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How to Prune Lavender

By: Sherri Ribbey
Keep lavender healthy and lush with this fall pruning how-to.

Prune for healthier lavender plants

An annual pruning is an important step for long-lasting lavender (Lavandula spp.and hybrids) plants. Without it they grow a large, lanky, woody base that can split open — it looks bad and shortens the plant’s lifespan. Here's how to prune lavender so it looks (and smells) great year after year.

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How to prune new lavender plants

Start pruning lavender when it’s small to encourage your new plant to focus on making more roots and branching stems, which results in a nice mounded habit later. The dotted line in the illustration above shows you how to cut foliage and any flowers back by one-third to one half before planting. With the outside stems slightly shorter than the center ones so the plant will have a mounded growth habit from the start. You may get a light rebloom. Go ahead and remove those too.

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How to prune established lavender

Lavender grows quickly, so by the second year, the plant should be about twice as big and ready for pruning once the blooms are spent (or cut blooms while they're still fresh and make a luxurious lavender sugar scrub!). Follow these simple steps to keep your lavender looking great for years to come.

Step-by-step lavender pruning

1. Look for wood
Find the woody base of your lavender plant - that's the spot where soft green growth meets woody stem.

2. Prune the soft growth
Follow the stem 2 to 3 inches up from the woody part of the stem that's marked on the illustration and remove the rest.

3. Shape the plant
To keep your lavender growing in a tidy mounded habit prune lavender stems like the illustration shows with the outside stems lower than the middle.

4. Deadhead reblooming varieties
Get a second flush of blooms quicker on reblooming varieties with deadheading. To do this follow the stem back to the first set of leaves and snip it off. Don’t cut back as far as you did during pruning.

Lavender pruning "Don'ts"

There are a few things you want to avoid when pruning lavender.

  • Don't cut back to the woody stems - they won't regrow very well, if at all.
  • Don't remove more foliage than recommended above. This stresses the plant and often kills it.
  • Don’t prune your lavender after late August. That encourages tender new growth which will be killed by winter cold, weakening the plant so it might not make it through another season. If you forget, wait until spring, when foliage growth is just starting.

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Published: Feb. 28, 2018
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October 16, 2012