in a well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny, sheltered position. May also be grown in a patio container.

For more information on these varieties of buddleja, or if you are in Ballarat and would like to purchase, please contact Hollyhock Hill at or on the 'Contact us' page of this website.

(Pictured: Buddleja 'Silver Anniversary')

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