The correct way to prune lavender

Val Bourne

The different ways to prune French and English lavender correctly which will enable your plant to thrive

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.

If you're planning a traditional English garden, read our guide to designing a cottage garden.

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.

Find out 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.

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)

Did you know...?

  • 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. Find out more about attracting.
  • Pick the flowers of English lavender in early June if you want to dry them.

Find out more about growing Mediterranean herbs, including lavender.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.