How to Prune Lavender

Fragrant, flowering lavender is a garden favorite. Keep your plants robust and long-lasting with our guide on how to prune lavender.

If you’ve ever grown lavender in your garden, you know there are a lot of reasons to love it. Lavender’s pretty, fragrant blooms attract pollinators and give off a sweet perfume. It’s a hardy, perennial bush in most zones, and easy to care for. And lavender plants look nice even when they’re not blooming.

To remain healthy and beautiful, lavender needs regular pruning, along with well-drained soil and lots of sunshine. Lavender bushes need to be cut back every year to keep them from growing out of control.

“Pruning lavender keeps it looking full, encourages new growth and flowering, and gives you lots of fresh tips to harvest throughout the season,” says Amy Fedele, a home gardening expert and Pretty Purple Door blogger.

Here’s when and how to best prune lavender.

When to Prune Lavender

Since lavender dislikes extreme heat or cold, it can grow perennially in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8. North or south of those zones, it does better as an annual, or in containers that are brought inside during extreme wet or cold weather.

Fedele says that lavender can be lightly trimmed or pruned anytime during the spring and summer. “Ideally, you should prune your lavender twice in a growing season — once in early spring and once in late summer, after it’s done blooming,” she says.

In early spring, Fedele suggests waiting until you see new growth before you prune. Then in late summer, after the plants have stopped blooming, prune again.

Do your last pruning by early fall, especially if you live in a cold climate, where frost can damage fresh growth. In winter, you can generally leave lavender alone. If you live where there’s risk of extreme cold, Connecticut nursery White Flower Farm experts advise that you cover your lavender plants with evergreen boughs to protect them from frigid winds.

How to Prune Lavender

Pruning lavender isn’t complicated, but Fedele says there are a few things to know:

  • As with all pruning tasks, start with a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears. Fedele recommends always sterilizing the blades before you prune. Wipe them down with rubbing alcohol or bleach, then rinse off and dry.
  • Cut off the branches and bits that are above the new growth. This will make your plant fuller.
  • Don’t prune into the woody area of the branches below the leaves.
  • Always leave some green on the stems.
  • When pruning in summer, take some of the best snips and use them as cuttings to start new plants. You can either give these to friends or plant them in your garden.
  • When you do your late summer/early fall pruning, cut back about one-third of the plant. Work on getting a pleasing shape.
  • If you live in a cold climate, avoid pruning past early fall to avoid possible frost damage.

Fun Uses for Lavender

  • Try adding some lavender to a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers.
  • Plant some in a container and place in a warm, sunny window.
  • Use English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) flowers for tea and as a flavoring for cocktails, lemonade or ice cream. If you’re a baker, try in in pastries or cookies. It’s also a great herb for savory dishes — use it like rosemary.
  • Fedele likes to use the large, woody pieces of pruned lavender as skewers for kabobs.