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On Gardening: Good golly, Miss Molly

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

"Good golly, Miss Molly. How beautiful you are."

That's just the response one of my Facebook followers wrote upon seeing my post.

This was a statement of awe about one of the best butterfly bushes in the market and not my incredible photo of a pipevine swallowtail feeding on it. But that's OK, Pat — I agree with you!

Miss Molly reaches 4 to 5 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide, perhaps a little taller in the South. The flowers are various shades of red depending on your zone.

Some call it a wine or sangria red. At The Garden Guy’s house, it is a most beautiful, festive red, and in a strange occurrence, I have two of them. I never plant two of anything, but I digress.

Let’s get to a meaty issue really quick. In the Pacific Northwest, it has been determined that the butterfly bush is invasive. A few other states have such declarations.

Miss Molly, however, is NOT invasive and has been approved for sale in Oregon and Washington. I am presuming it is the fear of a widespread promotion of butterfly bushes there that has made it mandatory that Miss Molly be sold under the name "Summer Lilac." This is perfectly fine to me, as Miss Molly has the fragrance of a rare perfume. The point is you can plant Miss Molly anywhere from zones 5a to 9a without fear of unwanted spread.

Miss Molly will offer everything you have been looking for — nice shape and size, and rare colorful blooms packed with butterflies. I have planted mine in a bed with the dwarf Pugster butterfly bushes, Limelight Prime hydrangeas and Fire Light Tidbit hydrangeas. I also added tropical touches from giant alocasia elephant ears and a Red Abyssinian banana. In the very front of the bed I have Truffula Pink gomphrena and Rockin Playin the Blues salvia.


Like other buddleia, Miss Molly can grow in a variety of soils and soil pH. The mandatory requirement is drainage. Wet soggy winter soil will spell doom for the butterfly bush, and a host of other landscape plants, too. The next requisite is sunlight. This is where The Garden Guy finds most of his challenges. Although I would say I am lacking in sunlight, I do have just enough to keep the butterfly bush blooming.

Miss Molly has some other benefits that will cause rejoicing. Besides being the most beautiful plant in the garden from summer through fall, it is resistant to both deer and rabbits. It is tough in heat and humidity, as well as those temporary occasions of drought and dry soil. Besides butterflies, you will be hosting bees and hummingbirds too, making it a winner in my book!

I remember well the first buddleia I saw as a young ornamental horticulturist with Mississippi State University. It was well over two stories tall. It had a gnarly, rustic look and was growing next to an old farmhouse. Miss Molly will keep you more in the shrub business. Regardless, I heartily recommend reading the Butterfly Bush Proven Winners Ultimate Care Guide, which is easy to find online.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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