General gardening topics

Pruning lavatera – When and how to prune mallow bushes

Last updated on March 21st, 2022

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Lavatera plants, otherwise known as the garden mallow, tree mallow, or rose mallow, are originally from the Mediterranean. You can find shrubby or annual varieties based on your gardening needs. The height these plants achieve is of course contingent upon the variety, although most hardy shrubs (such as the Lavatera Rosea and Lavatera ‘Burgundy Wine’) will reach a maximum height of around 2.5 metres. Easily grown and cared for, these shrub varieties are quite hardy and will live for many years whilst the annuals will die after the first frosts.

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

They can be planted into the garden in a location where it will receive full sunlight or partial shade and they are tolerant of all manner of soils and conditions, which makes them perfect for the salty air of a coastal garden or the poor soil condition of a cottage garden. Most important is having well-draining soil.

Once you grow them it’s important to apply all-purpose fertiliser during the growing season, but only once per month. Overfeeding them will lead to an abundance of lush, verdant foliage but very few flowers and that is not why most people grow Lavatera in the first place.

As you are growing these beautiful shrubs and enjoying all that they have to produce from July through September, you have to make sure you keep your plants structurally sound and healthy. That is best done by pruning your Lavatera, in fact, they respond very well from hard pruning because the new growth produces lots of flowers and if left unpruned they often become very woody.

1 X LAVATERA 'Burgundy Wine' Tree Mallow SEMI-Evergreen Shrub Hardy Plant in Pot
  • Propagate by softwood cuttings
  • Generally pest free
  • May be subject to a rust

When to prune Lavatera

It is best to prune your 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 and one that encourages a great deal of strong growth. 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

At this time of the year when you look at your Lavatera, you will see that there are new shoots coming out of the base. It is on these new shoots that flowers will grow later in the year so you want to leave these where they are. But all of the other older wood that has remained from the previous year can be cut back hard if needed. This type of rejuvenation will prevent your stems from getting too old and woody, which eventually will reduce flowering and harm the structure of the plant. By cutting back your Lavatera regularly you can develop strong shoots with ample flowers and vigorous growth.

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How to prune Lavatera

When you are ready to prune, take your sharpest set of pruning secateurs and sterilise them in a mixture of 1 parts bleach to 9 part water or use a disinfectant such as Jayes Fluid. Select the old growth and cut it back to 30-60cm above the ground, depending on how hard you want to prune. If you have an older shrub that has been around for a few seasons the stems might be thicker in which case 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 these are likely dying or dead. If you are unsure whether a stem is dead or dying, you can take your pruning shears and 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.

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 indicative of 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.

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

If you want to propagate from an existing Lavatera you can cut softwood cuttings from the plant around the same time that you prune. These should be between 7.5cm and 15cm in length. Use the same sterilisation for your pruning shears and be mindful of the same swellings along the stem when you make your softwood cuttings for propagation. 

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.

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  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

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