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Woody Lavender Plants

What to do?

     I have received many an email asking what to do with my woody Lavender plant. If you have a Lavender that is older and split open with a lot of old growth woody stems you have a few choices.

Woody Lavender Plant
Image courtesy of Royal Horticultural Society

     Any Lavender that has any age at all tends to get woody at the base. It's just the nature of the beast. Proper pruning can slow this tendency and limit or control it to some extent. Well maintained plants can live for 10 years or more if they are happy where they are planted and conditons are right.

     An older woody plant cannot be transformed into a nicely mounded cushion shaped plant. It is simply too late and if you try you will end up with a dead plant. What should you do? Here are a few things to try.

Use it For Cuttings

     You can enjoy woody Lavender as is or do what I do and use it to make more plants by using it for cuttings. If your plant has long woody stems with the new growth at the top you can take cuttings from it and propagate Lavender plants. Simply cut out sections leaving a few inches of woody stem attached.

     Take these old growth cuttings and abrade them slightly by exposing the green inner part of the stem and dip them into rooting hormone and then into damp sand. Trim the green tops off by about half since there are no roots yet to support that growth. Keep the sand slightly damp and place in location with filtered light. You should have roots in a few weeks, check by giving each cutting a gently tug. Resistance means roots Yay!!!

     Here is another way of propagating new Lavender which renders larger "plantlets" but takes longer. Gain additional plants by layering your plant which is a another way to get new plants from the old one. If the plant has a lot of long woody stems and they flop over then all the better.

     Take a stem and lightly abrade the underneath area closest to the ground until you see a little bit of the green inside. Do not completely remove the outer layer but just scratch through it a little. Do this as close to the end with the new green leaves as you can because after roots form this will become the new plant.

     Dust the wounded area with a little rooting hormone by using a Q-tip or small craft paint brush. Now lay this wounded area down on the soil and either pin it down with a few U-shaped landscape pins or set a rock on top large enough to weigh it down keeping it in full contact with the soil. Don't let this section flower to encourage root formation.

     Layering works well for plants that have 3 - 4 long woody sections and a hole in the middle. You can get new plants by pinning each section down around the host plant. It will be unsightly for a while until you can cut each section away and replant it but you are taking one old plant and gaining new ones.

     After a month or so you can see if this area has formed roots. I prefer to leave it for a few months to assure good root formation and then I cut the branch where it connects to old plant. I then transplant this new plant to a new location.

Removing Sections to Rejuvenate Lavender Plants

     On plants that have some new growth forming down at the base you can work on a three year rejuvenation plan by completely removing 1/3 of the "bad" sections each year until you they are all gone.

     To do this you cut out the desired section as close to the base of the plant as possible. You may use the removed sections as cuttings if they are suitable. This rejuvenation pruning requires patience as your plant will be unsightly for some time.

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