Whether you’re using your lavender (Lavandula) crops for exotic cooking, for aromatic oils, or merely for their pleasant scent around your garden, sooner or later, your plants are going to want some cutting back. But February is typically a time when your lavender plants are in their dormant stage, and therefore, it’s not exactly the best time for pruning.
When to Prune
The best times to prune your lavender plants is during the new-growth stage during the first spring, or after they have flowered. The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources recommends pruning after the plants have flowered in the summertime, while Colorado State University’s Extension service recommends doing it as the green leaves begin to come out in the spring. A spring pruning will remove any dead or unattractive old growth and permit new growth to thrive, even though a summer pruning can encourage further summer blooming. Another benefit of pruning after flowering: you’ll get to utilize those attractive, pleasant-smelling flowers in sachets or in bouquets. Whatever you choose — or whether you choose the two options — it needs to be apparent that February is somewhat too early — or somewhat too late — to get ideal pruning.
If you’re developing a frost-hardy variety of the plant, such as English lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), hardy from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 8, or lavandin, (Lavendula x intermedia), hardy from USDA zones 5 to 9, a hybrid of Lavendula latifolia and Lavendula angustifolia, you might discover that it blooms more than once annually. If you’re choosing the summer-pruning choice, the best course is to prune right after the flowers bloom, suggests the U.K.’s Downderry Nursery. The nursery specialists there urge pruning back to a plant height of about 9 inches, leaving a few small shoots intact, and then continuing to cut fresh flowers as they bloom.
Other varieties of lavender are far less cold tolerant, such as Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), hardy from USDA zones 7 to 10, and French lavender (Lavendula dentata) hardy from USDA zones 8 to 11. These types may bloom only once. Prune them in the summer after flowering, recommends the Downderry Nursery, and leave several blooms intact to permit for new growth, as you would with the other more frost-hardy varieties. If you decide to prune them in spring, do it when new growth starts, cutting away any old growth, avoiding cutting into the woody stems, and departing the new growth intact.
Whether you’re pruning just before the end of the dormancy period in spring or you’re doing it after your lavender flowers, it’s always a good idea to practice decent pruning hygiene. To put it differently, be certain that you’re cleaning your pruning clippers and shears so as to avoid spreading diseases from plant to plant and season to date. Brush off any loose dirt, and then soak the resources in a solution of one part bleach to three parts water, which indicates the University of Florida IFAS Extension.