Garden News: Butterfly bushes popular

Buddleia, known by most home gardeners as butterfly bush, is becoming increasingly popular — mostly because butterflies favor this perennial as a nectar plant.

Butterfly bushes come in an array of sizes, flower colors and foliage characteristics, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. Along with their landscape performance, they make great cut flowers with their fragrant blossoms. Buddleias are winter hardy in Louisiana but can be used as annuals as well.

The Flutterby Petite Tutti Fruitti Pink, one of the more exceptional varieties, has been selected as a Louisiana Super Plant. It’s non-invasive, stays small — 24-30 inches at maturity — and is continually in flower during the warm season.

In addition, it’s been a proven perennial in south Louisiana for three years.

Plant buddleias in a well-drained location in full or partial sun and apply a slow-release fertilizer. Buddleias are extremely drought tolerant once they’re established.

“Most people plant butterfly bushes too close together,” Owings says. “The Tutti Fruitti variety needs 3 feet between plants.”

See a list of nurseries participating in the Louisiana Super Plants program at lsuagcenter.com/superplants.

You asked

Around June, I get caterpillars on my azaleas that eat away at the leaves. They are black with white spots when they reach adult size. What are they? How can they be treated? — Bob

The red-headed azalea caterpillar is an occasional pest in south Louisiana. These foliage feeders are typically a mid- to late-summer problem and can be present on all varieties of azaleas. In some years, they may persist for three to four months. Dipel, Sevin and other products labeled for caterpillar control are the recommended insecticides. — Allen Owings

Upcoming events

The LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, located on La. 1067 about 6 miles east of Hammond, will hold an open house from 9 a.m. to noon on May 2.

The event will feature guided tours from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. of the sun garden, piney woods garden and the Margie Jenkins azalea garden. The Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners will provide information on this fall’s Master Gardener class.

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.