Lavender Care: Spring Pruning

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If you have lavender plants that were not pruned back last fall, and if you are located in Western Washington, there is still time to prune your lavender back for the spring.

Do not be afraid to prune! Pruning is necessary for the health of your plant, as well as helping your plant maintain size and shape. Unpruned lavender will grow unwieldy, and the base will get woody and split. The only way to keep this from happening is annual pruning.

Tuckers Early Lavender, unpruned
lavandula angustifolia, unpruned
Tuckers Early Lavender, pruned
lavandula angustifolia, pruned
Impress Purple Lavender, pruned
Impress Purple Lavender, pruned

14 Replies to “Lavender Care: Spring Pruning”

  1. Colin Byrne

    PRUNED! Thanks for the tip 😉 (get it)

    1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

      Slow clap. Well done.

  2. Kathy Freyberg

    Question: I planted several English Lavender (Munstead) plants this April. I am panicking as I just read an article that said to cut all of the flowered stems off before they bloom. Is this necessary? They are just starting to look so pretty, as well as looking like real lavender. Also, I had used beauty bark in the garden where all of the Lavender plants were–they had to be replaced this year as they were going on fifteen years old. Another article stated that beauty bark was toxic to Lavender and should not be used. What should I use instead of the bark? Thank you.

    Kathy

    1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

      Kathy – those are great questions, and I’ve passed them along to Farmer Rick. We’ll get back to you soon!

      1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

        Kathy – here is Farmer Rick’s response. Good luck!

        “Thank you for your questions. They are valid questions and there is not a single correct answer, as in many things lavender. Regarding your first question: whether or not to prune the plants back soon after planting. In my opinion, this advice comes from the desire to force the plant to spur more stem growth from the base of the plant. I often, though not always, prune the plants soon after planting, for this reason. If the small 3” potted plant has only a single or two stems extending from the base crown, I would prune it back to 3” or 4” off the crown. If the 3” potted plant has many separate stems/starts from close to the base, I might only trim the one or two that seem to be trying to take over and dominate the growth, forcing the growth to the smaller starts. You might be surprised as to how much your lavender will enjoy the haircut and give you multiple stems with blooms after this pruning, if done soon. Even if it doesn’t give you buds this summer, your plant will have a healthier start for the long term growth. Prune again in the late fall (October for Western Washington) to a small rounded gumdrop shape 4” to 6” diameter for first year. Future years, pruning can be done in late fall or early spring depending on your preference and a variety of differing opinions.

        Regarding your question on beauty bark, I am not sure of the origin of that opinion. It may be true that some types of beauty bark may have impacts on lavender but some may not. (ie cedar vs pine, coarse vs fine, etc.) I have a small garden area in front of our barn store where we placed heavy woven weed fabric down on clean soil, burned 5” holes for planting the lavender and then spread some local large format beauty bark to 4” deep. It has been in place for 6+ years and the 4 different varieties of lavender both angustifolia and intermedia cultivars are all doing great with the lavender plant stems hanging and resting on the bark. I would say that if you want the bark garden groundcover effect, go for it and address any problems that may occur. Most problems I find people have with lavender is that they over water it (place it in a garden of roses that constantly need watering) or plant the lavender in areas with very tight clayey soils or with a high water table (less than 30” minimum). Lavender does not like much water after the first year. Good luck with your lavender! – Farmer Rick”

  3. William Matters

    I wanted to know if it is too late to do any pruning at this time in New York on the east end of Long Island?
    Thank You,
    Bill

    1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

      Bill – I wouldn’t recommend pruning this late in the season. Instead, give them a good haircut when it starts to warm up in the first half of spring. There is nothing harmful about spring pruning – you should still see plenty of growth in time for summer! Good luck.

  4. Cyndi

    Hi there! What do you use for pruning?

    1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

      Hello – great question! When we prune the fields, we use a handheld gas powered hedge trimmer (because there are so many plants). However, home gardeners can easily use gardening shears or scissors for basic pruning – whatever is most comfortable for you! If you do need to cut out deadwood, or cut back into any of the wood of the plant for shaping (remember: this should be done sparingly and judiciously) regular hand-held pruners will work just fine. Tip: remember to wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from tiny slivers and scrapes as you prune. The stems themselves are gentle, but the woody base of the plant can be surprisingly abrasive. Also, don’t forget to sterilize your tools before and after use, to avoid spreading disease. Good luck!

  5. Kellie

    All my Lavender look dead, I don’t think I pruned enough in the fall, I’m in Michigan and would like to know if a spring prune would help? Also is it possible to root the trimmed parts off and make more lavender plants from them? Thanks in advance.

    1. Rebecca Olson[ Post Author ]

      Kellie – If you left some of last year’s stem growth on the plant, you can still prune it back to the wood. But if you pruned back to the wood last fall, I wouldn’t prune any more.

      By this time of year your lavender plants should be showing a little bit of green. Do you see any green on them? It’s possible that if you’re in a much colder zone than us your plants are a few weeks behind, but all of our plants have at least *some* green somewhere by now. Check carefully all along the plant for any signs of green/new growth/budding, and if you’re in zone 5 or lower, maybe give it another week or so before giving up hope. You can also check to see if portions of the plant have died and cut the deadwood out – check out my blog “How to tell if your lavender survived the winter” (if you haven’t already.)

      For propagation, it is really simple to propagate lavender from cuttings, but they must be live cuttings (dead plant material, like last year’s unpruned stems, won’t work.) However, you can take softwood cuttings from any new green stems that appear this year. I also have a 3 part blog series about that where I walk you through the process of softwood propagation. You can also take cuttings and propagate from hardwood – the basic principles are the same as softwood, though I haven’t had as much luck with this method and am still experimenting. Regardless, the cuttings need to be from live plant material.

      So your next best steps are to check the plants thorough and see if you notice any green buds. If so, you can cut the remainder of last year’s old stems back to the wood, but otherwise they’re just taking some time to wake up from winter, so let them do their thing. If you don’t see any green or indication of budding, cut into the hardwood in one small section of the plant (prune off a small branch) and see if there’s green inside. If it’s brown and dead, you may need to go around the plant selectively cutting – if you don’t find any green inside, it’s likely that your lavender didn’t survive the winter.

      Keep me posted!

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