Pruning the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

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Comments: 3

Buddleia before
Buddleia in need of pruning
Buddleia after
Buddleia after pruning

Buddleia davidii is one of the most widely grown shrubs in UK gardens. Its common name, the Butterfly Bush, refers to the insects that it attracts in profusion right through summer to autumn.

Left unpruned it will quickly develop into a large shrub (3m/10ft) and can take over a smaller garden. One of the reasons I prune mine regularly is to avoid the shrub becoming straggly. Left to grow naturally it’ll produce lots of fragrant purple flowers but these will be smaller than if pruned back hard annually.

This type of Buddleia flowers on shoots that are produced in the current year so pruning in February or March will not stop them producing flowers the following Summer.

Examples of other plants that flower on the current year’s growth, and can be pruned in a similar way, are Passiflora, Fuchsia and Ceanothus.

Using a sharp pair of secateurs cut back all lasts year’s growth to 2 or 3 healthy shoots from their base. It’s important to avoid cutting back into older wood as new shoots may not regrow. I know this sort of pruning may seem a bit severe but Buddleia grow like the clappers and you’ll quickly see lots of new growth as we start spring.

After hard pruning any plant it’s well worth giving it some TLC with a good layer of mulch and a slow release feed. My plants always get a 5cm layer of Levington Farmyard Manure and a sprinkle of Miracle-Gro Slow Release Plant Food.

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Reader comments

  1. janette law (not verified) (You)

    buddleia didnt flower last year, looks like it was dead yet year before it was a mass of flowers

  2. Dan Walford (not verified) (You)

    Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind … it’s been about a week since I cut the bush back and it’s already shooting vigorously. Buddleia are tough as old boots.

  3. MsVix (not verified) (You)

    Wow…. I had no idea you could prune them so hard. I have two in my garden and both look straggly and messy. I will get my loppers out and give them a good hard prune! Thanks for the tips, it gives me more confidence to prune this hard now I have seen an how you have done it!