Ask a Question forum: Can a lavender plant be rejuvenated ?

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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 28, 2013 8:36 PM CST
I know this is the wrong time of year to be planting in my climate. The night temps have been hovering around 20 degrees, but are expected to get up to 30 degrees next week. The day temps have had a high of 60 degrees … that’s for about two hours, but they are expected to drop to the low 50s next week.

The story of how I found myself planting lavenders at the end of November is below.

The question is that when I cut the top growth back to be more in proportion to the root mass, I found that the center of the plants is mostly congested woody material. I didn’t see any plant nodes. Do I need to prune out more of this woody material to make the plants more productive ?

The story ….

Sunday, my garden club had to pull up some plants where there is going to be some construction. We yanked three large lavenders out of the ground by tying a rope to the base of the plant and tying the rope to the trailer hitch of one of the member's cars. Of course the roots were butchered. The president of the garden club decided that we would just throw them away, then my wonderfully kind friend spoke up and said that they would look wonderful in my street bed. They stuffed the plants into the back of my SUV and I headed home to plant them ... no I didn't have time. I don't know anything about lavenders. I've never grown one.

The street bed was not prepared for any kind of planting. I had a yard of sandy loam under a tarp at one end of the bed and a pick-up load of rocks next to it for a raised bed I am planning to build. I was losing the light, so I didn't have time to prepare planting holes and ended up just putting the plants on top of the soil in the bed ... I did rake away the fallen leaves ... and covering the roots with some of the sandy loam. I finished working by flashlight to make sure all of the roots were covered . I do NOT believe I did that.

The next day I went out and cut back the top growth significantly because I knew it was too large for the butchered roots. I found that the plants are quite “woody” in the center which is why I am asking about the possibility of needing to prune out more of that wood.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Nov 29, 2013 3:38 PM CST
Every 5 years or so I severely cut back many of my plants that have just plain gotten too big for containers like my Tropical Hibiscus. I always do this in the Fall once the night time temps consistently get below 55 degrees. I cut the tops down to about 4 inches above the soil line and the roots back to about 1/3 of what was there then repot into smaller pots. Since they are stored in a heated greenhouse that is set only for 'don't freeze', I usually start seeing new growth coming from old leaf nodes within 2 - 3 weeks since the soil temperature stays cool. Nodes are not obvious at all, especially on the old growth. On multiple stems, I'll wait until it's clear as to which way the new growth will be growing then prune the plant again to shape it. For example if I have a lot of new growth heading for the center of the plant, I'll remove some of the new stems so the center won't be overly crowded.

It's always kind of scary to do this but I haven't lost a plant yet. Also, it takes about a year for the plant to be back to its old splendor and it's totally worth it on old plants .. it literally does rejuvenate them.


Thumb of 2013-11-29/Xeramtheum/c6ce71

"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Nov 29, 2013 3:49 PM CST
This seems like the wrong time of year for cutting. I would leave them be. In the spring cut them back into the shape you wish them to be. I used to cut my lavender back heavily each spring. It looked dead by the time I was done but nice healthy new green growth soon started.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Nov 29, 2013 4:54 PM CST
I have always heard that the right time to prune anything is right before you expect it to have a growth spurt. Also most plants can be safely reduced by 1/3 at one time. However, I know nothing about lavender.
Porkpal
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Nov 29, 2013 5:07 PM CST
In my experience for potted plants, Fall is the best as long as they aren't forced into total dormancy because of too cold soil temperature. I've pretty much done this at all times of the year and I get my best root growth by doing it in the Fall. By the time Spring rolls around and the soil temperature starts warming up I have a whole pot full of new roots and the growth that occurred during the winter takes off like a rocket.

It seems the plant spends the Winter growing roots rather than leaves. Plants I've cut back like this in the Spring do not seem as nearly robust by Summertime as Fall plants, maybe because the root system isn't extensive enough to transport a lot of nutrients to new growth.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 29, 2013 7:27 PM CST
Thank you for taking the time to respond.

These plants were fall pruned over a month ago by the garden club and have been growing in the ground for several years.

When we ripped them out of the ground, we left a lot of the root mass behind. I cut the plants back further because it didn't seem possible for the remaining root mass to support the top growth. I've packed a lot more sandy loam around the base of the plants ... I had light the next afternoon .... and put rocks around the mounds to hold the soil in place so that it doesn't get washed away when it rains.

Do I just leave them alone until next fall and address the congested centers when I do my fall pruning ? Or do I need to clean out some of that wood now ?

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Nov 29, 2013 8:14 PM CST
I think I'd leave it be, Lyn. With only one three year-old lavender plant so far I'm certainly no expert, but I think that cutting on it any more right now might just leave more open stems that could invite rot or disease.

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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 29, 2013 8:21 PM CST
Chelle ... you have three years more experience growing a lavender than I do. I've never grown one before ... Smiling

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Nov 29, 2013 8:31 PM CST
I wouldn't start pruning again until I see new growth coming out. That way you'll know what needs to stay and what needs to go.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 29, 2013 9:32 PM CST
Wonderful ! I am done with the lavenders and can get back to the other stuff that should have been completed by now.

I haven't a clue as how to take care of them, but I have the winter to do some research.

Thank you all very, very much.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Liz
Santa Rosa, CA (Zone 9b)
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Lizzipa
Nov 29, 2013 10:43 PM CST
I'm far from an expert & don't know what kind of lavender you have, but I've always thought you weren't supposed to prune back to the woody stems. Lavender are relatively fairly short-lived & will become woody, after a while - whenever I've had a portion of a lavender plant become woody, I've had to prune out that part of the plan. Please take my amateur opinion with many grains of salt.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 29, 2013 11:46 PM CST
@Lizzipa .........

You may be right. Your comment reminded me that I killed a santolina several years back by pruning it too hard.

I saved all of the plant material I cut off to use for kindling next year once it has dried out. In the worst case ... if they don't come back ... I'll just yank them out and cut that wood for kindling, too, and plant something else in that bed. The bed is prepared, so I won't have to do that work twice.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Liz
Santa Rosa, CA (Zone 9b)
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Lizzipa
Nov 30, 2013 2:06 PM CST
If nothing else, I'll bet that kindling will smell great when you burn it!
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Nov 30, 2013 8:17 PM CST
I do hope so .... Big Grin
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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eclayne
Dec 5, 2013 3:04 PM CST

Plants Admin

I've had several Lavandula angustifolia for quite a few years now. I typically prune/shape them back to ~7" each Spring while also cutting out any dead stems. I do the same with Salvia officinalis. Sometimes I'll prune back to 3-4 inches if wind, snow, ice have laid the stems over.

I've also done this in the fall. Seems fine.
Evan
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Dec 5, 2013 3:56 PM CST
One thing I have noticed is that if you drastically prune a shrub that's in the ground, if you don't prune or break the roots, it does NOT come back as quickly or as full.
"Don't judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Unknown

Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Dec 5, 2013 7:14 PM CST
@Evan .... that's good to know. I don't know what kind of lavender I planted because the president of the garden club has to search the club's records to find out what they planted. I do know whatever it is, this lavender has done well in this climate.

I went out and checked today and there is a bit of green showing here and there, so I didn't cut all of the plants down to the wood. If they make it through winter, I may take them down further in the spring.

@Xeramtheum .... these plants got a serious root prune when we yanked them out of the ground Hilarious! That's why I thought I had to take the top growth back.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Liz
Santa Rosa, CA (Zone 9b)
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Lizzipa
Dec 5, 2013 7:17 PM CST
So glad to hear that you have some greenery showing, Lyn!
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Dec 5, 2013 7:28 PM CST
Smiling
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Peter
(Zone 9a)
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Cantillon
Dec 8, 2013 7:12 PM CST
I grow lavender, both the French and English types.

You can trim them to keep them shapely and towards the size you wish. It is also pleasant to bind the trimmings with string and place them in the bathrooms as you go. When I do the serious trim back in fall to tidy them up for the winter I take the large clippings and place them in the garages and pet room where they keep a very pleasant reminder of the summer.

If they are ripped from the ground and overgrown they may never make good garden examples. You can use the plants you have as donor plants, pot them up into good size pots and aim to take root cuttings from them in the spring. I have them down the driveway behind and interleaved with box (buxus) and will be moving about forty cuttings in the growing-on beds to round the fruit trees as part of increasing the insect activity in that part of the garden. Those cuttings, and others grown from seed, are in their second year, so should begin to make good size plants in 2014.

The French lavender is more pleasing to the eye, to my mind, but the scent of the English lavender is usually stronger, and the plant hardier.



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