The Un-Buddleia

Most folks have grown butterfly bushes in the genus buddleia, yet few garden visitors recognize this fascinating species from our 1994 botanizing trip to Northern Mexico. I should add that most buddleias on the market are developed from the Asian species, and virtually none from the less colorful North American species.

Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella grows in rocky, bone-dry hillsides in the mountains of Northern Mexico near the town of Los Lirios at 7,000′ elevation. I was only able to find a single seed, but fortunately, it sprouted, and 28 years later, this amazing specimen is the result.

One of the cool things about Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella is the insanely fragrant flowers, which start for us in early fall, and continue all winter…a trait you won’t find in any other temperate shrub of which we’re aware. As you can imagine, it is awash with an array of pollinator insects The flower color is a dusty white, so this will never be a plant that will make it to the shelves of your favorite box store. That said, it’s a plant we wouldn’t be without in our garden.

Image of Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella blooming in the garden.
Buddleia cordata ssp. tomentella

6 thoughts on “The Un-Buddleia”

  1. This is fascinating! Do you have any plans to propagate and/or offer for sale in the future? What is the lowest temperature it has experienced in the 28 years it has been growing at your location? In its original habitat, do you know if the soil was alkaline?

    1. Our plant survived 1 degree F in the winter of 1999/2000…a year after initial planting. We’ve never propagated this since we figured there probably wouldn’t be enough interest, but we’d be thrilled to revisit that decision. We didn’t take any initial soil samples, but it was growing alongside Salvia microphylla, so we assume it was somewhere near neutral.

  2. “Insanely fragrant” flowers seems like a good enough reason to purchase this if it were offered. I would certainly want to grow it.

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