Should I Deadhead Lavender?
How, Why and When to Deadhead Lavenders
By Hannah Miller at DIY Gardening
Lavenders are a popular plant and can be found in hundreds of thousands of gardens where they release an unmistakable fragrance and produce colourful blooms for months.
We have both English and French lavenders in our gardens, and I love them both.
This guide is all about lavender deadheading; how, when and why.
Our French Lavenders
What is Deadheading?
Deadheading is the process of cutting off old, faded flowers from plants.
- Prevent the plant from wasting energy on a flower that is near the end of its bloom.
- Encourage the plant to divert energy into growing new flowers.
- Help make new flowers bigger, more colourful and healthier.
- Encourage a second flush of flowers in many plants.
- Prevent the plant from growing too leggy and out of shape.
Most lavender plants will bloom in spring but some will flower twice with a second flush in mid-summer.
By removing the old flowers, the plant will divert energy to the production of more blooms.
How to Deadhead Lavender
Lavender flowers appear at the end of long stems and these are easy to locate and cut off.
The photo below shows a faded French lavender flower (called a bract) atop of a long stem which I just removed from the plant:
Deadheading lavenders, whether French, English or any other type, is easy:
- Locate the flower at the top of the stem.
- Run your finger down the stem until you reach a set of leaves.
- Cut the stem just above the set of leaves and remove it.
- Repeat the process on the nest stem.
What Happens to the Plant After Deadheading?
As you can see from the photo below, this lavender plant has already started to grow side shoots from the set of leaves on the stem. I call this forking, and it starts as soon as the flower begins to fade.
But cutting off the flower and excess stem, more energy will be sent to these forked stems, which may produce blooms later in the season:
When to Deadhead Lavender
In an ideal world, gardeners would deadhead their plants as soon as they see the flowers starting to fade, as this improves the plant’s appearance and diverts energy to new growth.
This isn’t always possible in the real world as most of us have busy lives and other things to do.
The flowers on lavenders usually start to fade in late spring and early summer, so this would be a great time to deadhead and remove the faded blooms.
If you want to use the cut flowers in your home or create fragranced soap or other items, cut the stems well before they’ve faded, as they will be far more potent.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can walk around your garden once a week and water any dry areas, pull out any weeds, trim off unhealthy stems, and deadhead old blooms from your various plants, you’ve got the basics of gardening maintenance covered.
To prevent diseases and fungus from spreading plant to plant, I always wipe the blade of the secateurs with an alcohol pad, but I know some gardeners use bleach instead; both are effective.
Use The Old Flowers
Deadheaded lavender flowers will still produce a wonderful fragrance, long after you’ve removed them from the plant. You can use the spent blooms:
- As cut flowers indoors.
- As potpourri (dried fragrance flowers)
- As a wardrobe air freshener – just place them in a cotton bag and leave them in the wardrobe.
- To make your own oil, soap bar or other beauty product.
You can find more ways to use lavender in this guide by the Nerdy Farm Wife.
Lavender also composts quickly, so you can place it in a cold or hot composter.
Is Deadheading Absolutely Necessary?
While deadheading can encourage new blooms and tidy up your plants, it’s not absolutely necessary.
Lavenders cope just fine with their old blooms still attached, and they normally fall off after a couple of months anyway.
While lavenders with long straggly stems don’t look attractive, they won’t harm the plant as long as you give it a yearly prune to keep overall growth in check.
The Difference Between Deadheading and Pruning Lavender
While deadheading lavender encourages new growth and blooms, a more aggressive prune will help keep the plant compact and healthy.
An annual clipping stops the stems from becoming too long and woody. As lavender ages, the lower part of the stems become woody and less tender, and very little new growth comes from this wood. If left to its own devices, lavender can become long and woody, with large voids in the centre of the plant.
Lavender can be pruned in autumn after the plant has finished flowering or in spring just as new shoots start to grow. Some gardeners give their lavender a light prune in autumn and another tidy up in spring to maintain shape.
The key to successful pruning isn’t so much when but how it’s done.
How to Prune Lavender
Whether you choose to prune in autumn or spring, the key is not to cut into the woody stems near the base of the plant. Very little new growth stems from this wood, and the lavender may not recover from such deep pruning.
As a general rule of thumb, always prune to a point an inch or so above the woody stems, leaving a short amount of semi-tender stem from which new growth can develop.
More From Hannah Miller:
This guide to deadheading and pruning lavender was created by Hannah Miller and was posted to our blog on the 9th of August, 2021.
Hannah is a keen amateur gardener, mother and the owner of one cute labradoodle and 14 lavenders.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and animals and likes to share her knowledge with others.