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Mature Buddleia Advice

Hi all,

Was hoping to get some advice on a 25+ year old buddleia i have. Please bear with me as its a bit of a story! :smile: 

Its been a small tree for years and i usually prune it back the same amount each year and it puts on an amazing show every summer. However, the pruning back every Spring used to take a good 3 hours as the thing was so tall and it was a real chore, so i decided to gradually reduce the height of the mature branches each year - starting last year. (I previously had another 30 year old buddleia that was well over mature and when i tried to cut it down drastically, the entire thing died, so i figured doing things gradually with this one might be the safer option!). So, things were great after pruning. Id taken all the new growth off from the previous year (beg of March) and also taken a chunk of the older wood off too (end of April), literally reducing the height of the entire bush by half. New growth started appearing lower down on the mature branches and some at the base of the tree which had never happened before so i took this as a good sign, that there was some good energy at the base. However, a couple of months later, i noticed that one of the thickest, oldest branches had some fungus growing on it. Despite that, there was still plenty of healthy growth on it so i let it be. But by the time the heatwave set in, i realised the entire branch had died and killed off all the new growth. I sawed it off right to the base and the rest of the buddleia did fine for the remainder of the year, though there weren't quite as many flowers as usual, probably due to pruning it hard once in March and again end of April. The flowers were some of the healthiest i'd seen from that plant though, so i was happy.

Now, ive had a look at it today and just chopped the top off for now, hoping to reduce the older branches by another 30cm or so when we get a bit of drier weather, and ive found another mature branch at the back with some jelly fungus and then lower down, with what appears to be eggs. But i think these must be a fungus upon closer inspection, as some are irregularly shaped. Some sort of puffball? They are very tiny and both types of fungii are on the same branch in different places. Can anyone confirm this for me?

Ive noticed for years that on the very old, thick trunks/branches, the bark tends to peel off near the bottom. Presumably this is dead? Should it be stripped off to prevent damp penetrating further into the branch underneath? Im wondering if this might be contributing to any rot that is occuring on the older branches.

Basically, can anyone advise on how i should further look after this buddleia, and how to prune and maintain it going forward? Im worried about cutting it down too far in one year incase the shock kills it like it did the other one. I would like to keep it as a large bush with a strong base, rather than cutting it right down and having sprawling branches all over the place. Should i saw off the branch with the fungus growing on it?

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for any advice etc. Much appreciated!




  • viatorviator Posts: 17
    Heres a few pictures of the buddleia before pruning in Feb 2018, after the first cut in March 2018, then after the third cut at the end of April 2018, and then a shot of it in flower in August 2018 after id removed the large dead branch at the back. Looks a bit lopsided on top as much of the growth died at the back, and it sprawls a bit at the front due to the new thin branches shooting from the base.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 85,989
    My buddleja are cut down to knee height at the beginning of every March. 

    My my parents had an elderly one not dissimilar to yours ... one year Pa cut it down to knee height with a bow saw and it was totally rejuvenated and lasted for at least another ten years.

    However no plant lasts for ever and the fungi indicates that yours is on the way out. 

    In your position I’d reduce its height by half, also removing the ties that are strangling it, and plant another one nearby ready to take over when the time comes. There are some beautiful choice named varieties in various shades available nowadays. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,232
    There are some new thin stems at the front. I would cut those down to two feet high. The old thick stems, cut down as low as you can.  That would probably rejuvenate it, but it is easy to take cuttings from healthy new shoots when they are about six inches long. If you get them to root, you can discard the old one if necessary. I tend to think of buddlejas as having a life of ten years, then replace with a new one.
    As Dove says, there are lots of new colours now, although I still think the butterflies favour the soft purple ones.
  • Hampshire_HogHampshire_Hog Posts: 1,089
    I would be tempted to cut it down even further to maybe six inches buddleia are extremely tough plants and if you can get below the fungus line you may well save it.

    "You don't stop gardening because you get old, you get old because you stop gardening." - The Hampshire Hog
  • LynLyn Posts: 22,847
    I would agree with @Hampshire_Hog   Mine are also very old but get cut down as low as we can get them. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • viatorviator Posts: 17
    Thanks everyone. You've convinced me! If its potentially on its way out anyway, what have i got to lose? Keeping my fingers crossed it survives! :smile:
  • mrsswmrssw Posts: 3
    viator said:
    Thanks everyone. You've convinced me! If its potentially on its way out anyway, what have i got to lose? Keeping my fingers crossed it survives! :smile:
     Any update on this?  I've just found this as I also have a very old buddleia which I ended up pruning down to about 2 feet high last month as nothing was happening.  It is just a lot of old wood, some of it looks like it is rotting and I'm worried it's dead.  Just wondered if you cutting yours right down worked
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,918
    The person hasn't posted since @mrssw, but if your buddleia is rotten, then it's unlikely to be ok.
    Most buddleias respond very well to hard cutting back, but if there's another problem with it, it won't make any difference, as others have said on the thread.

    If you can post a photo of yours, that might help with advice though  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • mrsswmrssw Posts: 3
    Thanks for your reply. I've attached a photo of it as it is today along with a photo of it in flower a couple of years ago 
  • LynLyn Posts: 22,847
    Mine are worse and they bounce back each year.  Wait till we get some rain and and has a good soak,  you may be surprised.   Mine always look rotted,  lumps drop off but they seem to withstand that.
    Give it a bit longer before you hack it out.
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

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