General gardening topics

Pruning lavatera – When and how to prune mallow shrubs, perennials and annuals

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

Lavatera shrubs are one of my favourites, and I’ve always had a few on my borders. As a professional gardener, I’ve always recommended them for large borders as they are so versatile and easy to care for. In my family’s nursery, they are also one of the most popular shrubs and a favourite of many gardeners.

If pruned correctly, they produce an amazing show of flowers in mid to late summer. However, they do need to be pruned back hard to get the most out of them. If left, they can get very leggy and woody and lose their shape and appeal. Now, it’s important to note that there are Lavatera shrubs, perennials, and annuals.

Cutting back mallow bushes. cut back in early to mid spring.

My favourites are the shrub lavateras, which include many varieties, but my two favourites are Lavatera Rosea, Lavatera ‘Burgundy Wine’ and a smaller growing variety called Lavatera ‘Baby Barnsley’. I will go into more detail on when and how to prune Lavatera further down. Ideally, you remove dead flowers in summer to promote more flowers.

However, the main pruning is best done in spring, just as the new shoots appear from the stem and the risk of hard frost has passed. They respond very well to hard pruning, so don’t be afraid to prune them back hard. I prune them just above ground level and above new shoots. For larger shrubs a few years old, I sometimes prune them back by around half to two-thirds to keep them to a specific size.

It’s worth noting that even the shrub lavateras are fairly short-lived and last around 6-7 years. With this in mind, I always take a few cuts in spring when pruning them back to grow as replacement plants in a couple of years time.

For perennial Lavatera, usually sold as Malvia, I usually prune them back to ground level in autumn, tidy them up, and add a nice layer of mulch on top of them. Annuals only last one year, so I compost the dead foliage in autumn.

Thats the short answer on pruning Lavatera; if you need more information, you can read a detailed guide below.

When to prune Lavatera

As a professional gardener, I usually prune Lavatera at the beginning of spring or in the middle of spring if it has been mild, as long as the danger of a hard frost is over. This is a simple process that encourages a great deal of strong growth from the base of the plant. Part of the reason that Lavatera are so popular is that they respond quite well to hard pruning, which means the size can be easily controlled and this, in turn, will provide you with more flowers.

When to prune lavatera - prune hard in early to mind spring

In the spring, when you look at your Lavatera, you will see that new shoots are coming out of the base of the plant. It is on these new shoots that flowers will grow later in the year, so you want to leave them where they are. However, all of the other older wood that has remained from the previous year can be cut back hard if needed. T

his type of rejuvenation will prevent your stems from getting too old and woody, which eventually will reduce flowering and lead to a leggy plant with bbare stems. By cutting back Lavatera regularly, you can develop strong shoots with plenty of flowers and lush vigorous growth.

How to prune Lavatera

When you are ready to prune, take a sharp set of pruning secateurs. To prevent spreading diseases, I always disinfect my secatuers in Jayes Fluid. Let’s get started! Select the old growth and cut it back to 20-60cm above the ground, depending on how hard you want to prune it back. If you have an older shrub that has been around for a few years, the stems might be thicker, so you will need a pruning saw or loppers to prune them.

If you notice any weak or brittle stems, cut them all the way back to the ground or to the main stem because they are likely dying or dead. If you are unsure whether a stem is dead or dying, you can scrape away a small amount of the exterior bark. If the colour underneath is green, you can leave it and prune it regularly because it is still alive. If, however, the colour underneath is brown, cut it all the way down to the ground. You want to remove as many woody and dead stems as possible. Remember, Lavatera respond well to hard pruning, so don’t be afraid to prune back hard!

How to prune lavatera. Prune back as far as needed or back to 1-2ft tall in spring

When you prune healthy growth you want to keep your eye out for swelling along the stem because the swelling is usually new shoots starting to develop. So always make your cut directly above that swelling. If you are unsure, it’s not a big issue because they usually recover no matter where you prune them, so don’t worry too much, but just keep it in mind.

Take cuttings as you prune if you want to try growing new plants

If you want to propagate from an existing Lavatera you can take softwood cuttings from the plant around the same time that you prune in spring. These should be between 7.5cm and 15cm in length.

Overall, Lavatera is very easy to grow. You can propagate them regularly, enjoy them year after year, and no matter how much you prune them, they will bounce back even stronger than before.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at


  1. Clear comprehensive information and advise on how to care for my Lavateria which I am sure will be invaluable. Purchased three young plants last year which grew but did not flower, so I was looking for advise to encourage these beautiful flowers to appear this year. Thank you very much – I will be returning to your site with other queries

  2. Brian Finnegan

    I did plant10 lavatera in July.i pruned them to ground to 100mm in Febuary. its now April. four of the 10plants have started to show growth the other 6 look healty but show no sign of new shoots.should i wait for new shoots to show or disgard the six and replant again?

  3. John Moore

    Hi Brian, I would certainly wait and give them longer, sometimes Laveratera can be slow to show, especially if there were only planted them last year. It’s also quite early, I know in my garden everything is only just starting to shoot now as of 6 April. Hope this helps

  4. Brian Finnegan

    Thanks for info John.i will take your advice and hopefully my Lavatera will start to come to life when the sun starts to shine

Write A Comment