Pruning Buddleia: When and How?

The buddleia, also called butterfly lilac or butterfly bush, is very popular in the USA gardens. These colorful flowering bushes attract butterflies with their nectar. We will explain to you how to cut the buddleia correctly and which cutting errors should be avoided.


The once exotic buddleia ( Buddleja davidii ) has already conquered countless hearts of hobby gardeners. Its success is based on the abundance of flowers, which attract butterflies in armies. So that the shrub blooms richly every year, pruning is required from time to time. Although this is not absolutely necessary, it can encourage rotten specimens to make new efforts. In addition, butterfly bushes grow very lush. Regular pruning is therefore essential in order to keep them smaller. A rejuvenating cut works wonders, especially with bald summer lilacs.The flowers of the butterfly bush are a real magnet for numerous butterflies and bumblebees

Since butterfly bushes have a strong need to spread, it also makes perfect sense to remove any that has withered in good time.

When is the buddleia cut?

  • In late winter or early spring: rejuvenating pruning. Trim your buddleia in late winter or early spring. At this point, the lilac is not in the sap and there are no birds or other creatures nesting in the branches. A cut in February on a frost-free day is ideal. In late winter, you can also radically rejuvenate your buddleia and put it on the stick.
  • In autumn: shorten it if necessary. You can also prune your butterfly lilac in autumn after flowering. However, you should not proceed as radically as you would with winter pruning. You should only make small interventions, for example, if the bush has to be shortened a bit.
  • In late summer and autumn: remove dead flowers. It is important to remove dead flowers in late summer and autumn. The flowering time of the plant is between July and September. Butterfly bushes produce huge amounts of seeds – if you fail to cut away the dried-up flowers, you will soon have the lilacs everywhere.


Before the seeds develop, the withered inflorescences should be removed

Instructions on how to cut the Buddleia correctly

Butterfly bushes are very fast-growing and extremely easy on cutting. So there is not much you can go wrong with pruning. Even if you want to be more radical, you don’t have to go without the flowers that year.

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In any case, these only appear on the annual shoots that only develop after cutting.

  • Rejuvenation: Buddleia can be cut back radically without hesitation – even annually. Leave about the last 20 to 30 centimeters of the plant and always cut just above a bud or leaf axilla. Make sure to use sharp and clean tools for this so that no entry portals are created for pathogens and the wounds can heal quickly. So that the water does not stay on the cutting edge, you should always cut at an oblique angle.
  • Cut off dead flowers: Once the flowers have faded, it is worth removing the inflorescences before seeds form. Otherwise, it can happen that the butterfly bush spreads rapidly in the garden and around it. The young seedlings can be removed quickly, but you can save yourself this work. Simply cut the withered inflorescences back to the next leaf axilla. If you have removed the faded in good time, you can safely put it in the compost. If, however, ovules are already present, it is better to choose household waste for disposal.

The butterfly bush or buddleia is considered invasive due to its ambitious tendency to spread in Europe. The exotic plant does not stick to garden fences, but penetrates the landscape and displaces native species. But you shouldn’t condemn the shrub anyway. The plant was given the name “butterfly bush” because it is a valuable food plant for butterflies and bumblebees due to the long flowering time and abundance of flowers. Butterfly bushes definitely have added value for the insects. Nevertheless, it is advisable to prevent uncontrolled spreading, for example by cutting off the withered flowers. There are also sterile varieties, but these are also worthless to insects.


Of course, there are numerous other forage crops for insects. If you would like to do something good for the winged pollinators, you will find a selection of insect-friendly plants here. But you can also use insect-friendly seed mixtures such as butterfly meetings. This offers butterflies and caterpillars a rich supply of food.

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