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With butterfly bushes, the summer fairy tale of flowers is within reach. Its furious abundance of flowers depends largely on whether the gardener is familiar with the right cut. After reading this tutorial, you will be well acquainted with the knowledgeable procedure. They don't just understand the optimal choice of appointment and correct cutting. You are also adept at training, maintaining and rejuvenating Buddleja davidii.

After a radical pruning, the buddleia takes years to grow back to the same height

Table of Contents

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  1. Tutorial content - well-founded answers to these questions
  2. Cut relevant facts in a nutshell - the cut profile
  3. Growth rules set the course - this is how butterfly bushes grow and bloom
  4. Objective defines the cut - what do you want to achieve?
  5. Timing influences the result - tips for choosing the right date
  6. Prepare pruning professionally - recommendations for scissors & Co.
  7. The basics of cutting technique - how to cut butterfly bushes like a pro
  8. Instructions for the educational cut - how to do it right
  9. Maintenance Pruning Instructions - Pruning for a long plant life
  10. Fading is a case for scissors - tips for the in-between cut
  11. Instructions for the rejuvenation cut - cut radically instead of clearing
  12. Follow-up treatment optimizes the incision result - wound closure or not?
  13. The 3 most common mistakes when pruning butterfly bushes
  14. Tutorial content - well-founded answers to these questions

    In order to learn the correct pruning of plants, you will not be spared a little reading. After all, you want to master the greatest challenge in caring for trees perfectly. You'll be rewarded for studying this buddleia pruning tutorial because you'll end up with the answers to important questions literally off the hook.

    • Which botanical factors influence the cutting result? - the cutting profile
    • How does a butterfly bush grow? - Rules of growth of Buddleja davidii
    • Big flowers or a neat look? - Cutting guide controls the result
    • When is the best time? - The choice of date has an effect on the result
    • Which equipment is really useful? - Recommendations for scissors & Co.
    • What is the correct way to use scissors and saws? - Basics of cutting technique
    • How does the educational cut succeed? - Step-by-step instructions
    • How does the maintenance cut work? - Step-by-step instructions
    • How to deal with withered flowers - tips for the in-between cut
    • What to do with senile butterfly bushes? - Instructions for the taper cut
    • Is wound treatment useful or not? - Advice on aftercare
    • What can go wrong? - The 3 most common mistakes when pruning butterfly bushes

    Cut relevant facts in a nutshell - the cut profile

    Skilful pruning is the supreme discipline of gardening. It is therefore not surprising that uncertainty reigns in hobby gardens as to when and how plants are to be cut. A prime example is the butterfly bush, which particularly benefits from professional pruning. The first step on the way to an experienced cut is knowing the most important influencing factors. The following profile provides you with brief and concise information about all the relevant details as the basis for the perfect cut:

    • Growth: deciduous shrub
    • Growth height: 150 to 400 cm, dwarf varieties 40 to 60 cm
    • Growth width: 150 to 200 cm, dwarf varieties 40 to 60 cm
    • Annual growth: 30 to 60 cm depending on the species
    • Flowering time: July to October, in mild areas from June to November
    • Bud formation: exclusively on this year's shoots
    • Frost tolerance: hardy to - 20 degrees Celsius
    • Cut compatibility: excellent
    • Toxic content: slightly toxic

    If you later have doubts about when and how to prune your buddleia, keep these facts in mind.

    Growth rules set the course - this is how butterfly bushes grow and bloom

    If the gardener is familiar with the growth of Buddleja davidii, all uncertainties about the correct pruning disappear into thin air. As a typical summer bloomer, butterfly bushes adhere to fixed rules that result in pruning that is suitable for beginners. If you delve into the species-specific growth behavior here, you will no longer have any doubts about the expert cut:

    • Buddleja davidii only flowers on this year's shoots
    • This year's shoots initially grow unbranched
    • In the course of the summer, short side shoots with smaller flowers sometimes thrive
    • Uncut annual shoots branch out more each year into a non-blooming, dense bush
    • Two-year-old and older shoots only act as a framework for this year's flowering shoots

    It is characteristic of butterfly bushes that numerous shoots start to grow from spring onwards. Buds do not form until early summer, which turn into large panicles of flowers from July. The number and vigor of young shoots is therefore directly related to the abundance of flowers. Last year's and old wood should not stand in the way of fresh shoots. Consequently, vigorous pruning in spring sets the stage for a spectacular bloom festival of buddleia.

    Objective defines the cut - what do you want to achieve?

    With every cut, you actively intervene in the growth of your butterfly bush. Depending on the specific implementation, you create a very specific effect in the bush. Are you aiming for a lavish flowering period with extra large flower spikes or are you aiming for a well-groomed appearance? Unfortunately, the described growth behavior of Buddleja davidii does not allow for both results at the same time, but instead presents you with a decision. These options are available:

    • Deep pruning produces voluminous panicles of flowers up to 30 cm long
    • Moderate pruning creates a harmonious growth habit with a homogeneous crown

    The instructions for the training and maintenance cut that follow later specify the close relationship between the cut and the result.

    Juice pressure controls the sprouting

    Beginners in the pruning of Buddleja davidii are amazed that the desired growth result can be communicated nonverbally to the shrub with the help of the scissors. The answer is less mysterious than it might seem. The decisive component for the different results is the juice pressure. The connections in short:

    • The juices in the buddleia always strive upwards
    • The higher the position of buds on the shoot, the higher the juice pressure
    • The juice accumulates minimally on buds for optimal supply
    • A cut changes the juice pressure at and below the cut

    If you shorten a branch, the cutting point will automatically become the new shoot tip. The juice pressure increases, whereupon a strong new shoot develops. At the same time, the number of buds to be supplied has reduced, which also intensifies the pressure. It follows from this: the harder the pruning, the stronger the growth of shoots and flowers.

    Timing influences the result - tips for choosing the right date

    As explained in the growth behavior section, a buddleia blooms only on this year's shoots. This means that spring is the only sensible time for pruning for education and maintenance. An exception applies to the rejuvenation cut, because the specifications of the Federal Nature Conservation Act have priority with this measure. Withered blossoms and the invasive urge to spread are dealt with by the gardener sporadically or once in the fall. The following overview clarifies the details:

    schedule upbringing conservation rejuvenation Proliferation control, winter preparation
    Pruning goal: optimal abundance of flowers mid/late February mid/late February
    Pruning goal: harmonious growth habit early March to early April early March to early April
    Cut Goal: Rejuvenation from the end of January to February 28 at the latest
    Pruning goal: remove faded leaves, prevent self-seeding regularly regularly Care cut in autumn

    Please make sure that it does not freeze or rain on the day itself. If your garden is in a region that is endangered by late frost, keep fleece handy to cover the freshly cut shoots overnight if necessary.

    The specific date has an important influence on the strength of the budding. The further the growth of your butterfly bush has progressed in spring, the lower the sap pressure and the weaker the new growth. For this reason, the time table above refines the recommendations for the ideal editing date, tailored to the desired result. Act according to the rule of thumb here: the earlier the cut, the more vehement the subsequent growth and the more lush the abundance of flowers.

    Prepare pruning professionally - recommendations for scissors & Co.

    The tool occupies a key position in the series of important influencing factors for the perfect cut. Please act according to the motto "Quality is trumps". Specialist shops have a wide range of high-quality scissors and saws that make cutting work on buddleia much easier. We recommend the following cutting tools as basic equipment:

    • Hand scissors: for shoots up to 2 cm thick (available for right and left-handers)
    • Pruning shears: for 2 to 4 cm thick branches (with long or extendable handles)
    • Sword or folding saw: for thinning out ground shoots that are more than 4 cm thick

    High-quality tools are not only easy to use. You can also easily disassemble, clean and sharpen hand shears and pruning shears.

    Bypass or anvil shears?

    Garden shears (€17.82) for one-handed use are available from specialist retailers in two versions: bypass shears and anvil shears. The distinction often causes headaches for those new to pruning. So that you can unerringly choose the right model for your butterfly bush when purchasing, our tutorial is briefly devoted to the outstanding distinguishing criteria:

    • Bypass scissors with two sharp blades: curved upper knife runs past the concave lower cutting blade
    • Advantage: sharp cuts without fraying
    • Disadvantage: more effort
    • Anvil scissors with sharp D-shaped blade and blunt anvil: blade presses shoot onto anvil and cuts
    • Advantage: better power transmission
    • Disadvantage: Danger of crushing on shoots made of hard wood

    The functioning of anvil shears is primarily suitable for cutting soft wood. Because Buddleja davidii thrives on highly resilient, hard wood, bypass pruning shears are a better choice.

    The basics of cutting technique - how to cut butterfly bushes like a pro

    A clean cut guarantees that pruning butterfly bushes will be a successful project. Use freshly sharpened and carefully cleaned scissors when cutting off the previous year's faded shoots in spring.

    Set the blades just above a bud. If there are two opposite leaf buds, please cut away parallel from both buds. Align the scissors at a slight angle so that the cut leads away from the bud or buds, as the sketch shows. It is important to note that at least one bud is facing outwards, as this results in the growth direction of the shoot.

    To trim dead or too close-set ground shoots, use the pruning shears at the base. Since fresh shoots are not to be expected at this point, all that matters is a smooth cut. Holding the scissors at a slight angle ensures that irrigation and rainwater run off better to protect against fungal infections.

    What to do if the summer lilac is sick?

    All growth and pruning rules become a waste when a summer lilac falls ill. If mealy-white coatings or yellow spots appear on the leaves, there is an urgent need for action. Regardless of the time of year, pruning is recommended as an immediate measure before initiating further disease control treatments.

    Cut off any diseased parts of the plant as you learned in the basics of pruning technique. It is important to note that you carefully disinfect the tool before and after cutting. The stubborn pathogens easily hold out for weeks on scissors and saws in order to infect a previously healthy plant the next time they are used.


    Clippings from diseased buddleia do not go to the compost. The danger that the pathogens will spread again in the garden is too great. If possible, you should burn the shoots and leaves. Alternatively, dispose of the clippings in the household waste.

    Instructions for the educational cut - how to do it right

    In the first 5 years, the training cut pursues important goals. A stable framework of older shoots forms the basis for the annual sprouting of vital flowering branches. The extent of the annual cut determines the abundance of flowers and regulates growth in height and width. That is how it goes:

    • In the first 3 years, leave the strongest 3 to 5 shoots on the ground to form a framework
    • Cut off excess, stunted and dead shoots close to the ground
    • Prune scaffolding shoots back to a height of 30 cm in spring
    • In the 4th and 5th year, allow skeletal shoots to grow 15 to 20 cm higher each year
    • Every spring, trim all side shoots on the trellis to short spurs with 2 or 4 buds

    Cut back young shoots of the shoots in the 4th and 5th year to a height of 30 cm. When the training cut ends in the maintenance cut, these bottom shoots have an important task.

    Maintenance Pruning Instructions - Pruning for a long plant life

    In the spring of the 6th year, the education of the butterfly bush is complete. Cut back the shrub by half to two-thirds annually. The 3 to 5 ground shoots of the training phase are now overaged and are losing frost resistance. From now on, cut off the oldest 3 skeletal shoots close to the ground every year so that young ground shoots can take over the task. In this way, a continuous rejuvenation takes place, from which vitality and abundance of flowers benefit.

    Shorten the side branches to 2 or 4 buds, because this is where this year's flowering shoots will sprout. After a professional maintenance cut, all that remains of the butterfly bush is the thinned structure with the short side stubs.

    The more radical the maintenance pruning, the more wasteful the summer flowering period. However, your buddleia appears sparse with this year's long shoots and also offers no privacy. Be more conservative when cutting, give the flowering bush a well-formed, compact shape. To do this, vary the cutting heights by shortening some branches more and cutting other shoots back by only a third.

    Frost damage on summer lilac - what to do?

    If a severe winter leaves the butterfly bush with significant frost damage, a rethink is required when it comes to pruning. First and foremost, it is important to remove the dead, frozen wood so that the way is clear for healthy budding. How to act correctly:

    • Clear deadwood completely
    • Cut back frozen shoots into healthy wood
    • Fertilize the butterfly bush with compost and horn shavings (32.93€) to mobilize the growth forces

    If you cannot visually see the transition from frozen to healthy wood, a vitality test will help. Scrape off a small piece of the bark and examine the tissue. Living tissue is light to green, while a dead shoot is brown inside.

    Fading is a case for scissors - tips for the in-between cut

    Withered flowers are a negative item on the Buddleia in several respects. On the one hand, they impair the decorative appearance. On the other hand, withered flowers turn into fruit with myriads for seeds, leading to invasive spread. Last but not least, wilted panicles hinder the growth of fresh buds underneath, which noticeably shortens the flowering period. Consequently, everything withered is a case for the secateurs. How to proceed professionally:

    • Rinse faded flowers regularly
    • Cut back the shoot tip to the next bud
    • Shorten overhanging branches to a side branch

    If you don't have time for continuous trimming, we recommend autumn pruning. Cut off all withered inflorescences in one go to prevent the summer lilac from self-seeding. Please limit the pruning to everything withered up to a maximum of one third of the branch length, because the remaining shoots serve as natural winter protection.

    Instructions for the rejuvenation cut - cut radically instead of clearing

    Expert makeover pruning breathes new life into an old butterfly bush. If you have missed the pruning for a few years or inherited an old Buddleja davidii, do not be put off by the puny appearance. A radical pruning removes bare and dead shoots to make room for a new growth. How to do it right:

    • Thin out all dead shoots close to the ground beforehand
    • Shorten aged skeletal shoots to cones with at least one pair of buds
    • Cut back strong young shoots to 30 cm and leave as a substitute for skeletal shoots that no longer sprout
    • Side branches on it intersect except for 2 buds

    In subsequent years, rebuild the buddleia by following the training pruning guide.

    Follow-up treatment optimizes the incision result - wound closure or not?

    The sealing of cuts with wound sealants on trees and shrubs has become obsolete. Modern research results show that shrubs, such as butterfly bushes, have self-healing powers. The interfaces are sealed off and walled off on their own. Fresh wood forms above the foreclosure limit. Tree wax (€12.96) significantly impedes this process. Wound treatment after cutting summer lilac is usually not necessary.

    An exception applies to cuts that exceed half the drive diameter. In spring there is a risk that shoots will dry back in such places and rot will form. To prevent this process, smooth the edges of the wound with a knife. Then apply a wound sealant thinly to the edges. The wood core remains free for an unhindered supply of oxygen.

    The 3 most common mistakes when pruning butterfly bushes

    The good-natured cut tolerance and the vital growth make the cut care of buddleia easy. Nevertheless, there can be omissions that make it difficult for the summer blossom sprinter. The 3 most common mistakes with tips on how to avoid them form the end of this tutorial:

    The 3 most common editing mistakes error consequence correction
    repeated cutting during the season increased, broom-like shoots at the tips of the shoots, bare at the base of the bush Thin out broom shoots, cut once in spring, do not cut too deeply when cleaning out
    Shrub never pruned thick, intertwined whorls of branches, senescence from below Thin out dead wood every spring, also cut off the 3 oldest shoots from the 6th year
    too long stubs over the buds after pruning Butts rot and magically attract diseases and pests always cut 2-3 mm above a bud at a slight angle


    An out-of-row pruning occurs when you transplant butterfly bushes. The best time for a change of location is in autumn, which according to the program only provides for cleaning out withered blossoms. Since a significant root volume is lost during transplanting, an adequate pruning of the shoots restores the balance.

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