How to prune lavender

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.

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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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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 is not hard, but it’s important to know what you’re doing before you start cutting back lavender plants in order to avoid over pruning. In this post, I will tell you when to cut back lavender plants, give you tons of lavender pruning tips, and show you exactly how to prune lavender step-by-step.

Before we get started, I want to mention that there are a few different kinds of lavender plants. English lavender is the most common (and the hardiest), and it’s the variety that I grow. But don’t worry, the basics of pruning are the same for all types of lavender, and for both garden lavender and potted lavender too.

So, you can follow these steps whether you’re pruning English lavender like mine, or if you have Spanish or French lavender. The only difference is that English lavender can handle a harder pruning in the summer than French or Spanish lavender can.

Why Should Lavender Be Cut Back?

If you’re new to growing lavender plants, you might not know that pruning is a very important part of lavender maintenance. Pruning lavender regularly keeps them looking nice, encourages flowering, and prevents them from getting too woody or growing scraggly and sparse.

But before you grab your pruners, it’s important to understand exactly how to prune lavender plants, because over pruning can end up killing your plant. Don’t worry, cutting back lavender plants is not as scary as it sounds, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time!

My lavender plant before pruning in spring

When To Prune Lavender Plants

Ideally, you should prune lavender twice a year – once in the spring just as the fresh growth starts coming in, and once in the summer right after it’s done blooming. Summer pruning, which helps to keep the plant looking nice and encourages more flowers, is optional.

But spring pruning is very important to get rid of the ugly winter damage and encourage fresh lavender growth. So, if you only have time to prune lavender once per year, do it in the spring.

It’s best to wait until you see leaves growing before cutting back lavender plants in the spring. That way, you will know exactly where to make your cuts. This usually means waiting until late spring or early summer to prune lavender.

I know it can be hard to wait so long before pruning lavender after winter, especially when the plant looks so ugly. But try to resist the urge to prune too early.

Related Post: How To Harvest Lavender Fresh From The Garden

Wait for new growth before cutting back lavender plants in spring

Tools For Pruning Lavender Plants

For pruning lavender in spring, you’ll want to use precision pruning snips or small pruning shears so that you have full control and know exactly where you’re making the cuts.

You don’t have to be as precise with your cuts for summer pruning, so you can go ahead and use hedge pruning shears or even a electric hedge trimmer to make quick work of trimming lavender bushes in the summer.

It’s also important to use clean, sharp pruning tools whenever you trim plants, so be sure to clean and sharpen your pruners before starting.

Lavender Pruning Techniques

The reason you want to wait until you see new leaves on the plant before trimming lavender in spring is because that way you will know exactly where to make your cuts. If you prune lavender too early, you could be cutting off the new growth before it starts, or worse – you might end up over pruning the plant.

Spring pruning is much more precise of a job than pruning lavender in summer. When trimming back lavender in the summer, you can focus on shaping the plant, rather than worrying about exactly where to make each cut.

One important thing to keep in mind whenever you’re pruning lavender is to never cut the woody stems below the leaves. Always be sure to leave some fresh green leaves on all of the stems. Stems that are pruned down too far will never grow back.

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How To Prune Lavender In Spring

Before you start cutting back lavender plants, take a close look at your plant to make sure there is plenty of new growth. If not, then give it a little more time to grow. If you see lots of fresh growth on the plant, then it’s safe to start pruning.

Here are the steps for trimming lavender plants in spring…

Step 1: Find the fresh new leaves on the stem – To figure out where to make the cut on each branch, find the spot where the new leaves are growing. Many times this will be towards the bottom of the stem, so carefully move any debris or other branches out of the way until you find it. The new leaf buds are very fragile and can easily break off when mishandled.

If there’s a bunch of scraggly new leaves at the top of the stem, find the spot where the thick fresh growth starts to get rid of all the scraggly bits on top. This will give you a fuller plant, and keep your lavender from getting too woody.

Find new leaves before cutting back lavender plants

Step 2: Prune lavender right above the new growth – Cut the old stem back to just above the top of the new growth. Be careful when you’re cutting so that you don’t accidentally cut or break off any of the new leaves.

Try to make the cut as close to the new leaf buds as you can. If you leave the dead stems too long, you might see them sticking out all summer, which doesn’t look very nice.

Just remember to always prune lavender above the leaves. Never cut lavender back to wood below all of the growth, because lavender will not grow back from old wood.

Cut back lavender just above the new leaves

Step 3: Cut off any dead branches – You can cut any dead branches all the way down to get rid of them. However, I would strongly urge you to wait before you cut off any branches that look dead, especially if you’re new to pruning lavender.

Lavender can be very slow to get started in the spring. So you might find that those branches that look dead in early spring may end up growing in the summer.

So, to avoid over pruning lavender, I recommend leaving the branches that you’re not sure about on the plant until it’s time for summer pruning. If there’s still no growth on them by then, it’s safe to say they are dead, and you can remove them. Dead growth can safely be pruned from the plant at any time during the year.

New growth after pruning lavender

Tips For Pruning Lavender In Summer

As I mentioned above, trimming back lavender in summer is totally optional. Summer pruning is good for shaping lavender plants, keeping them full and compact, and it helps to delay woody growth. Plus, cutting back lavender plants in the summer after they’re done blooming will likely give you more flowers.

After the plant is done blooming in the summer, cut back 1/3 to 1/2 of the new growth, being careful not to cut any branches down to the leafless wood.

If you’re too nervous to cut it back that far, then you can try deadheading lavender instead. To deadhead lavender, simply remove all of the dead flower spikes, cutting them down to the tops of the main branches.

If you want to grow more plants, be sure to keep some of your lavender cuttings from your summer pruning. Growing lavender from cuttings is fun and easy! If you’re interested in trying that, here’s my tutorial for how to grow lavender from cuttings.

My lavender plant after spring pruning

It’s important to get into the habit of cutting back lavender plants on a regular basis. If you never prune lavender, the plant will grow to be woody and scraggly looking, which is not very pretty. Pruning lavender not only gets rid of the ugly dead growth, but it also helps to trigger bushy growth, and gives you tons of flowers too.

Now that you know exactly how and when to prune lavender, your plants will live a long and healthy life. And you will get to enjoy all those yummy smelling lavender flowers year after year.

Next up, learn exactly how to grow lavender in our detailed lavender plant care guide!

Recommended Reading

  • The Pruning Answers Book
  • Pruning Made Easy
  • How To Prune Trees And Shrubs
  • The Well Tended Perennial Garden

Products I Recommend

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How do you prune lavender? Share your tips for pruning lavender in the comments section below.

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Why should you prune lavender?

We know lavender for its soothing scent, health benefits, and anti-inflammatory properties. Growing them is relatively easy and maintaining them is a breeze! As long as you keep up with chopping them twice a year, you’ll get long-lasting results with minimal effort.

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Pruning trains your plant to withstand more stress and directs nutrients into growing new stems instead of repairing old ones. Not to mention, they keep your bushes looking neat and nicely shaped! But before you make the cut, it’s important to determine which type of lavender you’ll be working with.

Types of lavender

There are many species of lavender, but we’ll be covering two of the most popular varieties grown in Australia. While they may have different blooming times, the techniques for pruning them are the same.

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English Lavender

This ‘true lavender’ is the most versatile of them all, able to live for up to 25 years or more if maintained properly. They do very well outdoors and have long, slender blooms that occur late spring to early summer. Light pruning is best after the first harvest, followed by a heavier one during summer or fall.

They are more forgiving when you miss a pruning session and make for great hedges in the yard or garden. This variety is best for essential oils, tea, or potpourri.

French Lavender

French or Spanish lavender blooms mid-spring with the lifespan of three to five years. They have shorter flowers with delicate petals that resemble butterflies. These bloom in summer or fall and regenerate faster than their English counterparts, which means you need to prune them lightly but more frequently.

Although they don’t do well in cold temperatures, they make for perfect decorative plants! You can move them indoors during winter so they don’t wither.

When is the best time to prune?

For most lavender varieties, pruning is best done during spring, summer, or fall after harvest. It’s important to prune a few months before winter sets in to prevent frost and breakage from the snow. Regular pruning twice a year gives your plant time regenerate fresh flowers and stay in good shape for the next season.

  • For young plants, allow it to establish roots first, then prune away the new growth during its first year to increase its volume. We discourage young plants from blooming until they reach their second year, making pruning much easier as they get older.
  • For middle-aged plants, some heavy pruning is necessary, and you can remove up to one-third of the length. This is also the best time to shape them for increased airflow and even spacing between blossoms.
  • For mature plants – Don’t hold back! If you started pruning them early on, they’re ready for a more drastic chop. Heavier pruning wakes up dormant older stems to make them bloom and flower once again.

Gather your pruning tools

Before getting started, you need some tools to get the job done. Sharpening your shears and trimmers will give your plants a clean cut to help them heal faster. To avoid contamination and disease, make sure your tools are clean and sanitised properly in a diluted bleach solution:

  • Gardening gloves for sanitation and protection
  • Pruning shears for small, singular plants
  • Hedge trimmer for bigger, outdoor bushes and hedges

If you want to fill your home or garden with beautiful, fragrant blooms, pruning is the best way to achieve that goal. Now it’s time to level up your lavender plant care with these five simple steps!

1. Deadheading

Do some spring cleaning by removing any dead or damaged bits and blooms from the shrub. You can do this during the summer, but you can also do so as many times as needed throughout the year.

2. Pruning

Take a bunch of shoots in your hands, then cut back at least two-thirds of the length with a good pair of pruning shears. Cut a few nodes above the woody base of the bush, but never prune too close to the bottom because they may not grow back.

3. Shaping

We recommend shaping your lavender into a mounded bun or gumdrop shape, then stop when it looks symmetrical all around. You’ll notice an even amount of shoots next season, and they’ll look more enchanting than ever!

4. Positioning

Lavenders love the sun! So make sure you place them somewhere with lots of sunshine. However, if you’re dealing with English or Spanish lavender, you need to take some precautions for colder climates. You can protect them from frost by moving them to a greenhouse or in your home during winter.

5. Cutting

Did you know that you can actually clone your plants? Take cuttings from your pruned plants and use them to propagate more lavender! You can place them in a small pot, then start transplanting them to a soil bed when they get bigger.

There’s nothing lovelier than lavender

Lavender is one of nature’s most vibrant creations and having an abundance of them will add some much-needed colour to your life! Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to put our trimming tips to good use. Just remember to keep your lavenders looking lovely so they can give you lush blooms for many years to come!

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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

What To Do With Woody Lavender: Tips On Pruning Woody Lavender Plants

Lavender shrubs bear bright, fragrant blossoms and can live for 20 years or more. However, after six or eight years, they can begin to look woody, filled with dead wood and bearing fewer of the sweet-smelling flowers. Don’t give up on these plants. If you want to know what to do with woody lavender, understand that pruning woody lavender plants can often restore them to their former glory. Read on to learn how to trim a lavender with woody stems.

Preventing Woody Lavender

Prevention is always easier than cure. If you have young, healthy lavender plants, you can work at preventing woody lavender with appropriate planting and cultural care. The keys to lavender care are good drainage and minimal fertilizer.

Plant your lavender in well-drained, rocky soil, on a slope (if possible) to ensure drainage. Fertilize them lightly the very first year after planting. After that, do not fertilize regularly. Prune lavender lightly to maintain the rounded shape.

What to Do with Woody Lavender

When you notice that your lavender is woody, it’s time to take action to help it recover. Here’s what to do with woody lavender plants: prune them. Pruning woody lavender plants is the key to rejuvenating them.

For restorative pruning, be sure to sterilize the pruners by soaking them in a solution of water and denatured alcohol to prevent disease spread. It’s also important that the tool blades are sharp.

Prune these lavender in spring when all frost is finished for the season. A frost can kill off new plant growth.

How to Trim a Lavender with Woody Stems

It isn’t hard to learn how to trim a lavender with woody stems. The basic rule of pruning lavender is not to trim into brown, dead wood. You’ll usually find brown branches at the base of the plant. Remove them only when they are truly dead. Never cut them back, hoping to stimulate new growth. The plant cannot produce new growth from the woody parts.

When you’re pruning woody lavender plants, it’s also a good idea not to prune all of the plant at the same time. Instead, work slowing, trimming back each branch but never into the brown wood. You can trim branches back by one-third or one-half. Always be sure that there are green leaves on the plant when you are done pruning.

The entire restoration may take several years to accomplish, as you never want to do too much pruning at one time. Prune again in autumn just to shape the plant, then weed all around it and offer a handful of slow-release granular fertilizer to help get your lavender growing well before the winter cold snap.

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.

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