How to Grow Butterfly Bush Seeds
Grow Guide #2422
Binomial name: Gaura lindheimeri
Life Cycle: Perennial
This 'How to Grow' guide details everything a home gardener needs to know to plant, grow and care for Butterfly bush (Gaura lindheimeri).
When to Sow Butterfly bush Seeds
Butterfly bush is a perennial plant that grows year round in most climates. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow butterfly bush seeds in your climate.
Butterfly bush plants are best grown in full sun. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Butterfly bush plants are perennial, meaning they live for several years. Choose a permanent position where plants can grow undisturbed by regular digging or other disturbance.
Butterfly bush plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting. Learn more about preparing soil for planting here.
Butterfly bush plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 20 litres is recommended for butterfly bush. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.
How to Sow Butterfly bush Seeds
Butterfly bush seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.
Butterfly bush seeds grow best when they are raised in trays or other containers and transplanted to the garden once established.
- Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
- Sow seeds 1mm deep.
- Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
- Seeds should germinate in around 14-28 days at a soil temperature of 18-25°C.
- Transplant seedlings to the garden once they have their first true leaves and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
- Plant out, spacing plants 80cm apart.
Tip: Seeds of this variety can be slow to germinate. Take note of the expected germination time, be patient and follow the recommended depth and temperature guidelines closely for the best chance of success.
How to Grow Butterfly bush
Butterfly bush plants are drought tolerant once established and grow best in soil that is dry and very well drained. Let the soil dry out between watering, and only water when the soil is dry about 10cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger), even in summer. Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.
Butterfly bush plants will grow in nutrient-poor soils and do not need additional fertiliser during the growing season.
Butterfly bush plants should flower in approximately 125 days.
When plants have finished flowering prune them back to neaten them and encourage strong new growth. Using sharp secateurs or snips, cut individual stems just above a set of lower leaves.
Common Problems when Growing Butterfly bush
Like all plants, butterfly bush is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing butterfly bush plants:
- Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
- Rust (Puccinia sp.) is a fungal disease that causes brown to orange raised spots or patches to appear on foliage. Fungal spores are spread by wind or water to neighbouring plants, especially in temperatures of 10-20C and when humidity is high. To manage rust, space plants to avoid overcrowding, grow them in the recommended amount of light (eg full sun), do not over fertilise crops, remove dead plants and practice crop rotation. Read more about rust fungus here.
- Powdery mildew is caused by fungal spores reproducing on the leaves of plants. First showing as white spots on leaves, affected areas can spread quickly to cover the entire leaf surface. While rarely fatal, powdery mildew can reduce yields. Water plants at soil level (not on leaves) to prevent spreading spores, allow good air flow between plants, remove affected leaves and if necessary spray with an appropriate fungicide or homemade spray. Read more here about powdery mildew here.
- Slugs and snails are molluscs that feed on tender leaves and shoots, mostly at night, leaving slimy trails behind them. Control them by removing their hiding places, keeping free range poultry, collecting them by torchlight or by placing traps. Read more about slugs and snails here.