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Senna bicapsularis

Previously known as:

  • Cassia bicapsularis
Phonetic Spelling
SEN-nuh by-kap-soo-LAIR-iss
Description

The butterfly bush is a semi-evergreen upright shrub or small specimen tree in the Fabaceae family native to South America, from Panama south to Venezuela and Colombia, and the West Indies. While other trees are dormant in the fall and winter, Butterfly bush is showing off with bright yellow flowers that appear at a time of year when little else is in bloom. This plant is a stunning addition to any sunny landscape.

The butterfly bush generally recovers if hit by a hard frost.  When this occurs, the stems should be cut off at ground level before spring. In the spring, vigorous sprouts will emerge from the roots.  If the roots freeze, it will likely kill the plant.  Mulching around the roots helps keep the frost from killing the plants.  Frequent pinching of the young shoot tips or pruning during the growing season up to the beginning of September encourages branching and increases the number of flowers. The bush grows best in sunny locations and tolerates clay, sand, loam well-drained soils which are acidic or slightly alkaline. Needs little care once established but occasionally requires watering during periods of drought.  It has a scrambling growth habit.  If you want to keep it in check, trim it after the plant has finished blooming, to prevent it from sprawling.  Propagation is by seed or stem cutting.

The butterfly bush is a host plant for the Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly.  Before the butterflies emerge, foliage and flower buds are often eaten by the caterpillars in the fall, but these can be easily picked off by hand. They are a little elusive as the caterpillars turn green when eating leaves, yellow when eating flowers.  

Trees often fall over and will require staking to hold them upright. For this reason, it is easiest to place it in a shrub border among other shrubs that will provide support, or up against a wall or fence.  It is well worth the effort to stake a specimen tree since the tree is simply stunning in flower.  It can also be placed in a highway median since it needs little care. 

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Foliage and flower buds are often eaten by the caterpillars of the Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly.  Otherwise, they have no serious insect problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#yellow flowers#frost tender#scrambling#pollinator plant#garden walls#flowers early winter#butterflies
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#yellow flowers#frost tender#scrambling#pollinator plant#garden walls#flowers early winter#butterflies
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Senna
    Species:
    bicapsularis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northern South America
    Distribution:
    Panama south to Venezuela and Colombia, and also the West Indies. In the U.S., it grows on the west coast of California, lower desert of Arizona, south Texas, south Louisiana and most of Florida except the panhandle.
    Wildlife Value:
    Host plant for the Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Salt and drought tolerant
    Climbing Method:
    Scrambler
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Irregular
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Brown slender pods, up to 6 inches long.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Light yellow to deep golden yellow buttercup-shaped flowers, 0.5 inch wide, with prominent curved stamens, appearing in large sprays, over a long period in fall and winter.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Pinnately compound leaves, with alternate three to five pairs of dark green, obovate leaflets, 1.5 inches long.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Green
    Light Brown
    Bark Description:
    Typically, multi-trunked with drooping branches that are susceptible to breakage.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Rock Wall
    Slope/Bank
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil