Lavenders are Mediterranean plants and they need hot, dry positions to do well
Pruning lavender varies according to the type of lavender you're growing. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most commonly grown and the hardiest lavender of all. It has needle-like silvery leaves and bears short, upright spikes of flower in midsummer. The foliage and flower are very neatly balanced and for this reason English lavender is often used as a low hedge.
Try this recipe for delicious lavender biscuits, made with lavender flowers. Note: Lavandula x intermedia has an unpleasant taste so is not suited to eating.
Pruning English lavender
You prune English lavender by cutting it back by two thirds in the second half of August and you can cut into the bare wood, if needed. New shoots will quickly appear at the base of the bush and these will have enough time to grow and harden up before winter comes. This pruning regime will keep an English lavender plant compact for many years and a well-pruned plant can last for twenty years or more without becoming woody.
You can give English lavender another tidy in April to delay flowering time. This is particularly useful close to roses, because the main flush of lavender follows the June flush of roses.
Find out more about pruning other lavenders and varieties
The handsome, later flowering lavendins (Lavandula x intermedia) make fine individual specimens for the edge or corner of a border. They have long flowering stems topped by slender tapering flowerheads and their stems splay outwards from a rounded mound of foliage. Every time the wind catches them they move and billow.
However lavendins are less hardy and, therefore, you never cut back hard into the bare wood. Shape them with shears in late August, aiming for a rounded mound of foliage. Their winter silhouettes can make a huge contribution to the garden.
The 'tufted lavenders' have a flag-like petals at the top of each thick flower spike and they are often labelled Spanish or French lavenders. They flower much earlier, often in May, but are much less hardy than most garden lavenders. Give them a very gentle trim after the first flush of flowers has faded, often in late June, but don't ever cut them back hard. It will kill them.
Read more about pruning French lavender.
Taking lavender cuttings
French lavenders are short-lived and usually only last for five years. Take lavender cuttings from all your varieties every June and July. Choose young two- to three-inch shoots that have just started to harden up. Trim them under the leaf node, remove the lower leaves and plunge them into a 50% compost-and-horticultural-sand mix.
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Go to page two to find out what the best varieties of lavender are.