Pruning Butterfly Bush

Deadheading, Coppicing and Pruning Butterfly Bush:

Photo: EasyButterflyGarden

Buddleia is a great backdrop or border shrub and various Buddleia species bloom at different times.  For example, Buddleia alternifolia blooms in early spring while others, like Buddleia asiatica and Buddleia officinalis bloom in late winter.

As a rule of thumb deadheading flowers of Buddleia is recommended to allow the bush to flourish throughout growing season, regardless of bush type.

  • What is deadheading? Deadheading is simply removing dead flowers where plants energy sources are put forth to encourage fresh flowers to grow rather than trying to focus on the spent flowers. Deadheading promotes a healthier plant that blooms longer during growing season and helps overall plant health by preventing disease. Removing spent flowers also helps to not have them reseed.

Deadhead all Buddleia similarly except for Buddleia alternifolia (see below).

Because winter puts many Buddleia in a dormant state, coppicing is highly recommended. The dormant state occurs when temperatures outside are freezing (below 32 degrees) for many hours.

Coppicing (French for 'couper', or cut) is a pruning technique that stimulates new growth when gardening season starts. This technique is used on various deciduous trees and shrubs and also helps to develop roots and long term sustainability.

In late winter/early spring ,while the plant is still dormant, cut butterfly bushes down anywhere 6 - 12 inches from the ground. It is especially important to do this the first few years while bush is young.

Pruning Butterfly Bush
Photo: Lianem

Don't confuse coppicing with transplanting and planting bushes in the fall. Fall is the best time to transplant but if any branches are trimmed at this time, open wounds would be left open going into winter leaving bush vulnerable to moisture and disease.

Buddleia alternifolia is different! Flowers grow off of the previous years blooms. If coppiced in the same manner as other common Buddliea's there will be no flowers for the next growing season. It's best to cut back stems where healthy buds are located or cut back where stems have not flowered. Do this mid-summer right after flowers have bloomed.


  • It is thought that coppicing dates back to 5000 BC. This ancient form of forestry not only helped trees and shrubs to grow better, but the cuttings were used for making shelters.

Related Articles:

Starting a Garden -
More info about placing backdrop or border shrubs and north-westerly winds.

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