by Michael Lemmers of RavenCroft

In Part I of this article, we considered the essentials of planting Lavandula angustifolia cultivars in order to optimize conditions for their survival and healthy development.

Once you’ve succeeded in establishing your lavender plants, you will need to think about harvesting and using the flower stalks. Then, once harvest is over, there are maintenance chores that are necessary to keep the plants as productive as possible for several years.

Let’s dive right in.

Figure cutting flowers off lavender plants


In most locations, one can expect Lavandula angustifolia plants to achieve their prolific bloom phase in the 3rd summer season. Allowing the flower spikes to remain beyond “brown-out” and into the seed production stage places unnecessary stress on the plants. The timing of harvest, however, depends on one’s intended use of the stalks and buds. If buds for culinary applications are desired, harvest should be very early in the bloom cycle, when only a few flowers have poked out from the bud casings. For other dried-lavender applications, the stalks will be harvested based on specific project needs. For example, some craft applications that shape the stalks prior to drying (e.g. lavender wands) will require the more supple stalks of early-stage flower spikes. Bundles for drying will be less fussy about the timing of harvest, but one should bear in mind that (1) a later harvest time in the bloom cycle will incur more browned flower remnants attached to the buds, and (2) the maximum content of lavender’s essential oil (and therefore the strongest potential fragrance) is reached as the majority of the the buds pass through their actual flowering phase.

Sheared lavender plant


For many home growers, pruning their lavender plants is a sadly neglected chore, but it’s a critical procedure for the maintenance of a long-lived healthy plant. A few cultivars of Lavandula angustifolia will put on a second show of flowers later in the summer, though generally much less dense than the first round. Shearing off flower stalks after they bloom helps the plants redirect their metabolic efforts toward new vegetative growth and preparation for the next season.

As autumn transitions toward frosty winter weather, lavender plants enter a dormant stage, and it becomes safe to perform end-season pruning and shaping of lavender bushes. If this pruning isn’t completed in the late autumn, it is still possible to do it safely in the spring, just before new growth starts to develop. This procedure generally means cutting back to a point just above the junction of the prior season’s growth with hardened “old wood”. That said, at least some Lavandula angustifolia cultivars will tolerate much more drastic cut-backs, as might be desired for older plants or for plants that have becomes excessively leggy. However, this type of regenerative pruning is best done right after the bloom cycle, to allow time for new growth to emerge and develop before dormancy.

Woody parts inside lavender plant


Assuming one has selected winter-hardy cultivars and followed the basic guidelines for their cultivation, an 8-12 year span of good flower production can be expected from Lavandula angustifolia. Hard pruning can sometimes extend that period at the cost of low production during the recovery season. On the other hand, one might simply be prepared to dig out woody, geriatric plants and replace them with fresh starts. Attention to lavender’s essential growth requirements is the key to success, promising many years of vibrant color and aromatic delight.

Missed Part I? Read it here

Michael Lemmers
Author: Michael Lemmers