How and When to Prune Lavender

By Daniel Woodley. Posted to: Our Plants. Updated: 13th October 2023.

Welcome to another entry in the Our Plants section of the DIY Gardening website.

Lavenders are a popular shrub I’ve been growing for their delightful aroma and unusual bracts.

I’ve always found them easy to grow, requiring little in the way of water and nutrients, this makes them perfect for rockeries, pots and dry locations in my garden.

I’ve found that the one thing lavenders can benefit from is a yearly prune, but get it wrong, and your lavender may not forgive you.

Fear not, just follow my helpful guide.

In a Hurry? Watch My 7-Minute Video

In this video, I show you how to prune lavenders like a pro:

When to Deadhead Lavender

Deadheading is different from pruning and I’ve found that it’s best done immediately after each bract (bloom) has faded.

The photos below are of French lavenders that I grow in my garden but the deadheading practice is the same for all lavenders.

In my garden, I’ve seen some deadheaded lavenders delight with a second flush of growth and bracts later in the summer.

Deadheading is easy, just find the stalk and nip it off just above the thin leaves at the base of the stalk.

Deadheading is entirely optional.

Deadhead French lavender
Lavender stem

When to Prune Lavender

Pruning is the process of cutting off all the stems and foliage to a certain level and is usually done once per year in late summer or early autumn and optionally a second time in the spring after the last frosts.

However, lavenders are warm-climate shrubs that grow prolifically in the Mediterranean, and as such, they dislike harsh frosts, which can damage the tips of the stems.

If you live in colder parts of the UK or any area prone to hard frosts, either prune slightly earlier to give the lavender time to recover before the first frosts or wait until spring after the risk of frost has passed. 

I grow French lavenders and this variety is more susceptible to frost damage but as I live in the south of the country, I’ve never had any problems with pruning them in late summer.

Why You Should Prune Lavenders

The stems on lavender plants are semi-soft and green, they also produce aromatic foliage and bracts.

However, each year, the semi-soft stems become woody.

Woody stems do not produce new growth and if the shrub is left unpruned, it will eventually grow very tall, leggy and hollow with little foliage and few bracts.

I have seen many unpruned lavenders and they don’t look as attractive as when they are pruned yearly.

The primary goal of lavender pruning is to stop the stems from growing too long and woody too quickly.

Careful pruning also stimulates new growth from the green, fresh stems and helps to keep the shrub compact yet bursting with colour and aroma.

How to Prune Lavender

I have eight lavenders in my garden and have always pruned them with a pair of secateurs. I know several gardeners who use large shears without any problems.

If you have a hedge of lavenders, you can even use a motorised tool such as a small chainsaw or clippers if you wish.

From my experience, the type of tool used isn’t as important as how far you should cut down the stems.

As previously stated, the woody stems generally won’t put on new growth, so if you cut into the woody part near the bottom of the shrub, your lavender may not recover, or it may take a year or two before it bounces back.

I’ve found that if I don’t prune at all, or I prune very lightly, the remaining green stems turn woody over the next year, and over time, the entire shrub will grow woody and leggy.

Professional growers prune lavenders to just about an inch or so above the green stems, leaving just enough of them to produce new growth next year:

lavender pruning guide by DIY Gardening

How to Prune Young Lavender Plants

Young lavender plants might be tiny, but they should be pruned in the same manner as you would a larger shrub.

Whenever I’ve failed to prune a young lavender, the existing stems become woody and devoid of foliage.

Regardless of the age of the lavender, I always prune at the end of summer each and every year, and sometimes I trim them again in the spring after the last frosts.

How to Prune an Old Woody Lavender

I’ve taken on old, leggy lavenders in the past, and sometimes I’ve found it best to just grow new shrubs from cuttings although I’ve managed to get a few under control by gradually reducing their height over several years.

I’ve also lost a few older lavenders in the past by pruning them too aggressively, they didn’t die but only produced very limited growth over the following years.

I think it’s a good idea to grow new lavenders from cuttings each year if you have some old, leggy stock in your garden.

The Best Secateurs For Pruning Lavender

Lavenders are not particular about which type of pruner, snips or secateurs you use as long as they’re clean; I’ve even seen gardeners use chainsaws in the past.

If you’re new to gardening and want to keep a lid on costs, I recommend Gruntek Secateurs, as they’re cheap and well-built. Mine has lasted for years with little maintenance, and you can see them in action in my video at the top of this page.

Gardena is the best mid-range product.

However, if you really want to push the boat out, go for Felco, as they’re the best of the best.

Gruntek Secateurs on Amazon

Gardena Secateurs on Amazon

Felco Secateurs on Amazon

EXPLORE MORE OF OUR CONTENT BELOW:

“Our Plants” Section

The “Our Plants” corner of our site contains everything you need to know about the plants the DIY Gardening team is currently growing in our gardens. Start here

How to Grow French Lavender

Explore our easy-to-read to growing French Lavender in the UK. This variety produces truly unique and eye-catching bracts. Start here

Inspiration and Ideas

From garden edging & fast-growing shrubs to hedges for privacy & garden plants that produce beautiful winter colour. Explore our ideas & inspiration corner. Start here

This guide to pruning lavender was created by the team here at DIY Gardening

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