Buddleja alternifolia

Common Name: alternate-leaved butterfly bush 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 18.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Lilac-purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Rabbit, Clay Soil


Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Becomes weedy and sparse with diminished flowering performance in too much shade, however. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions including poor, somewhat dry soils, but is intolerant of wet conditions. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 5 where it usually does not suffer any significant winter die-back. Unlike Buddleja davidii, this species blooms on the previous year's wood, so cutting plants to the ground in late winter each year is not an option. Prune in late spring immediately after flowering. Weeping habit may be best showcased by training and growing this plant as a single trunk tree.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Buddleja alternifolia is a deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or small single trunk tree which typically grows 8-15' tall (infrequently to 20' as a tree) with arching, drooping, willow-like branches. Tree form may superficially resemble a small weeping willow. Short clusters (to 3/4" long) of lightly fragrant, lilac-purple flowers bloom in the leaf axils along the previous year's stems in spring. Flowers earlier than most other species of butterfly bush. Lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long) are green above and grayish below. Unlike other cultivated species of Buddleja, this species has alternate leaves, hence the species and common names. Also sometimes commonly called fountain buddleia in reference to the growing habit. Flowers are attractive to butterflies.

Genus name honors the Reverend Adam Buddle (1660-1715), English botanist and vicar of Farmbridge in Essex.

The genus name is frequently listed today as Buddleia. However, Linnaeus named the genus Buddleja (pronounced with a silent “j”) which is still considered to be the proper spelling (first name survives) according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

Specific epithet refers to the alternate leaves of the species.

Common name also refers to the alternate leaves of the species.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Shrub borders, foundation plantings, cottage gardens or butterfly gardens. Interesting weeping specimen when trained as a single trunk tree.