Let’s get right to it. We posed the question in the title: What should you buy at the Macomb County tree and plant sale? And this week, we recommend the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)!
As a refresher, Macomb County’s tree and plant sale is an annual event held by Green Macomb and the Blue Water Conservation District. The sale provides an opportunity for the public to purchase young trees, fruit trees, flowering shrubs, wildflower seed and other fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. Its pre-order period runs through April 4, so we highly recommend getting your orders in now. Which brings us back to the butterfly bush. This beautiful shrub contains long, arching shoots that fill the air with a fruity scent from summer to autumn. It is vigorous and undemanding and will continually send up new shoots. Its flowers come in many colors, though butterflies seem to prefer the lavender-pink (mauve) of the species to the white and dark purple cultivars.
As mentioned, the bush is easy to manage, which is supported by these tips on planting and care from the Farmer’s Almanac:
- Buddleias need full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
- Plant in spring or fall before frost. See your local frost dates.
- Loosen the soil, mix in compost, and dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant container.
- When placing the plant in the hole, the top of the rootball should be level with the soil surface.
- Space plants 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on the variety.
- Water thoroughly.
- Water freely when in growth and sparingly otherwise. In the summer, water if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
- Avoid fertilizing butterfly bush; too much fertility promotes leaf growth over flower production.
- Remove spent flower spikes to encourage new shoots and flower buds.
- Each spring, apply a thin layer of compost and mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.
- In cold, northern climates, spread mulch up to 6 inches deep around the trunk to nurture it through the winter.
- Buddleias are very late to break dormancy, so don’t be in a hurry to assess winter damage.
- The bush should bloom abundantly even in its first year. In warmer climates, the bushes will grow into trees and develop rugged trunks that peel; peeling is normal.
- In the northern limit of their range, they behave as herbaceous perennials, dying back to the root in cold winters.
- Since they bloom on new wood, even if there is no die-back, cut them back to the ground every spring. Yes, hack to the ground!
- Even where winters are mild enough for the stems to survive, prune severely to stimulate abundant growth on which flowers are borne.
If you’re interested in purchasing a butterfly bush, check out the easy sale order form here. And mark your calendars for the plant pick up days – Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.