When To Prune Lavender In The UK

Lavender with bees

Lavender is an easy to grow, versatile evergreen semi-shrub that produces one of the longest-lasting and beautifully scented flowers around.

A drought-tolerant plant that likes a sunny dry spot and thrives in borders, pots, herb or gravel gardens.

Lavender is an evergreen shrub that looks like a perennial plant because most of its growth is soft and green. But deep at the centre of this moulded shrub, it is trying to turn to wood.

The main objective for pruning your lavender is to slow down the transformation.

There are three main reasons why you want to slow this process down:

  • Old wood will stop producing new growth or will produce spaced-out shoots, ruining the appearance of your plant.
  • Lavender wood is very weak and is prone to splitting under snow, ice and water-rot.
  • Unlike many other trees and shrubs lavender wood that has formed usually does not rejuvenate.

Lavenders are relatively easy to prune and pruning every year will help slow down the formation of wood and extend the vigour and lifetime of your plant.

Pruning in late-August or early autumn will encourage good air circulation, which guards against rot.

Before you prune your lavender you need to identify which type you have planted in your garden.

Below are three common types of lavender planted in UK gardens.

Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) is the hardiest (H5 hardy-cold winter) variety of lavender.

Hidcote and Munstead are the most popular Lavandula angustifolia throughout the UK.

English lavender is identified by its single, leafless stems and compact spikes of heavily scented blossoms.

Lavandula stoechas (French lavender) are easily be identified by the colourful ear-like tufts topping the flowerhead.

French lavender may suffer in severe a UK winter with hybrid and cultivars being categorised at hardy levels H4 (hardy-average winter) or H3 (half-hardy).

Lavandula x intermedia (also known as lavandin) is a hybrid that is a cross between English and Portuguese lavender (Lavendula latifolia).

Lavandin is another variety that is less hardy than English and also blooms later in the year with flowers typically appearing in July and lasting until late summer.

Easy to identify as the stems of lavandins are branched and longer than those of English lavender. Flower spikes are longer as well, and they have a graceful taper.

How & When To Prune Lavender

Pruning English Lavender

English lavender

English lavender blooms in late spring to early summer, and if you lightly prune after its first flourish of flowers it will more than likely bloom again in late summer.

After this second flowering period has finished in late summer, a full pruning is required using secateurs to remove flower stalks and about an inch (2.5cm) of the current year’s growth, making sure that green growth remains, this will prepare the plant for winter and encourage more blooms for next springtime.

Pruning your English lavender every year will keep it in good stead for many a year. A well-pruned angustifolia has a life expectancy of over 20 years without becoming too woody.

Pruning French Lavender

Being a more fragile variety, it is best to lightly prune French lavender, making sure you never cut into the bare wood as this could kill your plant.

The best practice is to prune lightly just after your French lavender has had its first flowering, and then keep deadheading and shaping throughout the growing season.

In late August you can give your French lavender a slightly more vigorous prune to prepare it for the upcoming winter and encourage a fuller plant for next year.

Pruning Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia)

Pruning your lavandin in early spring will keep your plant from getting too leggy.

Look for new growth spouting through near the base of your plant and cut an inch (2.5cm) above the new growth.

This will kill birds two with one stone, by cutting off any winter damage to your lavender and will also give your lavandin the desired shape and insight as to the direction of the new growth.

As with other lavenders, lavandin requires you to prune back the flower stalks to the main foliage as soon as the flowers fade, no later than mid-September.

You may also want to give your lavandin a trim throughout the growing season as it produces longer stems than the English and French varieties, making them suitable for use in your home as a cut flower.

As with the French lavender you should never cut into the bare wood of a lavandin.

15 Lavender Facts

  1. Lavandula is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae).
  2. In the language of flowers, lavender can mean devotion, luck, success, happiness or distrusts
  3. Native to the Old World and is found from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India.
  4. In ancient Egypt during the mummification process.
  5. Lavender was first introduced into the UK by the Romans where it was used for its antiseptic properties.
  6. Laver is Latin for wash and the flowers were strewn into water, between linen and on floors.
  7. During the Black Plague, which hit London in the 16th century, lavender oil and alcohol were taken as a way to ward off the disease. Bunches of lavender were sold in the streets in an attempt to ease the smell of the dead and dying.
  8. Lavender essential oil was used in hospitals during WWI.
  9. Essential oils extracted from the flowers of lavender are massively used in the industry of perfumes and cosmetics. Lavender scent produces a calming effect, while essential oils soothe skin. Thanks to these effects, lavender is often used in the production of lotions, soaps, shampoos and skincare products.
  10. Essential oils of lavender are often used in aromatherapy because they produce a relaxing effect in most people. Unlike humans, pests such as mice, flies, mosquitoes and moths cannot stand the smell of lavender. Many people keep bunches of lavender in their homes to repel unwanted animals.
  11. Lavender can be used as a natural “insecticide”. When planted near the roses, lavender keeps aphids on a safe distance.
  12. Culinary lavender is usually English lavender, the most commonly used species in cooking. As an aromatic, it has a sweet fragrance with a taste of lemon or citrus notes.
  13. It is used as a spice or condiment in pasta, salads and dressings, and desserts.
  14. Lavender is adored by bees because their flowers contain highly concentrated nectar.
  15. The Nectar from lavender plants is used to make high-quality honey.