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Cutting Back Lavender in Fall: Avoid These 5 Fatal Mistakes for Healthier Plants

Cutting Back Lavender in Fall: Avoid These 5 Fatal Mistakes for Healthier Plants
Back Lavender

Cutting back lavender in fall is a crucial task for any gardener who wants to keep their lavender plants healthy and thriving. Lavender is a fragrant herb that many people enjoy for its scent and appearance. While it’s a relatively hardy plant, it does require some specialized care, especially when it comes to cutting back lavender in fall. Doing so can improve the plant’s winter survival and set the stage for more abundant blooms in the next season. However, make a few fatal mistakes, and you risk damaging or even killing your plants. In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of when and how much to cut back lavender in fall, the techniques to use, and the common mistakes to avoid for healthier lavender plants that thrive.

When to Cut Back Lavender

Knowing the right time to cut back lavender in fall is critical to avoid setbacks. Let’s look at why cutting back lavender in fall is better than spring and when specifically you should cut back plants.

Spring vs Fall Pruning

While some gardeners prune lavender in spring, it’s best to avoid cutting back plants too early. Cutting back lavender in fall helps minimize winter damage. Spring pruning also risks removing early buds developing for summer blooms. Delay cutting back lavender in fall until after flowering finishes in early fall. For those who are new to gardening or are considering other herbs, our Herb Growing Guide offers additional insights into the best times for various gardening tasks.

Timing in Fall

Plan to cut back lavender in fall around early September through October. But avoid cutting back lavender in fall too late when cooler temperatures increase disease risks from cutting. Wait at least 2-3 weeks after initial flowering finishes before cutting plants back. This allows time for some new growth to start regenerating.

A bee doing her job with lavender flowers
A bee doing her job with lavender flowers

Should Lavender be Cut Back

Is cutting back lavender in fall necessary, or can you skip pruning? Here are reasons why cutting back lavender in fall is so important for plant health.

Benefits of Pruning

Cutting back lavender plants in fall helps improve their structure and winter survival. Pruning removes old wood and leaves that can die back over winter. It also shapes plants and controls size. Proper cutting back lavender in fall encourages new growth to emerge before dormancy.

Potential Damage if Not Pruned

Skipping cutting back lavender in fall can harm lavender over winter. Plants may struggle to cope with old wood and foliage through harsh weather and temperature swings. Unpruned plants are also more likely to develop woody buildup in their centers over time. This prevents new shoots from regenerating well in spring.

How Much to Cut Back Lavender

When cutting back lavender in fall, it’s important not to cut plants back too severely. Follow these guidelines for optimal results when cutting back lavender in fall.

Pruning Guidelines by Variety

  • English lavender – Cut by 1/3 to 1/2 of plant height.
  • French lavender – Cut by 1/4 to 1/3 of plant height.
  • Spanish lavender – Cut by 1/2 of plant height.
  • Hybrid lavenders – Cut by 1/3 to 1/2 depending on variety.

Avoiding Over Pruning

Never cut lavender plants back past green foliage or into woody bases. This can compromise plants for regrowth next season. Leaving some foliage helps plants photosynthesize after cutting back lavender in fall.

Tools and Techniques for Pruning

Use proper techniques when fall pruning lavender to avoid damage. Here are tips on tools and methods to use:

Hand Pruning vs Shears

Either pruners or gardening shears work well for cutting back lavender. Hand pruning individual stems takes more time but gives you greater control. Shears are quicker for shaping overall plant structure. Disinfect tools before and after use.

Cutting at an Angle

Always make cuts at a 45-degree angle just above a leaf node. Angled cuts help shed water and minimize risk of stem damage or disease.

Cleaning Tools Afterwards

After fall pruning, clean tool blades with rubbing alcohol to remove debris and kill bacteria. This prevents potential issues like fungal infections from spreading between plants.

Mistakes to Avoid When Cutting Back Lavender in Fall

While fall pruning lavender has huge benefits, some common mistakes can set your plants back. Be sure to avoid:

Cutting Too Low

Never prune lavender stems right to the base or into woody sections. This can compromise regrowth and cause dieback. Always leave 2-4 inches of foliage on plants after fall pruning.

Pruning Too Late

Cutting lavender back after October once cooler weather hits increases stress and disease vulnerability from open cuts. Stick to pruning in early fall.

Not Disinfecting Tools

Failing to clean and disinfect pruning tools between plants is another mistake. Always sterilize blades to prevent bacteria and fungal issues from spreading.

Leaving Dead Growth

It’s also important to remove any dead or damaged stems while fall pruning. These can harbor pests and diseases through winter. Pruning selectively helps optimize plant health.

Essential lavender oil in a bottle
Essential lavender oil in a bottle

Conclusion

Fall is the ideal time for pruning back lavender plants. Cutting in early fall refreshes plants by removing old wood and foliage before winter while minimizing damage to budding growth. Follow proper guidelines on when to prune specific varieties and by how much without overcutting plants. Use clean, sterilized, sharp tools and make properly angled cuts just above the leaf nodes. Avoid common mistakes like pruning too late or severely. With the right technique, fall lavender pruning promotes vigorous new growth and abundant blooms next season.

FAQs

Q: Should I cut back lavender after it flowers?

A: Yes, the best time to prune lavender is in early fall, around 2-3 weeks after initial flowering finishes. This avoids removing buds for next year’s blooms but allows time for new growth.

Q: What happens if I don’t prune back my lavender in fall?

A: Skipping fall pruning can lead to winter dieback and damage. Plants may struggle with old wood and foliage through harsh weather. Unpruned lavender also becomes woody and congested over time.

Q: How short can I cut back lavender without hurting it?

A: Never prune lavender below green foliage or into old wood. Leave 2-4 inches of growth after cutting depending on variety. Severe cutting back risks plant dieback.

Q: Can I use hedge trimmers to cut back lavender?

A: Use hand pruners or gardening shears instead of power tools. Trimmers are too aggressive and can damage plants by cutting too far down into them.

Q: When is the latest I can prune back lavender in fall?

A: Prune lavender by early October at the latest before cooler weather arrives. Cutting too late increases stress, slowing regrowth and disease vulnerability from open cuts.

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