Trimming Lavender – How To Prune Lavender Properly

Trimming Lavender – How To Prune Lavender Properly

By: Heather Rhoades

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 it 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 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, stay healthier and more lovely. If you follow these easy tips for how to prune lavender, you can’t go wrong.

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The absolutely best way to prune English lavender beautifully

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This post will tell you how to prune English lavender beautifully.

I couldn’t work out why next door’s lavender is still healthy and bushy after fourteen years. Some of my lavender bushes have barely lasted four.

Yet I followed all the advice I was given. ‘Never cut lavender back to the wood’ is in every list of gardening dos and don’ts.

But now I know that we amateur gardeners often misinterpret that. So we are not cutting our lavender back enough. Let me explain.

My lavender in 2013. It was planted in 2010, and the lavender by the obelisk had gone woody and gappy by 2014. It had to be taken out.

A neighbour’s lavender – it’s been there for over 14 years and still going strong.

The lavender is a major feature in my garden. There are four big clumps around a pot in the centre. At midsummer, it is humming with bees and other pollinating insects.

But it started to look gappy and woody. There was also some lavender around the beds and that went completely woody and stalky. It was so ragged that I took it out.

The central lavender is beginning to get too stalky. Holes are appearing in the neat mounds.

Hard pruning of lavender – not the usual solution

Of the different types of lavender, the one that responds best to hard pruning is a type of French lavender called Lavandula dentata.

Most common ways of growing a youthful, round lavender

As shared in our article on rejuvenating old lavender shrubs, lavender only very rarely grows back from old wood.

  • Best by far is to regularly trim lavender right from the start.
  • An old, overgrown lavender shrub is often simply pulled out and replaced. This is what professionals do in the iconic lavender fields of French Provence.
  • It’s also possible to make lavender cuttings or grow lavender from seeds, even those of the original plant!
  • Lastly, another technique is to layer the lavender plant.

However, many of us grow attached to the plants we care for. Sometimes they were gifted to us or planted by people we cherish – seeing them reminds us of those loved ones. We’re loathe to just pull it out without even trying!

Severe pruning on lavender, the last chance

Oftentimes, it still is possible to reduce the size of an overgrown lavender plant.

  • However, in many cases, the plant won’t survive.
  • This isn’t due to any particular mistake or bad luck.
  • It’s just that lavender doesn’t cope with hard pruning well.
  • Staging the hard pruning over three years (or even four) will make it easier on the plant.

The goal of this technique is to strike a delicate balance. On one hand, hard pruning is necessary to reduce shrub size. On the other, caution dictates that the plant be protected from severe pruning shock.

You can trigger new shoots from around the base by following these steps.

Other Varieties

Other varieties of lavender are less cold tolerant, including Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), hardy from USDA zones 7 to 10, and French lavender (Lavendula dentata) hardy from USDA zones 8 to 11. These types may bloom only once. Prune them in the summer after flowering, recommends the Downderry Nursery, and leave a few blooms intact to allow for new growth, as you would with the other more frost-hardy varieties. If you decide to prune them in spring, do it when new growth begins, cutting away any old growth, avoiding cutting into the woody stems, and leaving the new growth intact.

Key Points To Know When Pruning Woody Lavender

  • Get up close and personal with the lavender plant that needs pruning
  • First, look it over closely to observe new growth as well as where to prune woody lavender stems
  • Notice the exact point where there are green lavender leaves but there are brown stems just below
  • Never cut into a brown branch below the green shoots
  • If you’re not sure a stem is alive, lightly scratch the surface and see if its green and alive, or light brown and dead.
  • Look for green (living) lavender leaves and cut stem just above those leaves
Five new lavender plants settle in with the senior plant