Woody Shrubs and Lavender in the Spring
Written by: Sumati Shah, Go Go Green Thumbs
Lavender: Lavandula species habit and care is soothing medicine for the season, all the seasons.
She’s a reliable and elegant teacher. Observe the plant, and learn how one size does not fit all. Pruning lavender is simple but nuanced, requiring closer attention to the habit and cycle of the plant than many other perennials when it comes to pruning.
Woody sub shrubs: Lavender, Sage, some types of Geranium, Thyme …. these are a group of perennials that aren’t herbaceous and don’t respond well if pruned as though they are.
Herbaceous perennials put out growth every year from their roots below ground and pruning these through the season to shape as wanted, and very low to the ground in the fall is generally a good way to maintain the plants’ good health.
Sub shrubs on the other hand develop a woody structure at their base and it’s from this part of the plant that most of the new growth originates every year. That woody base does best with a bit of winter protection (leaf mulch) if they’re planted in an exposed location since this above ground woody base does not die back and the plant does use energy to keep that portion alive even when there aren’t any ‘obvious’ signs of life .
Pruning in late fall only depletes the plant’s vigour by signaling the woody base to generate new growth, and this is generally the reason when gardeners ‘can’t
Rule Of Green Thumbs: recognize your woody perennials and remember ‘clean up’ is done AFTER seeing fresh spring growth.
Spring time is Go Time! If that all sounded a little complicated, springtime is when it becomes simple.
Spring is when we prune the subshrubs, and there’s no guesswork needed because the Go Sign is when new growth is seen on the plant – pretty simple stuff!
Pruning down to the top of the woody base is definitely safe. A bit farther into the woody portion is generally fine and can help with maintaining size of the plant. Pruning farther than 1/2 way into the woody base gets risky as the plant may not have sufficient energy stores to put out the new growth you’re expecting and hoping for.
Summer is check in time – the flowers tell the story. While harvesting flowers or stems for any crafty or culinary uses is the right time for some light pruning…shaping and taming growth where it’s wanted…enjoy the benefits…take a deep breath…relax and enjoy the fruits of Lavandula’s lessons.