One of the most important steps to growing healthy lavender is proper pruning. Without proper pruning, the base and core become woody and unappealing. Upkeep and training are simple, as long as you begin early in the plant's life. If you wait too long, you'll never get that perfect mound of lavender you thought you bought. Below are 7 tips to help you prune your lavender plant to perfection.
Sharp clippers are the simplest tool for pruning lavender. However, for larger bushes hedge trimmers and weed whackers are also popular. Those who harvest the flowers also express a fondness for sickles. In all cases, the most important factor is that the tool be sharp and clean to cut neatly without crushing and not transfer diseases between plants.
Pruning vs. Harvesting
Harvesting lavender means collecting the long stems that top the flowers, called wands. Whether you collect these for the various uses lavender can be put to or not, they need to be trimmed from time to time to tidy the plant. It can be a form of deadheading.
Pruning describes the removal of the gray leaves. Pruning encourages new growth, keeps the plant shape and keeps the woody core of the plant hidden.
First Year Pruning
First year pruning is a little different from other years. In the first year, pinch off new growth to encourage a more bushy appearance. Don't be afraid to cut the leaves down to 2 inches above the woody base.
Also, remove all flower buds before they can fully develop to encourage the plant to grow larger and stronger. It will be worth the wait when next year your lavender plant is so much larger and sends out many more flower spikes.
Most varieties of lavender can be trimmed back by a third to a half. Doing so will encourage branching growth and limit the development of a woody core at the base of the plant. At a minimum, trim back the plant in the spring after flowering or in the fall to maintain the shape. Always make sure there are green leaves left on your lavender when you are done pruning. If all the green is gone, your plant will die.
Feel free to remove leaves killed by the frost in the early spring. However, do wait until winter is past before doing any pruning.
Never Prune Just Before Winter
Lavender needs some measure of foliage to protect it from the winter cold. If you prune too close to winter then it can die from the cold. Even dead leaves can provide some measure of protection.
Never Prune Old Wood
The woody base may seem unsightly, but that is the core of your plant from which all other growth comes. Only remove old wood from the base if it is definitely dead. Always leave some green growth above the wood when pruning as the plant cannot grow new leaves from the woody parts.