Georgia Gardener Newsletter Cool Plant: July 10, 2008

Butterfly Southern Bush Honeysuckle
Diervilla sessilifolia 'Butterfly'

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Species Native Range: Southeastern U.S.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-8
Mature Size: 3-5 feet tall and wide, suckering
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Well-drained
Drought Tolerance: Excellent
Ease of Culture: Easy

Normally I don't use trees or shrubs as Cool Plants during the summer months because of the problems associated with planting at this time of year. However I've been growing this shrub in my landscape for about three years. Because the deer kept eating the branches, I was forced to move the plant and its associated root suckers inside my fenced back landscape this past May. To my surprise, the parent plant and all offspring have thrived despite a decline in our rainfall. Some of the larger plants have already begun to bloom.

Southern bush honeysuckle is a native shrub commonly seen growing in open areas of the southern Appalachians and upper Piedmont from North Carolina over to Tennessee and westward to Alabama. From early summer to fall, the tips of the branches are covered with tubular yellow flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators. The stems of the new growth are red and in fall the foliage turns a blend of crimson and purple. This shrub has a suckering habit and adapts to a wide range of conditions including poorly draining, rocky and sandy soils. Flowering and fall color are best in full sun, but it will perform nicely into partial shade.

Plant SBH in a mixed shrub or perennial bed with other drought-tolerant, sun-loving plants. SBH also makes a great plant for slopes and because of its suckering habit, will grow to form nice colonies that can fill difficult areas or help prevent erosion. Good companion plants include: knockout roses, loropetalum, fothergilla, daylilies, asters, goldenrod, coneflowers, etc. I would recommend that you wait until the fall to plant this shrub.


This plant is usually found in nurseries that specialize in native plants.

Sunlight Gardens: mail order
Joy Creek Nursery: mail order
Nature Hills Nursery: mail order
Native Plant Nurseries from Georgia Native Plant Society

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