Last updated on January 21st, 2020
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Lavender shrubs will produce aromatic blossoms that everybody enjoys, the quintessence of relaxation and spas everywhere. If you tend to your lavender shrubs properly they can live for up to 20 years. The problem is, like most of us, the effects of ageing take their toll and after about seven years the lavender starts to look woody, producing fewer flowers than it once did and overrun with bar stems, usually towards the base. But this doesn’t mean everything’s over. By pruning your lavender plant at this point in its life you can restore it to its original beauty but it does take some time and patience.
Its also not 100% successful but it’s well worth a try, it’s usually about 50% successful with a very woody plant just with green growth at the top, you can always take cutting before you prune so you have spare plants.
The Signs of Woody Lavender
Once you notice that your Lavender is displaying these signs of ageing, it’s time to initiate your recovery plan. To do this you simply have to prune your lavender. Pruning your lavender will rejuvenate the plant and promote new growth lower down. Prior to any pruning, sterilize any tools you are going to use with Jayes fluid or a bleach and water mixture. If you are pruning multiple lavender plants, sterilize your tools in between each plant to prevent the spread of any disease or infection. Just because you can’t see disease on your plants doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.
Secondly, make sure that the tools you use are as sharp as possible. The reason for this is that every cut you make when pruning stems will leave your plant exposed so you want nice clean cuts. The cuts on your plant leave the lavender susceptible to disease. If you have dull blades and you hack away at a single branch leaving multiple cuts, you leave your lavender susceptible to multiple points of entry for infection. The sharper the tools, the easier the process will be.
When to Prune Woody Lavender
Only prune your lavender in the springtime after the risk of frost is over or at least the worst frost early on. If you are not 100% certain that the frost is over which is usually May in most parts of the Uk, do not prune. Frost will kill any new plant growth that pruning encourages, so a delayed and unexpected cold snap can damage any progress that you’ve made.
How to Prune Woody Lavender
With woody lavender, the trick is to do the work over a few seasons which is why you need to be patient. Cut back your branches by 1/3, always making sure they’re still green leaves on the plant when you are finished. Then come back the following year and cut back another third. It’s quite common for this process to take a few seasons to complete. The reason for this is that pruning a little bit at a time gives your lavender the opportunity to recover and regenerate new growth towards the base. If you go at it and do everything all at once it might be such a severe shock that your plant doesn’t recover the way you want it to.
When you are ready to start pruning away, remove only the branches that are truly dead first. Brown bare branches that go all the way back to the base of your plant are truly dead. Prune in the Autumn again to add shape and structure to your plant, remove any weeds, and add some slow-release fertilizer or growmore to give it some extra help before the winter sets in. It may be worth cover the Lavender in fleece to protect any new growth over winter.
Like all impacts of ageing, the key to success is prevention. If you have a young, new lavender plant, making sure it has access to good drainage and very minimal fertilizer can help you prevent it from getting woody with age. You should only plant your Lavender in well-drained soil and prune yearly to keep them looking there best with plenty of fresh green growth. They should be fertilised only sparingly the first year after planting and beyond that not really fertilised at all. To help maintain shape and size, you can prune it lightly to keep it around every year.
Overall, with a little bit of extra pruning, you can restore your plant to its former glory, and keep it lasting for years to come. If at all possible, implement preventative measures for newly planted lavender, rectify these issues if they are pre-existing among older lavender, and then utilise pruning to bring everything back.