Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Coppicing Buddleia. 3.8.17

Buddleia hybrid "Blueberry Cobbler" before coppicing.

Buddleias after coppicing.

In late 2012 / early 2013, I planted a row of hybrid Buddleia. I was diligent and bought the varieties that are approved by the state of Oregon as non-invasive inter-generic sterile hybrids.  These had advertised final heights of around 4 to 6 feet tall.  These were mainly "Blueberry Cobbler", and "Peach Cobbler"  but I also added "Miss Ruby" and "Miss Molly", a different series with a more red coloration.   Later I also planted the "Flutterby Vanilla" hybrid, and "Yellow Honeycomb", although planted in the row with the other established and vigorous shrubs, they didn't have much chance to grow.  I think "Yellow Honeycomb" survived and bloomed this year, but was mostly overshadowed by the very nearby and gigantic "Peach Cobbler."

I know that buddleias are controversial, partly due to invasive potential, and partly because they serve as nectar sources, but not leaf sources, for butterflies.  I planted them because these were approved by the most restrictive state, as sterile / noninvasive.  I had other goals, deer resistance, rapid growth, very dry tolerant, long blooming sources of nectar for beneficial insects and hummingbirds.  Butterflies have many other plants in my yard, to lay eggs on and make cocoons, if they so choose.

As it turned out, the Flutterby Grande (Peach Cobbler, Blueberry Cobbler) were way too vigorous.  Instead of 4 to 6 feet, they grew to around 15 feet tall so far.  There doesn't seem to be an end.  I wonder if they will become shade trees.  The bushes have similar width.  As for the flowers, "Peach Cobbler" was fairly pretty, but "Blueberry Cobbler" was downright ugly.  I have prettier weeds.  The flowers had a faded Kodachrome appearance, not a hint of blueberry blue.  For both, as the individual florets open on the raceme, they looks nice at first, but then the older florets turn brown and dry out, long before the last ones open.  Then the brown dried racemes stay on the bush until the next year, unless cut off.  The look is sad and messy.  The Miss Molly variety is not as large, reaching 5 or 6 feet, and the racemes are shorter, and are at a height that is easier to deadhead.  I mix up the Miss Ruby and Miss Molly varieties, I have both but they are so similar I can't tell the difference.  One might be a little more compact than the other.

I rarely saw a bumblebee on these flowers, never saw a honeybee, and rarely saw a hummingbird.  There were occasional butterflies.   Deer don't touch them.  As far as I could tell, they don't even taste them.  I kept them partly for privacy and as a windbreak, and also because I didn't have the energy to cut them down.

This winter, I decided I would keep them, but coppice them for better control.  Coppicing is a fairly standard way to manage rangy Buddleias.  They bloom on new growth, and theoretically will put on several feet of growth before blooming, but unlikely to grow more than 6 feet, if that.  I'm not certain about that.

So, as of today, all of the hybrid buddleias are oppiced, all trunks cut back to about one foot tall.

I can't say that I recommend the "Cobbler" types at all, although "Peach Cobbler" blossoms can be pretty at first.  Definitely not the "Blueberry Cobbler" unless you want to grow a special "ugly garden" to make people feel depressed.  We will see if the "Vanilla" or the "Honeycomb" varieties do better now that the others are so severely cut back.  "Miss" whoever - "Molly" or "Ruby" - is nice, doesn't grow nearly as big, and the flowers stay in range for dead heading and have less of the dried ugly appearance of the "Cobbler" types.  My neighbors have admired those.  I think they have a place, and I do like them.  Note, I also have the variety "Low and Behold Blue Chip", which does stay very compact, around 3 to 4 feet tall with almost no pruning, and bees do like those flowers.  I do like that one as well.

Now I need to figure out what to do with all of that pruned brush.  Some are nice straight, long sticks, might be good for garden stakes.


  1. The entire community garden is surrounded by the buddleia. Ahhhh what can I say this is too much of a good thing. I use the branches as pea polls and guess what? I got more buddleia plants each time I do that! I see hummingbirds, bumbles, flies, moths on the flowers.
    On some particular windy days, it will tumble down, roots and all and crush on any plants growing under its path. One yr it knocks out all the dahlia tags. It was a mess. I wouldn't grow this in my own backyard, took up too much space. I rather grow other kind of flowers to attract insects.

  2. I agree with you, they are too vigorous. If coppicing them doesn't work, I will remove them entirely.

    One good thing, these intergeneric hybrids are advertised as seedless, and I think that's true. I have not had even one seedling pop up in my yard.

    Too bad they are not as nice as they are marketed to be.

  3. Maybe there's some kind of improved dwarfing kinds out there. I think Monrovia or some big nursery knows this dilemma. As far as I know buddleia doesn't set seeds usually. So you can rest assure that you won't be dealing with another kind of bramble problems. There's no runners either. But it roots so easily that I'm sure cuttings its main propagation method. It creates too much shade and looks kind of messy most of the time when not in flower.

    1. There are some dwarf ones now, suitable for containers. In the Northwest, most buddleias set seeds and they become invasive. That's why I use the state-approved, sterile hybrids.