Buddleja davidii Franch., commonly called butterfly bush, is a large woody subshrub with long, colorful, fragrant floral panicles, which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It was originally introduced to the United States from China and is a winter-hardy perennial throughout most of the United States to USDA hardiness zone 5 (–26 to –29 °C). It is an important and favored landscape ornamental with over 100 named cultivars (Dirr, 2009; Stuart, 2006). Variegated forms of plants are popular because the foliage provides ornamental color interest when plants are not in flower. Some variegated butterfly bush cultivars have been introduced, including ‘Harlequin’, ‘Notbud’ Masquerade™, ‘Santana’, and ‘White Harlequin’, but they have often performed poorly as a result of chimera instability, leaf scorch or leaf “greening” in summer heat, poor vigor, or spider mite susceptibility.
A new variegated cultivar of Buddleja davidii named ‘Summer Skies’ was generated through the use of chemical mutagenesis. The leaves of this cultivar have a striking periclinal variegation, which is highly stable. The central portion of the leaves are dark green with a broad and variable edge of bright yellow to white depending on the amount of sunlight the plant receives. ‘Summer Skies’ performed well in trials in comparison with several commonly available cultivars, exhibiting strong vigor and attractive variegation throughout the growing season. ‘Summer Skies’ has been released to provide a cultivar with improved variegation and landscape performance that can extend the ornamental appeal of butterfly bush to the spring and early summer periods before the start of flowering.
Dirr, M.A. 2009 Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation, and uses 6th Ed Stipes Publishing Champaign, IL
Leyser, H.M.O. & Furner, I.J. EMS mutagenesis of Arabidopsis TAIR. 7 Nov. 2011 <http://www.arabidopsis.org/comguide/chap_1_plants/6_EMS_mutagenesis.html>.
Royal Horticultural Society and Flower Council of Holland 1986 RHS Colour Chart London, UK