It’s springtime, and you just now realized that you forgot to prune your lavender back last fall. You may be wondering: Is it too late? The answer, you’ll be relieved to know, is no! Read on for tips on springtime lavender pruning.
It is a running joke* in the Olson family that every spring my mother, Susan the Purpled, is convinced that all of the lavender has died and our fields will need to be completely re-planted. So far, every April/May has proven her wrong as new shoots start to pop out and all the grey, woody gumdrops out in the field start glowing with new baby green fuzz.
So if you forgot to trim back your plants last fall or simply prefer to do it in the spring, do not despair if you live in Western Washington: While there is some growth starting on the plants at this time, the middle of March through the first two weeks of April is typically not too late for pruning. You still have a few days to get out there and snip off the ugly bits before the green starts to grow.
- The depth of pruning depends on many things including past pruning practices and size and age of the plants.
- As a general rule we find that most home gardeners tend to prune their plants too lightly, allowing the plants to grow too much each season. Do not be afraid to prune with a heavy hand to control the size.
- Prune to maintain size and for shape. We recommend a gumdrop shape to the lavender when you are done pruning.
Here is a picture of an unpruned Tucker’s Early plant. Tucker’s Early is an angustifolia, which are typically shorter and fatter than intermedia varieties. This plant was lightly pruned in April 2016, and needed to be heavily pruned and shaped in 2017. It looks dead, but we promise you mom, it isn’t.
Below is what the same row looks like, pruned. Please note that because we did light pruning in April 2016, we needed to do heavier pruning and shaping this year. From Farmer Rick: “This resulted in reducing plants starting at an oval of 4 foot x 3 foot wide to a pruned plant you see about 2-1/2 feet diameter circle and 2 foot high.”
This last photo is of our new Impress Purple (an intermedia) which is only 1 year old (awww, baby lavender!) You can see the unpruned lavender behind the recently pruned lavender. From Farmer Rick: “Since the lavender plant is so young, pruning is heavy to shape and control the lavender plant. Heavy pruning at this age helps drive new sprouts for future stems from the base of the plant, making it stronger.”
As you can see, we aren’t afraid to prune *way* back when necessary – as long as you aren’t cutting into the woody part of the plant base, you won’t hurt the plant. Now get your scissors and get out there! Your lavender will thank you.
Edit: It occurred to me that you might want a picture of what a healthy, pruned row of lavender looks like after it blooms – so here you go!
*Clearly by “joke” I mean “Something we tease our mother about” not “Something you should tell at a dinner party.”
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