Can you tell me the correct way to prune lavender?

By Val Bourne

Val Bourne, advises a reader on the different ways to prune French and English lavender correctly.
Pruning lavenderLavenders 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.

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.

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.

Top varieties of lavender

English lavenders suitable for hedges and edges.

1. Munstead' - pale mauve-purple flowers (55 cm/22 in)

2. 'Hidcote' - neat, dark purple flowers (50 cm/20 in)

3. 'Imperial Gem' - thicker purple flowers and silver foliage (60 cm/24 in)

Lavendins ( Lavandula x intermedia) ideal for billowing single specimens

1. 'Seal' -a taller lavendin with purple flowers (100 cm/39 in)

2. 'Grosso' - blue-purple floppy lavender (75 cm/30 in)

3. 'Arabian Night' - pointed dark-purple flower spikes (100 cm/39 in)

Tufted French and Spanish lavenders

1. 'Willow Vale' - deep purple flower heads topped by three pale-lavender flags (60 cm/24 in)

2. Lavandula stoechas x viridis 'Regal Splendour' - compact tufted lavender with deep-purple flower head and top petal (40 cm/24 in)

Lavandula pedunculata subsp. pedunculata

Sometimes sold as 'Papillon' this lavender has really long purple ears which stand erect (65 cm/26 in)

Lavender facts

  • Lavenders are Mediterranean plants and they need hot, dry positions to do well. They resist drought.
  • They were originally introduced into Britain by the Romans and used for their antiseptic properties.
  • Laver is Latin for wash and the flowers were strewn into water, between linen and on floors.
  • Their flowers, which are adored by bees, contain highly concentrated nectar.
  • Pick the flowers of English lavender in early June if you want to dry them.

 

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  • Mrs Kathleen Jefcoate

    Posted: Friday 22 August 2014

    Please could you tell me when will it be a good time to cut back my Scottish Lavender,I live in Portugal and the weather is making the Lavender look very sad,and I feel a cut back might help but I don't know when is a good time to cut it back.the Lavender is in the middle of my lawn and is now a good size,I would appreciate your help on this.Kind Regards Kathy Jefcoate

  • christine wood

    Posted: Monday 10 September 2012

    I have a lavender bush which is over 20 years old,it's got a bit out of hand,some of it I have had to tie together because the wind has damaged it and split the old wood,I don't want to loose it as it was a cutting that my mother gave me,she died 13years ago and I really don't want to loose it.should I cut it right back hard or just back to the old wood as it is over 3ft tall and qite wide

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Offer: Lavender Ellagance Collection

36 plants for £9.97 or 72 plants for £15.94

Add fragrance and beauty to your garden with this collection of English Lavenders.

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