Longer lasting lavender…

LavenderBiscuitsI adore lavender. I love the scent and the colour, I have it in dried arrangements around the house and I also use it in cooking – lavender shortbread is delicious. However, it can be a surprisingly tricky plant to grow successfully. When the plants are first established they look wonderful and give off their gorgeous smell as you brush past. But I always struggle to keep lavender for more than three or four years as it becomes woody, gappy and just plain tatty and I end up digging it up and replanting.

Early September is the time I usually give my lavender its summer trim. The flowers have lost their colour and the bees have lost interest. So I thought I’d look for advice on pruning English lavender (the French variety has the little tufty ears and needs different pruning), to ensure I was doing it correctly.

LavenderPruneI always prune my lavender rather timidly having been told that if you cut into the wood it won’t regrow. However, looking online, I have found that specialist lavender growers say that English lavender needs hard pruning and you should cut right down into the brown part, where little lavender shoots can just be seen. They suggest cutting back as much as 9” just after the plants finish flowering.

A neighbour (with enviable lavender plants!) says he cuts it right back to the brown, especially in particularly spindly areas of a plant, and it shapes up well again before Christmas. In fact, you can prune lavender into a sculptural shape for winter – it looks lovely in the frost. So, this year, I am taking the bit between my teeth and will be chopping back the lavender plants a good 6” and see what happens… if it’s a success I may be bolder next year!

Top Tip
The experts say you should use good secateurs for cutting lavender. This makes the job a lot longer than using shears, but it seems to give a tighter, more sculptural finish. And you need to not go mad and chop at it willy–nilly or you will kill it. Secateurs mean you can see what you’re doing. You need to be careful and cut just above the tiny shoots at the bottom of the stem – if you cut the lavender down below them, it won’t regenerate and it will die… So wear your reading glasses!

10 replies
  1. Anne Cross says:

    I will cetainly give it a go with my trusty secateurs as my lavender is really straggly. This will be its last chance of survival. My garden page nks have already had the treatment! Thanks Joanna. x

  2. Lynn Dalby says:

    Very useful information, thank you very much. I think I have made the mistake in previous years of being a bit to zealous with the pruning. Fingers crossed this year that I don’t kill any more off.

  3. Violet Lee says:

    Thanks for that valuable advice Joanna. I have struggled as well to know how Lavender should be looked after. I love your garden which appears on Create and Craft. It’s beautiful. Look forward to seeing you again on air.
    Thanks again xx

  4. Jenney Robinson says:

    I do cut mine back hard and it always – so far – has come back and bloomed well.
    Good luck with yours this year hope you have beautiful blooms next year. J xx

  5. Jayne Hill says:

    Having managed to kill my lavender, again. I was about to give up trying. Thank you for this post, I will give it another go. X

  6. Mary Pugh says:

    I have lavender in pots but this year they have looked very scraggly. I have been very careful not to cut into the brown in the past but now I know! Thank you!


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