Buddleja - Care Guide

Buddleja - Care Guide

At a time when we are all striving to help and support the insects and wildlife in our gardens buddleias have a key role to play particularly in feeding butterflies. Along our urban railway lines and on derelict sites buddleia have often self-sown themselves in profusion to provide a welcome display. However we can all do more to include some of the less common or less known species in our own gardens to support butterfly populations.

All the buddleias which Burncoose offers are frost hardy; B. davidii varieties exceptionally so. They grow best in full sun in a well-drained soil but are not particularly fussy about soil conditions. The best flowering will take place in a hot, warm, sunny spot perhaps along a wall or fence. Every few years we give our Buddleia davidii varieties a good chop down to around 2-3ft in height while also thinning out any older stems or branches. This will encourage more new growth and better, larger, flowers on the vigorous new growth. This keeps the plants tidy and under control and is best undertaken during dormancy in winter. We do occasionally prune B. lindleyana and B. globosa but the other species are best left untouched (B. crispa, B. alternifolia, B. colvilei, B. auriculata and other rare species).

Buddleias are readily propagated from semi-ripe cuttings in summer with bottom heat. B. davidii varieties (only) are equally easy from hardwood cuttings set in a cold frame in the autumn.

B. davidii once originated from China and Japan and many named cultivars have been produced by breeders over the generations. The dwarf growing forms have been tried more recently. The choice of colours is yours but the most popular buddleias which we sell are B. davidii ‘Black Knight’ which is deepest purple-blue and ‘White Profusion’. These can produce single flower heads of up to 15in in length. If unpruned most B. davidii will grow (over time) up to around 10ft with, perhaps, a similar spread. That is clearly more than most gardens can cope with and hence the need for regular pruning.

B. alternifolia, from China, grows rather more slowly but is also a large shrub. It has small rounded clusters of highly fragrant lilac flowers on last year’s old growth (rather than on this year’s new growth).

B. colvilei, from the Himalayas, is one of the most beautiful of the buddleia family. It grows best, not in a border, but as a freestanding small tree (up to 15-20ft) preferably on a bank so that you can look up at the hanging panicles of pink or red flowers.

Buddleja colvillei click for larger image
Buddleja colvillei - semi-evergreen

B. cripsa is an attractive foliage plant which will achieve 10-12ft in height in maturity. It is an arching, deciduous shrub with white ‘woolly’ young shoots and fragrant light pink flowers in late summer.

B. salviifolia has a similar habit and overall height with us to B. cripsa but it is (with us) completely evergreen. The leaves are grey-green and the fragrant pale lilac flowers appear in profusion in panicles from late autumn and into early winter. The species originates from South Africa but thrives in Cornwall.

Buddleja salvifolia click for larger image
Buddleja salvifolia
Buddleja salvifolia click for larger image
Buddleja salvifolia

B. globosa is another customer favourite and much in demand. It is known as the orange ball tree and can reach 15ft in height with rounded clusters of dark orange and yellow flowers in open panicles in early summer. This is a native of Chile and perfectly hardy.

B. lindleyana is a small shrub in the gardens here; achieving around 6ft in height before it needs an occasional pruning. The drooping panicles of orange-eyed violet blue flowers appear in September or later. This is a Chinese species.

Buddleja lindleyana click for larger image
Buddleja lindleyana

B. auriculata is rather slower growing than the other species but will eventually become a large shrub. It has an upright habit and produces very fragrant creamy white panicles of flowers with orange centres in autumn and on into winter. Personally I find the fragrance of this species unattractive but butterflies, on the point of hibernating, find it a delicacy when little else is out. This is a South African species which is flowering in season.

B. x weyeriana ‘Sungold’ is a hybrid between B. davidii and B. globosa. As you would therefore expect it is very vigorous and produces rounded (not balled) fragrant yellow flowers in long panicles of up to 12in.

We also list, from time to time, small quantities of other more unusual species as the collection expands in the gardens here. B. farreri has lilac pink flowers in the early spring with no leaves. This will, hopefully, soon be available. B. stenostachya is another collector’s item with woolly leaves and lilac-mauve flowers.


Pruning - Video Tip

Hardwood cuttings - Video Tip


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