Flowers, Gardening, Hedging, How To, Plants

Everything you need to know About How to Prune and Cut Lavender

Our Guide on pruning and taking lavender cuttings will help you become a master in lavender care and propagation. Primed for the beginner gardener, this handy guide contains all the tips you need to perfectly prune and take cuttings of this classic woody shrub.

Contents:

What is Lavender/Lavendula?

a close image of a bright lilac lavender bush

The fragrant and vibrant lavender plant has been a hallmark of the traditional English garden, adding a distinctive fragrance to many gardens throughout the summer. A perennial evergreen shrub, lavender falls into the category of a sub-shrub – a smaller bush or plant made up of woody stems that only grow at their base, usually small in stature.

Lavender Care

Lavender is best grown in full sun, requiring direct sunlight, and in well-drained soil to ensure it becomes well established. It struggles to survive in shady areas of the garden with damp soil, due to its Mediterranean heritage. We recommend planting lavender in April or May, to benefit from the warm soft soil.

a wide view of a large purple lavender bush as a bedding plant, with trimmed grass in front

Species of Lavender

There are a number of lavender species and a huge range of varieties to fill your garden with, making it hard sometimes to differentiate between them. Below we have some of the most common species:

  • English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most common lavender species, with a compact round shape and varying shades of purple flowers. It can grow up to 1m in height and 1.5m in width, and has a high hardiness with a rating of H5 (according to the RHS scale of hardiness).
  • Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) is a naturally occurring hybrid of Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia, and is known for its strong fragrance and long flowering spikes. Growing up to 1m in height and 1m in width, Lavandin has a hardiness rating of H5.
  • French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) can be identified by its blue-purple flowers, its spreading bushy habit, and its finely lobed leaves. Growing to 1m in height and 1.5m in width, French lavender has a hardiness rating of H3.
  • Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia), also known as spike lavender, can be spotted by its broad vertical flowers resembling spikes. Like most lavender it grows up to 1m tall and to 1.2m wide, and has a hardiness rating of H4.

Varieties of lavender

We recommend either planting English Lavender or Lavandin in the UK, as these hardy species do much better in the UK climate. Of the English Lavender varieties we would recommend Hidcote, with its purple flowers and silver foliage, and Munstead, with its rosy purple flowers and green foliage. For Lavandin, we recommend Grosso, for its bluish purple flowers, strong aroma and its hardiness.

A row of bright purple lavender bushes lining a pathway through a garden

Uses of Lavender

Lavender is a great shrub to bring into your garden, it’s bushy and round growing habit makes it ideal to form borders and provide structure to your green space. Using it as a bedding plant or as a hedge is the most popular use of lavender.

Hedging and Borders

Most varieties of lavender can grow up to a metre in height, which for a shrub makes them an ideal plant for hedges or borders. At a metre a lavender shrub can easily form a border between grass and other garden plants, or can be used on the outskirts of a flower bed to create a shape around your other plants.

Perfect for Pollinators

Lavender is an absolute favourite of pollinators, especially bees; they love the colour purple, and is a top choice for creating a popular greenspace, and will be a big hit with your local birds, bees and other pollinators.

Pruning Lavender

an image of dark purple lavender being cut with a pair of green shears while someone's hands hold a handful of lavender stems

Why Should I Prune Lavender?

It’s a good question. Out in the wild, plants need no help in growing into a range of shapes and sizes, and that wild untamed beauty is part of the appeal of flowers and plants.

However, we need to take a more active hand in shaping our green friends to help them thrive in our gardens. A regular prune will help your plants in maintain their shape or growth habit, and discourage growing in ways that might cause damage down the line, like crossing branches or overhanging stems.

Health Benefits to Pruning

Pruning your plants can actually improve their health and lifespan. Pruning away dead or dying material can make room for new healthy branches and stems to grow, and also removes breeding grounds for infections and diseases. With new younger branches and stems the plant is likely to live longer, avoiding diseases or growing in a direction that might cause it damage like becoming top-heavy.

a bee sits on a lilac coloured lavender stem in a field of lavender bushes

Benefits of Pruning Lavender

Lavender benefits from all the above mentioned advantages, but for lavender specifically, pruning can help it maintain its shape and habit. If left, lavender can become quite woody-looking, as its branches easily split leaving more branches visible. A good prune will help to maintain the flower coverage over the shrub, and continue its round bushy shape.

When to Prune?

Pruning generally, can be done all year round. In fact, your plants will benefit from you frequently checking in, regular pruning is an excellent way to minimise the risk of infections to your plants.

If you want to encourage growth the best time to prune is in early spring or late winter, to capitalise on the growth that occurs in spring. It is also worth cautioning heavy pruning in late summer or autumn, as the new shoots and buds may struggle in the colder weather.

The accepted wisdom for lavender is that it needs to be pruned twice a year to maintain its profile. The first pruning in late summer, as suggested, is just deadheading, nothing too heavy. The heavier pruning comes in spring, where you are encouraging the lavender plant to take its bushy shape. The advantage of Lavender being a perennial is that if your pruning doesn’t quite go to plan it is likely to recover by the next year for another go.

What to Prune?

Now that we know why we are pruning our plants and when, it’s about time to get down to pruning, and knowing what to prune would be helpful!

In general, you are pruning to promote healthy growth in your plants, and to encourage a specific shape to form as they grow. Hence, you’ll be looking out for deadhead flowers, flower heads that have wilted and lost colour, and dead or decaying material to prune. When first planting shrubs, remove any spindly or crossing branches as this can help it to take shape without branches disrupting its growth habit.

As a general rule of thumb, the harder you prune a plant the more aggressive it will grow and vice versa. It’s important to keep mindful of this as you trim your plants as they will react to your behaviour, and it will affect how they grow in the future.

How to Prune

Firstly, anytime you prune any part of a plant you want to cut down to a bud, this can either be an opposite cut, where the buds are either side of a horizontal cut, or an alternate cut, where a diagonal cut is made just above a bud. This will ensure no waste branch is left, which could be vulnerable to disease. When cutting a shrub like lavender you should only need a trusty pair of secateurs to cut through its smaller branches, making it an easy plant to prune.

A row of light pink lavender bushes with a brick wall separating them from the path

Lavender Pruning

For lavender specifically, we recommend pruning twice a year, as earlier mentioned. The first pruning is a general tidying in late summer, cutting the deadhead flowers with your secateurs down to just below the foliage, including the stems.

The second pruning to do is in the spring, just before your garden comes out of its dormancy. Cut back your lavender hard, as close as you can to the old wood, without damaging any to avoid hurting your lavender plant. Try to cut your lavender to resemble a large football, as this ball-like structure will help to evenly shape the plant, and allow more room for new shoots.

Make sure when pruning to not cut the branches flat, as this will open up the shrub leaving the branches visible. Cut instead at an angle to the shrub, keeping the bushy look of your lavender, prompting more flower growth and keeping the lavender bush full of foliage.

Lavender Cuttings

a person uses a knife to carefully push dirt around a small plant in a black plastic tray of small plants

Now, all those cuttings left over from your diligent pruning don’t have to go to waste, just to take it further, you could grow your own lavender from your cuttings. It’s a great way to replace any lavender hedging or plants that might have done poorly or needed to be removed, or just an easy way to minimise the amount of waste left over.

All you’ll need is:

  • Your Lavender Cuttings
  • A pot/pots prepacked
  • A greenhouse or polythene plant bags
  • A sharp knife
  • multipurpose compost

Followed by 3 steps:

  1. Take lavender cuttings and pick out side shoots
  2. Trim stem of shoot
  3. Insert into pot, water and place in greenhouse/polythene bag

Step 1

Firstly, take your lavender cuttings and pick out the side shoots of lavender that don’t have any flowers on. Ideally you want one with a heel of bark, a thin strip of bark on the lower end of the stem, still attached as this becomes the plant’s new roots.

Step 2

Whether it has a heel or not, take your knife and trim the bottom of the stem leaving a short length of bare stem exposed.

Step 3

We will now push our exposed piece of stem into the pot, you can insert multiple cuttings into one pot, if you would like multiple just ensure they are evenly spaced. Water the cuttings well and place in a shaded humid space, this is where the greenhouse or a polythene bag comes in, check on them regularly to ensure they are not in poor conditions.

By the next spring they should have grown a good root system and top growth as well, indicating they are ready to move into a larger pot and live in your garden.

The sun shines on a field of lavender bushes of a bright lilac colour

Now, with all that information you should be fully equipt to have the best lavender bushes in the neighbourhood, whether they are lavender hedgings, beautifully lining your paths and borders, or eye-catching lavender bushes potted or in your bedding, creating elegant features to define your garden.

Lavender alternatives

We’ve given Lavender a lot of love throughout this article, but if after reading you’ve decided that another flora is calling you, we have a few to recommend in place of lavender in your hedging. Catmint is a perfect replacement for Lavender, copying its purple flowers while also being very low maintenance. Yew is also a popular hedging choice with many gardeners in the UK, due to being hardy and fine with hard pruning.

For more information on caring for your lavender plants, and everything garden have a read through the rest of the blog.

 

Credits:
Lavender Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Pruning Photo by Kaur Kristjan on Unsplash
Bee Photo by Stephen on Unsplash
Planting Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash
Meadow Photo by Esteban Castle on Unsplash