Everything You Need to Know About Propagating Lavender Plants
There’s a reason lavender has been a garden favorite for thousands of years— or should we say, several reasons. Not only does this amazingly fragrant plant attract pollinators while deterring larger garden pests (ahem, deer), it’s rich in symbolic value, can also be used to make essential oils, teas, desserts, or even in dried bouquets and wreath arrangements.
Besides all that, lavender is also quite simply a beautiful plant to have in your garden or in pots on your porch. One great way to have even more lavender (without breaking the bank) is by propagating it from cuttings of healthy, established plants. Here’s everything you need to know about successfully propagating and replanting lavender in your garden.
When and How to Propagate Lavender – Essential Tips
One of the biggest considerations in lavender propagation is how to go about doing it without damaging your plants. While many flowering plants can be propagated by division at the root level, this is not the case with lavender.
Because lavender is a woody shrub that typically consists of a tightly-knit root system, division of these plants often spells disaster. For that reason, nearly all lavender propagation comes from stem cuttings. Next up, we’ll dive into the details on how you can go about propagating and replanting lavender cuttings in your garden.
Reasons to Propagate Lavender
If you happen to be moving house but want to take some of your magical lavender plants with you, propagating can be a great way to go. By snipping off several healthy stems from various plants and placing them in specially prepared pots (we’ll get into those details soon), you’ll be able to have lavender in your new garden from day one.
Lavender is one of those plants you can never have enough of, and propagation is an easy way to expand your collection without breaking the bank. If you live in a place where the selection of plants isn’t great, you might also ask a friend to take cuttings of their lavender plants in order to have more varieties of lavender in your own garden.
Like most plants, lavender does best with a bit of TLC and pruning. While you won’t be able to use all of your lavender cuttings to propagate new plants, you can be strategic about what you trim and how you do it—and end up with a plethora of new lavender starts for your garden.
When To Propagate Lavender
There are two times of the year when you can propagate most types of lavender: In spring using soft cuttings or in the fall using hard cuttings. Both involve snipping and selecting new growth from the tops of your plants, which will be soft and new in spring, or harder and more established in fall.
While soft cuttings tend to root faster, they’re also more fragile and susceptible to breaking. The key in both situations is to find a new growth tip that’s bloom-free since flowers will put unnecessary stress on your stem as it tries to grow new roots.
How To Propagate Lavender
Before cutting anything, you’ll want to prepare your pots. For this, you’ll need some starting soil, which you can either buy or make yourself by mixing half perlite or vermiculite and half peat moss. The reason for this mixture is to provide well-draining soil that also retains the necessary moisture to ensure your stems don’t dry out. Now’s also an excellent time to buy some root stimulator to help those lavender cuttings start growing roots asap. You can use your root stimulator by directly applying it to the base of your cut stems before planting.
Once you have several small pots prepared with your mixture, it’s time to trim. Regardless of the season, you’ll want to look for healthy, straight stems (without flowers) along the tops of your plants. Use pruning shears to get a clean cut and snip 3-4 inches from the top of your stem. If trimming in the spring, you may find soft cuttings (new green growth) or hard cuttings. Since it can be hard to find a soft cutting that’s without flowers, you may need to take hard ones. The key here is to avoid trimming the plant’s base woody growth, which can damage the plant.
How to Plant
Once you have several healthy stems, strip the leaves from the bottom half and dip the end into a bit of root stimulator before planting them in your pots at a depth of about 2 inches (which should roughly correspond to the length of leafless stem). Firm up the soil around your cutting so that it stands straight up. Cover them in plastic to create a warm greenhouse-style environment.
Lavender loves light, so plan on placing your potted stems in a sunny spot that gets plenty of direct sunlight, and water your cuttings whenever the soil feels dry. You can test soil moisture by sticking your finger in the side of the pot about an inch or so down. If that part of the soil feels dry, it’s time for a bit of water.
Some gardeners like to feed their new cuttings fertilizer to help them along as they establish roots. While you can give your new lavender plant a bit of fertilizer, it’s important not to give it too much as you risk burning the plant and killing it. If your cutting seems to be thriving without the fertilizer, we recommend skipping this step.
Keep in mind that a cutting that isn’t doing well might not come back just by adding fertilizer. As with any brand new plant, there are always things that can go wrong. Don’t take it personally if one or more of your lavender cuttings isn’t doing well. Instead, revisit the basics and ensure you’re providing an optimal environment as far as light, water, and soil. If these three elements are in good balance, it will do a lot more for your plant than fertilizer.
When to transfer your lavender
After all of this preparation and careful planting care, you may be wondering when it’s time to transfer your lavender to your outdoor garden. Since lavender is rooted in soil rather than water, it can be hard to tell just when the roots are strong enough to be moved from their first pot and into the ground.
The best way to tell if your lavender is ready for the transition is by giving a gentle tug on the stem two to four weeks after the initial planting. Many soft cuttings will already be rooted in by this time, while hard cuttings may take a little longer. If you feel resistance after tugging, this means your roots are established enough to be transplanted into the ground (assuming the ground is thawed and the days aren’t too cold for your new plant)!
If you don’t feel any resistance after this gentle tug, your roots likely need a little longer. While it can be tempting to tug on your stem every few days, resist the urge and allow at least a week between each root check to ensure you aren’t damaging the roots as they grow and become established.
Planting your lavender
To transfer your lavender into the ground:
- Dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the stem and most of its soil.
- If your garden has densely packed soil, consider breaking it up a bit to allow for better drainage.
- Remember, lavender doesn’t enjoy having wet feet!
Add a bit of diluted root stimulator or Yum Yum Mix to the base of the hole and carefully transfer the entire contents of your potted plant into the ground (paying special attention not to disturb the new roots), leveling the topsoil of your new plant with the ground. Press your lavender into the soil and cover it with fresh peat moss to lock in extra moisture. Continue to monitor the soil for dryness and give your lavender plenty of water during its first season until it becomes established.
The final word
Propagating lavender isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of patience and know-how to get good results. Start small by pruning just one overgrown lavender bush and potting several of the best stems. Be sure you’re potting these in well-drained soil and providing plenty of water and sunlight as they grow. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll be an old hand at lavender propagation and better able to take annual cuttings from your favorite plants to redistribute in your garden or give as gifts to fellow plant lovers.
Larissa is a writer, gardener, and herbalist living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Her writing has been widely published in lifestyle and personal finance publications all over the country, and she's also the creator of the weekly newsletter @rootedintribe.