Plants for Free – Propagating Lavender

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.
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How to grow Lavender from cuttings

This is part 1 of a two-part series. Go here for part two.
Lavender can be successfully propagated in various ways depending on the time of year. In summer and autumn you can take semi-ripe cuttings and winter is the time to plant ripe cuttings. But in the spring you propagate by take either soft-wood cuttings, layering an existing shrub or by sowing seeds.

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Taking cuttings is basically snipping a piece of an existing plant and placing it in compost to grow its own roots. In effect, the small plants that result of taking cuttings are clones of the parent plant and will produce the exact same foliage, flowers and root system.

Many plants can be propagated this way and it’s the cheapest and most effective way to increase the number of plants you have in your garden. It’s also a wonderful way to share plants in the community since you can take cuttings from plants in friends’ gardens or even from shrubs found overhanging public footpaths, pavements, carparks and green spaces.

Plants for free: How to grow Lavender from cuttings

A summer harvest of English Lavender stems

It’s a non-obtrusive method of propagation and the parent plant will not be affected at all so the next time you see a lovely rose bush, Hydrangea or Lavender shrub do keep it in mind for a propagating experiment of your own.

Soft-wood is the new fresh growth that plants put on in spring. Each sprig of soft-wood can either be left on the shrub to increase its own size or it can be taken off and used to root a brand new plant. Early on in the spring some of the new green growth might be a bit short but it’s also possible to root from the older wood that the new leaves are growing from. This older stem is called ripe wood and will readily grow roots providing that you cut it in the right place and apply a Rooting Hormone.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

Cutting below a leaf node

 

Step 1: Taking Cuttings

Cut a section of branch from your plant. Starting from the top, use a very sharp knife cut 2.5″ long sections just below a leaf node. A leaf node is any place along the stem where the joints of leaves grow out of and you can see what this means in the above photo. Using scissors is not a good idea for this step either, in case you had it in mind. They actually pinch the stem as they cut and partially close the stem making rooting difficult. Please also keep track of which end was the top end and which was the bottom. You need to plant the pieces into the soil in the same direction the plant was growing. If it’s planted upside down, the cutting won’t take.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

Rooting Hormone helps stem cuttings to form their own root systems

Step 2: Trim the leaves
Using that same knife trim all but the top bunch of leaves from the stem. You need a few leaves to feed the plant but too many forces the plant to direct energy and food to the leaves rather than to the business of putting down roots.

Step 3: Rooting Hormone

Now dip the bottom 3 cm (3/4 inch) of the stem into your Rooting Hormone and then bury the cutting all the way up to the leaves along the edge of a small pot filled with free-draining compost such as 50% ordinary compost mixed with 50% Perlite. Terracotta pots are a bit better than plastic pots for this exercise since Terracotta can breathe, whereas air and water can’t pass through plastic. This breathe-ability creates better conditions for rooting and can also reduce the chance of fungal attacks. And if you’re able to soak the terracotta pots in water overnight, all the better. The ceramic will actually absorb some of the water making the material immediately more breathable.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

Free-draining soil and terracotta pots are ideal for propagation

Step 4: Rooting

After your cuttings have been prepared and planted in the compost water them thoroughly but gently. Place them in a warm place such as a greenhouse, window sill, or conservatory and place a plastic bag over the top. The bag helps to retain warmth and moisture and is essential unless you’re using a dedicated propagator set-up. Rooting will take place within the next month to six weeks after which they can be gently taken out, potted up individually and placed outside in a cold frame to harden off.

Step 5: Planting your new lavender
Once they are about 8-10 cm (3-4 inches) tall they can then be planted outside in slightly alkaline and free-draining soil. If you have acidic clay soil as I do, then try digging in some Garden Lime and grit into their final position before planting out. Boggy and acidic soil will cause the demise of your carefully propagated lavender seedlings.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

Plastic bags work like mini-greenhouses

Growing Lavender from Seed

Like last year I’m also growing Lavender from seed, though it takes quite a bit longer to have adult plants than if you grow from cuttings. Most people don’t bother with seed but as I’ve said before, I’m an official crazy seed lady! However, saving lavender seed yourself can result in plants with unpredictable flowering and growing habits so it’s recommended to buy packets of seed from a reputable dealer.

The seeds I sowed two weeks ago are already coming up in their seed tray and I’ve included a picture of them below. They’ll likely stay in their seed tray a bit longer than most of my plants but by summer I’ll have them planted up in large modules before potting them up in individual pots by autumn. The lavender you see growing in the bottom picture comes from seeds that I sowed this time last year and have been overwintering in my cold frame. They’ll be planted out in a newly dug bed in the next week and will have filled by the end of the summer.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

Lavender seedlings started from seeds

Propagating your own plants from cuttings rather than seeds can be a rewarding experience – both in terms of gardening enjoyment and financial savings. It’s also very easy to do and once you’ve propagated one plant you’ll have the basics for propagating almost any other. Patience is always key when it comes to nurturing any living thing but those weeks or months of waiting will pay out dividends when the time for planting out rolls around.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

The new baby lavender plants are ready for the garden.

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

French Lavender has flower petals at the top of each stem

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings

Plants for free: How to Propagate new Lavender plants from cuttings.

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49 Discussion to this post

  1. Fran says:

    I too love lavender and have been investigating all the different types after hearing about a lavender garden on GQT/Radio 4. Last year I grew some from seed but only four survived, think that was me though not being a good enough mum! xxx

    • They do take a long time to grow from seed so you can be forgiven for moving on to other projects Fran 🙂 If you're interested, try growing them from cuttings for more quicker effect.

      The lavender garden sounds lovely…where about is it?

  2. I smiled when I read this Tanya. When we lived in Lichfield many years ago, the man next door had a front garden full of lavender bushes, which he treated like his children – really looking after them well. They used to seed all over the place – the cul de sac we lived in had them growing out of cracks in the kerb, gutters etc. I tried growing some from cuttings and they never came to anything!

  3. Mo and Steve says:

    Another fan of lavender here 🙂 I have some bushes outside the kitchen door so the fragrance can waft in. Traditionally I should drape my freshly laundered tea towels on it to dry 🙂
    I have never grown from seed, but I do propagate, and this is a great article.
    I'm guessing that your cuttings will sell well at the Farmer's Market 😉

  4. I take a few cuttings every year from my lavender bushes – in my book you can never have enough lavender.

  5. It's so easy to grow lavender from cuttings. Mine in the garden is so prolific though I have never had to do this.

  6. Maria says:

    Good info. I want to make wedding favors out of lavender plants.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What is the most fragrant type of lavender. I've planted some lavender but never had any that was really fragrant.

  8. Brian says:

    Thanks for the article. I put a lavender plant in last year and it did alright but it's not here now. Does lavender usually come back the next year or do you have to re plant every year?

  9. ecokaren says:

    Thanks for the detailed instruction on propagating lavender! Mine died this year and just bought a healthy pot for me to plant. I guess it's too late to propagate now but now that I know how, I'll be sure to do this next spring. I didn't take care of my old one – hence, its demise this year. The winter was brutal and I didn't cut them back – was scared to touch it – and the couple of main barks that survived eventually dried out.

    I'm off to search to see if you have any tips on cutting them back so my new pot will be healthier.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Karen, in this post I propagated lavender from semi-ripe cuttings taken in late summer (even though the post is from early spring) so don't feel like you have to wait a full year before trying.

      Regarding pruning: only cut new wood when pruning. If you cut the older branches back you can kill the plant. Instead, if you think the plant is looking 'Leggy' (bare branches at the base of the plant) then try sprinkling a quarter cup of garden lime on top of the soil in the pot. Lavender isn't fond of acidic soil so could be one of the reasons your plant isn't doing too well. Other reasons it might not be doing well is that lavender needs full sun and plenty of drainage – does your pot have gravel in it's bottom (an inch or two will do) and have plenty of holes at the base for water to drain out?

    • Anonymous says:

      If you love lavender, come to Sequim, Washington. It is the lavender capital in the US. We have a festival every year where you tour lavender fields. They sell everything lavender, culinary included. It was just held 2 weeks ago, but plan on next year. Look up on the web Sequin lavender festival to see the beautiful farms and fields. The whole town is bursting in flowers, including every street light, just magnificant to see and smell.

  10. Brenda says:

    A friend actually dug her lavender up an divided like any other perennial. I'm not brave enough to sacrifice my babied lavender yet. Lol.but I have found new off spring coming up near them and replanted those. I might try the cuttings in the spring too.

  11. Dianna Kerr says:

    I was wondering if you cold treated the seed before sowing and for how long? Lovely site!

    diannagardens.blogspot.com

    • Thanks Dianna 🙂 And no, I didn't cold treat the seeds since the directions on the packet didn't mention it – which means they probably are old enough that they wouldn't need it to break dormancy. Though if you're collecting fresh seeds, it would probably be a good idea to stratify them if you want to sow them right away.

  12. Beth says:

    Thank you so much for the information on propogation. I have a couple of lavender plants that keep the bees and butterflies busy; this sounds like a fun way to grow the party 🙂

    Beth

  13. DJH says:

    Hi Tania,
    I love lavender too and this year bought (easy way) 72 lavender munstead (dwarf variety) that arrived yesterday in modules. I have no idea what to do with them now! I want them to line the box hedge in my front garden eventually but currently they are so small – when can I plant them out and do I keep them in the little plastic containers they arrived it until then? Do I water them and keep them indoors until they are bigger or should I repot them? I have no idea! I hope you can help.
    Thank you so much in advance!
    Deborah x

    • Apologies for responding so late to your comment Deborah. You'll want to move your plantlings into larger pots to grow on for a bit before planting them out in their final positions. Personally, I'd wait until the plants have an established root system in at least a 4" pot before planting out.

  14. PinkPurr says:

    I live in montreal, Canada.. where we are almost into April and we are still barely getting out of sub-zero temperatures. Our summers are ridiculously tropical however… 34-35 Celsius is standard summer temperature and my front lawn becomes a desert where Lavender and cactus thrive. It seems my back yard where I fuss over the vegetable garden was the wrong place for it. If given good nutrients in the soil, sun, heat, more sun and the odd water at night (allowed to dry well between waterings) it will love you back!

  15. Hi, I purchased 3 plants last year from the HomeDepot and the plants have grown nicely. I want to grow about 22 new plants from the 3 older ones. I live in Los Angeles County, CA and I believe it is zone 9 and it is early April. I am going to follow your directions. Is there any special plant food or anything special I need to do? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you, Arthur.

    • Well drained compost and rooting hormone are pretty much all you need at the propagation stage. More nutrient rich compost comes into play when you have the root systems established. Good luck with growing your 20+ new plants – you'll easily be able to achieve it with three mature plants.

  16. Sheila says:

    What books on propagating do you recommend? I couldn't find them on your blog side bar. Thanks.

  17. mhtyhr says:

    Hi Tanya,
    I was looking for information about Lavender seedlings when I came across this article. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    I've just moved to Australia from a tropical country, and am very happy that I can finally plant my own lavender. I started a big batch from seeds and the seedlings are now growing along fine.

    I'm wondering if you could tell me, how closely you plant the Lavender seedlings in pots? Most seed packets said 20cm in between, but I don't have a lot of space in my balcony.

    Thanks in advance

  18. Alison Mil says:

    Hi, I just sowed some lavender seeds about 2 weeks ago. The seeds sprouted after 4 days, and growth was quite fast in the first week. But after that, the seedlings seem to have stopped growing. They are still quite fragile looking. What should I do to aid their growth?

    • Pamela F says:

      Just make sure you keep them watered and cover to keep from freezing if you are in a zone that gets below freezing temps. I sprouted some two years ago from seed and they did the same thing. but then in spring they seemed to take off. Now they are quite large and I am going to take some cuttings and try to propagate as well. they will bloom after the second warm season and also have a good growth spurt. You must have patience with lavender. Mine were small for the first year. I just babied them along with water and kept them covered with jars and leaf mulch in the winter months. Good Luck with your new sprouts and Happy Growing!!!

  19. Thea says:

    I didn’t know that you can grow lavenders from cuttings. Honestly, growing them from seeds takes forever and I’m feeling hopeless. I hope at least one of my lavender seeds will sprout soon. I water them daily just enough to keep them moist and they get sunlight everyday too.

    http://www.thetravelingdyosa.com

  20. Sophia says:

    I grow a lot of lavender this way for our farm,( I think this post is how I first found you!) Not to knock root hormone but honey works just as well!!!

  21. Palmanne says:

    Hello all. I grow all types of lavender. We live on the side of a mountain (Mt. Bernard), and the soil is granitic, in its composition ( fine granite particles). Every type of tree, bush and flower seems to grow well in it.
    Plants/ trees etc. planted in it, don’t seem to need alot of water or watering once established. It’s great for propergation…
    Enjoy your lavender plants…they are like cats…very forgiving, like each others company, and tolerate minimal intervention by humans… ( plant in minimums of three ( same type), or mass plant for effect ” magnicicent ” ) ?

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  23. […] Plants This is where you can end up spending an absolute fortune. You’ll walk into a gardening centre and spot the most lush vegetable plug plants that would look amazing growing in your new garden. Try to restrain yourself though because growing from seed will save you so much and is really very easy. Larger plants like rosemary and lavender will also lure you in but I encourage you to buy a few to get you started, keeping in mind that you can propagate (create new plants) from many of them. Here’s my tutorial on how to take one lavender plant and propagate dozens of new plants from it. […]

  24. sweet as your angel face keep post such a lovely idea thanks again best of luck

  25. Bette bouck says:

    Love your ideas…thank you

  26. marilyn eloe says:

    love all your info………….I love, love to experiment, and grow from what I have, I save most seeds, and allow things to develop seeds to plant for next year, be it flowers, lettuce, cantalope or whatever. This is a did you know,…if you run your fingers thru lavender, and then rub your hands on your arms, neck whatever, you will not have a mosquito bother you. It works every time, and you smell wonderful. I am just planting lavender again. Thru the years, I have lost mine, so I am anxious to get going again. Thanks for the propagation info..the best of summer times to you……..Marilyn

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