Updated: Sep 4, 2022
By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
We first wrote about Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), in August, 2021. It is a favorite shrub of many gardeners. It grows well in Zones 5-9, can reach a mature size in two years and will grow in full or partial sun. This plant can reach up to 10’ tall and 10’ wide. It is semi-evergreen with deep green to grayish green leaves. Showy blooms appear from June through October. But there is a downside to this plant and that is that is recognized as an invasive introduced species.
Vitex is a Texas Superstar plant and can be grown as a tree or a large shrub. It is deciduous and has profuse spikes of lavender flowers from May until the first frost. It is drought, heat, and pest tolerant and should be planted in full or partial sun. Vitex can grow up to 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide. However, on the Texas Superstar website, there is a note about the invasive nature of Vitex and although it is not on the Texas Department of Agriculture or the USDA official list, the note asks for caution in growing this plant.
So, what do all these terms natives, invasives, alien, introduced or exotic mean? To start with a plant is considered native if it occurs naturally, without human introduction. That means that over time, they have adapted to a particular set of conditions. For us as gardeners, native plants in our area require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
The terms alien, introduced, or exotic are often applied interchangeably to plants that have evolved in a different part of the world. Most often, humans have brought these plants here deliberately or accidently.
Invasives can be native or exotic. They can take over an area to the detriment of established plant communities.
Doug Tallamy in his book, Nature’s Best Hope and https://homegrownnationalpark.org/, lay out the importance of planting native plants to regenerate biodiversity and ecosystem function. What if we decided what to plant in our yard based on the value it had not just to humans but to all the other organisms that we share our yard with?
There are native options for both butterfly bush and vitex. Wooly Butterfly Bush, Buddleja marrubiifolia, can be found in the plant trade. Ageratina havanensis, Fragrant White Mistflower, comes alive with nectaring insects at the end of fall as does its Trans-Pecos cousin, Ageratina wrightii or White Mistflower.
For vitex, consider: American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, Anacacho Orchid Tree, Bauhinia lunarioides, or Mexican Redbud, Cercis canadensis var. mexicana.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.