Pruning is essential to maintaining a young, healthy and vigorous lavender bush. The secret to pruning is to start when plants are young and still in pots, by pinching out the new growth to encourage lateral branching and by cutting off flower buds in the first year to ensure a larger bush and abundant spikes for the following season.
L. stoechas, L. angustifolia and L. x intermedia may be pruned back by 1/3 to ½. This helps to keep bushes young and healthy. If cut any lower, the stems will die. Lavenders that have not been kept well pruned have a tendency to become woody in the center of the bush.
Plants should be cut back at least once a year during their life span. If done in the fall it should be done well before danger of a hard freeze. Weedeaters and hedge trimmers work well for pruning. Plants can also be pruned after flowering in the spring or early summer.
Make sure there are green leaves to be seen when cutting back. If the plant is cut too far back, it may not survive.
Plants that have not been pruned in the beginning of their growing career may not survive heavy pruning. If bushes have reached 3 years of age and have never been pruned, then pruning at this stage may not achieve anything and it may be better to replace the bush. If, however, there is young growth just above the woody part, start with lighter pruning to encourage lower leaf growth. Then continue each year to prune a little heavier. Cut as close to the woody part without cutting into the wood. Do not cut too far back into the old wood or the lavender will die. This technique may force new growth further down the stem and eventually allow the bush to be reshaped. However the success of this treatment will depend on the type of lavender as some cultivars are more prone to woodiness than others.
Lavenders such as dentate dentata and dentate candicans generally require little pruning unless they have been grown as a hedge or have become too large for their situation. The best time to prune in these circumstances is summer.
IMPORTANT: Pruning a lavender bush to the point where it has no foliage will most likely kill it. You can try pruning in increments. In spring, cut back by 1/3 to stimulate new growth. After new foliage has grown in, cut back by 1/3 again to stimulate new growth at base of the plant. If new growth does come, prune back to just above the new growth. Never prune out old wood unless it is completely dead.
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