How to prune lavender

Lavender (Lavandula spp.and hybrids) looking rough? Here’s how to keep your plant beautiful year after year.

How to prune new lavender plants

Start pruning lavender when it’s small to encourage your new plant to focus on making more roots and branching foliage, which results in a nice mounded habit. Check out the illustration above to see what to do.

Prune established lavender

Lavender grows quickly, so by the second year, the plant should be about twice as big and ready for pruning once the blooms are spent (or cut blooms while they’re still fresh and make a luxurious lavender sugar scrub!). Use this technique from here on out. Start by finding the woody base and cutting 2 to 3 in. up from there.The illustration above has more details. Cutting too far back to bare woody stems or removing too much foliage stresses the plant and often kills it. Don’t prune your lavender after late August. That encourages tender new growth that’ll be killed by winter cold, weakening the plant so it might not make it through another season. If you forget, wait until spring, when foliage growth is just starting.

Some varieties will rebloom. Deadhead by following the stem back to the first set of leaves and snipping it off. Don’t cut back as far as you did during pruning. You can remove as much as one-third of the leafy growth on a lavender that has flowers close to the foliage without causing damage.

Lavender pruning- When is the best time to prune lavender?

The first growing season of a newly planted lavender plant it’s recommended to remove ALL bud shoots as soon as the little green buds start to form. Removing any signs of the flower bud process will keep the plant in a vegetative cycle which encourages a larger, hardy strong lavender plant. Having an established lavender plant is essential for surviving the first winter. Allowing your plants to flower the first year of planting greatly reduces the size of your lavender plant for over wintering. This also reduces the second and third year harvested yields and stunts overall plant growth.

Typically pruning should take place during the harvesting of lavender bundles. This method reduces loosing valuable buds and eliminates the need to return for another day of pruning your lavender plants. March through May, early spring is the best time to prune. Remove any dead branches all the way down to the hedge bottom. (see image) Following a harsh winter season as seen during the winter of 2013-14 (see 2014 Winter Blog) you may want to prune the entire lavender bush down to the bare woody hedge. You can feel the branches and notice if all the leaves are dry and falling off the branches. Pruning this early in spring with a dose of nitrogen will encourage vegetation to grow. Peaceful Acres trims off all lavender bud shoots as we would establishing a new lavender plant so the energy is put into new growth fast. This is very important when re-generating a thought to be dead lavender plant.

After the initial harvest sporadic buds will shoot up and form. Remove each additional lavender stem as ready. If you have tall stems where the buds have formed and flowered off you should prune these down below the first set of leaves before the bud stem starts. Deep pruning I recommend only during the early spring.

How to prune lavender plants?

Pruning & harvesting lavender (LEFT)has a specific method on where to cut to reduce stress on the plant. It is known and recommended to prune two leaf sets above the woody growth. This reduces stress on the plant by avoiding pruning into the woody growth which can lead to rot. Leaving two leaf sets encourages stable growth and a healthier thicker lavender plant. Pruning winter lavender death (BELOW) requires a more aggressive form of trimming where all woody branches are pruned down to the root hedge top as seen here in the images below. Initially the lavender plants look as if they would never recover in the middle of June. Fortunately we maintained our patience and allowed the plants to re-generate after pruning along with a normal dose of N-nitrogen. Two months later in August and September we were harvesting bundles similar to a second year crop harvest. This reduced our loss from 90% of our crop to only losing 20% of our lavender fields.
Hard Pruning to the Root Hedge Two months after hard pruning

Lavender Hedging – How to trim a Lavender Hedge

Pruning Lavender Plants

There are different schools of thought on how to trim lavender plants.
You can trim once per year, as long as it’s a hard trim (see below for details)
We think our advice to trim twice a year is the best way to keep English Lavender (L. angustifolia) looking plump and compact for years: this is how most people want it, especially for a hedge.

The aim is to make the Lavender stems produce only a couple of centimetres or so of mature, woody growth each year.
When Lavender is allowed to grow too much, it tends to become leggy, make fewer flowers and need replacing.
Restricing its growth with hard trimming effectively keeps it young for longer.

Trim New Lavender Plants:
Trim newly planted lavender hard after flowering, in August/September. From then on:

1st trim of the Year:
In late February (or early March if the weather has been cloudy), trim your plants lightly.

This will encourage them to flower hard and keep them looking tidy.

2nd trim of the Year:
Right after flowering (or by end Sept), give your plants a very hard trim.

Cut all the new growth back down to 1-2cms above the older, woody part of the stem – this should leave between one to three leaf buds. This little bit is the hardiest part of the new growth and will survive the winter well. By trimming early, the wound will have time to heal and any re-growth will have a chance to harden up before the frosts.
They will look a bit sad for a short time, but they bounce back a bit and look very neat all winter.

This is optional but you get more flowers if you do…
Right after the first flush of flowers, just cut off the spent flower stalks. This will encourage a stronger second flush of flowers. We think that the seed heads still look quite nice, so we usually don’t bother deadheading the Lavender in our garden after the end of June and they still produce some new flowers in late summer.

Cutting back mature Lavender Plants.
The consensus about clipping lavender plants is that the leafy, silver-green stems should be cut down to two or three buds above where it becomes hard and woody (i.e. leaving about 2cms of the year’s soft growth).
There is a bit of a phobia about cutting into the woody part of the plant. In our experience, it is best not to cut lavender back hard. Pruning lavender gently each and every year, as described above, will keep it compact and stop it getting leggy, so you will never need to be fierce.

To be honest, once a lavender plant is too leggy and woody, we think the best thing to do is to dig them out and replace with new young plants.

You can order Lavender at any time, for delivery from late April/earlyMay onwards which is the best time to plant.

Tags: pruning lavender munstead lavandula angustifolia hidcote alba rosea english lavender clipping

Pruning Lavender Plants

Discover what you need to know for pruning lavender successfully. While lavender is tough-as-nails in the right growing conditions, it does need special attention when it comes to pruning. As a matter of fact, pruning lavender plants correctly can help yield more flowers and a healthier, longer-lived plant.
In botanical circles, lavender is known as a semi-shrub. Understanding this concept forms the foundation for proper lavender pruning. A semi-shrub is a plant that grows like a perennial, producing green growth each year. The older parts of stems on a semi-shrub start turning to wood after a few growing seasons. On any type of lavender, you’ll find that deep inside the pretty mound of grey-green leaves, stem bases are woody.
Those woody stems—in a lavender plant—are not good news. That wood is weak, not strong like a tree trunk, and when winter brings snow or ice, the woody stems are more likely to break. Lavender’s woody stems don’t produce new green growth, so as stem tissue shifts to wood, your plant is losing the ability to produce additional green shoots, which are the ones that flower. While pruning lavender, if you cut into woody stems, they won’t grow again, but simply die.
When you’re pruning lavender plants, you’re aiming to slow down the plant’s progress toward forming woody stems. In general, you need to plan on pruning lavender at planting time and every year right after it flowers. When planting lavender, prune plants lightly, removing all growing tips. This encourages the plant to branch. Use this same technique every year as new growth starts to appear.
Pruning lavender after flowering is ideal, but if you miss the window, don’t fret. You can slot your lavender pruning when it works for you, as long as you complete it by early spring. Lavender flowers on the new growth that appears each year, so if you prune before new growth really starts lengthening, you won’t interfere with blossom formation.
Pruning lavender in spring is also sometimes necessary in coldest regions to remove stems that suffer winter damage. Pruning lavender in late summer to fall helps open the plant’s interior to allow good air circulation and also removes some of the branches, which can ultimately help prevent winter damage. Ideally, pruning lavender in spring and fall is a great idea, if you can squeeze that into your garden chore schedule.
When you’re pruning lavender plants that are established, aim to remove at least one-third of all growth. With older plants, you can cut back to a point that’s three leaf pairs above the woody stem area. Don’t cut into the woody area, because the buds on those stems won’t sprout.

Don’t prune lavender in winter or it will die


Q. My lavender bushes are looking rather ragged. Should I prune now so they will look good next year?

A. Unpruned lavenders tend to become woody and have decreased blooms. However, lavender should not be pruned during the winter.

Unlike many perennial plants and shrubs that can be pruned now, it is best to wait to prune lavender until after bloom in spring or in early fall before any danger of frost. Pruning now can cause dieback that may kill the plant. Regular pruning is essential to keeping the bush looking healthy and vigorous, however, the amount and timing of the pruning is important.

MORE: Winter’s coming, so get busy in your garden

The variety of lavender will determine how much you can prune off the lavender bush without damaging it. The most common lavender varieties I see growing around Redding area are Spanish (lavandula stoechas) English (lavandula angustifolia) and some of the hybrid crosses (lavandula x intermedia).

The Spanish varieties can be pruned by as much as a half but be sure to leave non-woody stems and green leaves. If you cut back too far, you can kill the plant. These are best pruned right after bloom in late spring.

The English and hybrid crosses should only be pruned back about one third in size and can either be pruned right after bloom or in the early fall. If you prune right after bloom you may get a second bloom later in the season and the lavender should be pruned again after the second bloom.

If your lavender bush is looking ragged, it may not have been pruned for a few years. If it is several years old and has never been pruned, it may not survive heavy pruning. You may be better off to replacing the bush. But if there is green growth just above the woody stems, start with light pruning to encourage lower growth, and then prune a little heavier each year. Try to cut as close to the woody stems as possible, to stimulate new growth, but not into them, as that may kill the bush. This may work better with some varieties than others, so you’ll just have to experiment.

If the lavender flowers were not removed after bloom you can cut them off now as long as there is no chance of rain for a few days. This will help simulate more blooms this spring.

MORE: Master Gardeners: Know when to pick persimmons

Lavender is an easy and mostly pest free small shrub that is a nice addition to the landscape. The Spanish variety is very drought tolerant and is a good plant for attracting beneficial insects to the landscape or garden. The flowers of the English and hybrid varieties can be used in cooking, flower arrangements and making many lavender scented products such as wands and sachets.

The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 242-2219 or email [email protected] The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners’ questions using information based on scientific research.

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Pruning Lavender for Beautiful Plants

Pruning Lavenders is essential to promote more beautiful blooms and get a healthy, nicely shaped, mounded shrub that will last for years. If these rules are not respected, you might end up with a shabby, sprawling shrub.

Pruning Lavender differs with the type of Lavender you’re growing

  • Lavandula angustifolia – also called English Lavender, True Lavender or Common Lavender:
    These Lavenders usually bloom once, but may enjoy a weak second flush after pruning. Prune them immediately after flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut. Always make sure there are green leaves left on your lavender when you are done pruning. If all the green is gone, your Lavender will die. Expect your Lavender plant to live 20 years or more.
  • Lavandula x intermedia – also called Lavandin:
    These late season lavenders typically bloom in July or August and tend to last until late summer. Similarly to Lavandula angustifolia, prune them after flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut – even if you have to sacrifice some late flowers. Expect your Lavender plant to live 20 years or more.
  • Lavandula stoechas – also called Spanish Lavender or Butterfly Lavender:
    Since these Lavenders flower almost continuously from spring to fall, it is not obvious to figure out the best time to prune them. The general rule is to prune them immediately after the first flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut. Deadhead for the rest of the flowering season and continue to shape the foliage into a rounded, mound – including a gentle trim in late summer. Expect your Lavender plant to live 5 to 10 years.
  • When pruning your Lavender, never cut into the woody part of your Lavender. Always make sure to leave the leafless wood intact, since cutting it could injure the plant. A good rule is to prune two leaf sets above the woody part. This will encourage stable growth and a healthier, thicker lavender plant.
  • Always use a very clean set of pruning shears or secateurs that have been washed clean of dirt and disinfected with a bleach solution. Taking this precaution will help ensure that your Lavender plant doesn’t pick up a bacterial disease. You should also make sure the shears are very sharp, so that they make a clean cut that will heal over quickly.

When to Prune Lavenders

Pruning once a year is great. Pruning twice a year is better. Pruning your Lavender will prevent your shrub from turning to wood. This is important because the parts of the plant that turn to wood will not produce new lavender stalks. Additionally, a woody plant is prone to cracking or rotting in winter.

  • While pruning in spring can delay flowering, it is a good time to trim away dead or damaged parts. Prune your Lavender plants just as the new growth begins, cutting back as to leave some new shoots at the base of each branch.
  • In late summer or early fall, after the last flush has faded, prune your Lavender stems down to an inch above the wood. This will provide better air circulation and prevent the snow to collect on the shrub and break it, or the wind to blow off weaker branches.
  • Never prune just before winter as Lavender needs some foliage to protect it against the winter cold. If you prune too close to winter, your Lavender may die from the cold.

Trimming Lavender – How To Prune Lavender Properly

Pruning lavender is important in keeping a lavender plant producing the type of fragrant foliage that most gardeners seek. If lavender isn’t pruned regularly, it will become woody and produce fewer fragrant leaves and flowers. If you’re wondering how to prune lavender and when to prune lavender at the correct time, have no fear. All of this information is listed below.

When to Prune Lavender

You’ll start trimming lavender in the second year that it is in the ground. Newly planted or very young plants need a chance to establish themselves, and in order to do this, they need to be able to focus on growing roots. If you cut back lavender in its first year, it will put energy towards growing leaves rather than roots and this will make it a weaker plant in the long term.

Once your lavender plant has had one year to establish itself, you’ll need to prune your lavender once a year. The best time for when to prune lavender is in the spring just as the new growth is starting to come in.

How to Prune Lavender

When pruning lavender, it’s important to start out with a sharp, clean set of pruning shears. Wipe down the blades of your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol or bleach to make sure all bacteria and potentially harmful germs are removed from the blades.

The next step for trimming lavender is to prune one-third of the plant. This will force the lavender to create new and more growth, which will not only keep the lavender bush from going woody, but will also help to increase the amount of lavender available for harvest later in the season.

Properly pruning lavender will help your lavender produce more and stay healthier and more lovely. If you follow these easy tips for how to prune lavender, you can’t go wrong.

The absolutely best way to prune English lavender beautifully

Cut it back to 9″ high!

‘Don’t be frightened to cut it back to 9″ just after flowering,’ advises Downderry Lavender. ‘It will love it!’

It’s true that I hardly pruned the lavender on the edge of the beds at all. I followed advice to ‘prune lightly in spring’ Those bushes got spindly within a few years. I’ve taken them out.

Then, three years ago, I asked Salvatore, the Italian gardener, to cut the lavender in the centre of the garden.

He cut it right back to the brown, especially in one part that was beginning to look gappy. It plumped up again before Christmas, and made elegant grey mounds for the winter garden.

Lavender is a lovely sculptural presence for the garden in winter. It looks especially good in the frost.

The following year, I took my courage – and my secateurs – in hand. I’ve chopped back the lavender mounds down much further than I used to. I haven’t quite dared to take it down to 9″, but I have remembered that next door do cut their lavender very low.

I’ll pin this to a Pinterest board as an easy way to remember what to do.

The experts also say that you should use good secateurs for cutting lavender. This makes the job a lot longer than using shears, but it seems to give a tighter, more sculptural finish.

I use these Felco secateurs, which I bought around fifteen years ago. They always cut well. (Note: links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.)

So can you really prune English lavender right back into the wood?

Yes and no. You do need to cut just above those tiny shoots at the bottom of the stem because if you cut the lavender down below them, it won’t regenerate. It will probably die. So wear your glasses!

Take a good thick bunch of lavender in one hand, and chop down to where you see tiny little lavender shoots in the brown wood. They’re like tiny grey-blue dots and can be difficult to see.

And repeat. I find it easiest to do sitting down. My trousers have got very grubby.

See it in video here:

You can use the lavender for pillows or in bowls to scent the house. In this post here from Doddington Place Gardens, Amicia de Moubray explains the difference between English lavenders, which help you sleep, and French lavenders which make you feel more alert.

Here you can see one mound of lavender pruned to just under half its height. It looks brown and woody, but if you look closely you can see tiny lavender shoots on the lower branches.

Update! The lavender three years on!

The same lavender in July 2019. It’s been nearly three years since I originally wrote this post,. The lavender is now nine years old and is still going strong! The lavender variety is Lavender Hidcote, by the way.

More practical gardening tips

See this post on an easy tip for weeding without chemicals, how to plant a border like a pro, find out why compost can be easy or it can be quick (but it can’t be both) and whether you really need to dig up your dahlias.

And you can save yourself lots of time and effort if you read this about why ‘no dig’ works just as well for flower borders as it does in the veggie patch!

Shop my favourite gardening tools, books and products

I’m often asked for recommendations so I’ve put together some useful lists of my favourite gardening books, tools and sustainable gardening products on The Middlesized Garden Amazon store. I’ve picked a selection of products that I use regularly and which I’ve found excellent.

For example, I’ve got my list of essential gardening tools. And if you’re interested in sustainable living, there’s also a list of my favourite sustainable garden products, such as compostable pots and peat-free compost.

Pin to remember lavender pruning tips

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Pruning Lavender

Pruning Lavender is Essential

Chris Mulder, Barn Owl Nursery

In my experience, I have found that pruning lavender plants in the spring and summer, and lightly in September, helps them to look and grow better, over a longer period of time. This has worked well for me in my location, but not everyone growing lavender in different climates in Oregon will prune their lavender plants that often.

Pruning should begin early, when lavender plants are still young. Younger plants grown in pots would have a better start if they were not allowed to flower the first year. Then all the new growth would go into the foliage, not the flowers, to produce less woody looking shrubs with more growth at the base of the plant.

The English lavender cultivars (L. angustifolia) usually require more pruning to hold their shape than the lavandins (L. x intermedia). French or Spanish lavenders (L. stoechas), require even more pruning. Tender species of lavenders usually do not survive a winter outside in Oregon, so they do not need to be pruned as often since they are only growing outside for less than a year.

In a home garden, most lavender plants will hold their shape for at least 10 years if they are pruned regularly. If the lavenders are growing in a hedge, they should be pruned twice a year. The first trim can be done in the spring, to shape the plants before they put on a lot of new growth. Cut lavender hedges along the sides more than on the top of the plants. After they finish blooming in the early summer, then trim the hedge evenly, all around. This will help to maintain the shape of the hedge, encourage new growth, and possibly produce more flowers later in the summer or early fall. This can be done while harvesting the flowers for fresh and dried bouquets.

Lavender plants that have not been pruned become woody looking sooner. If you already have old, woody lavender plants that have never been pruned, it may be too late to shape them. However, I have revived old woody plants by pruning them severely. It is possible, if the plants have new green growth just above the woody part. The branches can be pruned back heavily, to within three sets of leaves on the stems. You can prune the whole plant down to 1/3 of its size. With this heavy pruning, the plants may require fertilizer and more water to encourage new growth on the woody stems. Only try this drastic pruning in the spring. Watch for growth later in the spring. If there is no new growth within two months, then it is time to replace the old plants with new ones and get them established before summer.

In the summer, when I am harvesting the flowers to sell, I cut the flowers with as long a stem as possible so the stems have a few sets of leaves on them. At this time, I am lightly pruning the plants to encourage new growth. Some of the English lavenders will bloom again and I will have more flowers to harvest later in the season.

In general, all lavenders benefit from being pruned at least once a year. If you only have time to prune one time, then try to do the major pruning in the spring and summer months. If you do not harvest the flowers, then cut off the long stems of lavender flowers, with some of the leaves, after the flowers lose their color. Once lavender plants are established in the garden, they should be pruned well for the whole life of the plant. If you start early, and prune regularly, then you will enjoy the shape of the older lavender plants in your garden and they will produce more flowers for many years.

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