English Lavender

Harvesting English Lavender & How To Use It

Harvesting lavender is a great way to tidy up unruly plants and will give you a whole bunch of inspiration for projects throughout the year.

lavender drying

Lavender is by far my very favourite scent. I love it fresh when the plants are in bloom, as it dries around the garden, in sachets tucked into my pillow at night, or as bath salts when I soak away the aches of the gardening day. This magical herb is said to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and even sooth an achy head. Oh and the bees and butterflies love it. We can’t forget the pollinators.

Cabbage White Butterfly on English Lavender

Lavender is commonly grouped into English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) with its delicate flowers and long stems that soar above the woody evergreen plant, and Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) with its showy hat of bracts on a perennial shrub. I grow a few ornamental Spanish lavender plants but for year-round use, it’s English all the way.

English Lavender

The best time to harvest English lavender is when the buds have formed on the plant but the flowers have not yet opened. Lavender harvested at this time of year will fall off the stems more easily when dry making it a tad easier to collect and will retain fragrance and colour longer. The cultivar of your lavender will also determine fragrance, colour, and longevity of the dried properties as well.

flowering English lavender

To harvest, use sharp bypass pruners and gather a small handful of long flower stems. Snip them at the base and continue collecting stems in your hand until you have a nice sized bundle. Secure the bundle with twine and continue until the plant is fully harvested.

lavender

Pruning the plants like this will keep the shrub tidy and evergreen through some colder climates. If your plants are leggy and you see lots of dead wood, it’s a good idea to summer prune them each year until they regain a tidier shape.

lavender

To dry the bunches hang in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight. Under eaves, in the garage, or somewhere in the garden that is protected is the perfect spot. I found an old painting ladder that works perfectly. In previous years I have dried it along a shady fence and made it into a wreath. Adding some drying lavender around your home will make it smell heavenly. I highly recommend it.

How to Harvest and Dry Lavender

After 2-4 weeks and the lavender has fully dried, you can shake or gently rub the flower buds into a tray or bowl. Store lavender in a lidded jar in a cool dark place and repeat next year.

harvesting lavender

In case you are wondering what to do with your bounty of fresh herbs, check out these DIY projects and recipes featuring this star of the garden:  Lavender Eye PillowsLavender Bath SaltsGardener’s Herbal Foot Soak RecipeLavender Sachets, and a Dried Lavender Wreath.
English Lavender

Thanks for visiting Weekend Project #45.

english lavender

 

About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. Randy
    RandyAugust 3,12

    I don’t know why I don’t have Lavender. I had a plant once and I absolutely loved it. Someone once told me the lifespan of Lavender is only about 3 years. Is this true? I like to plant something that will be around for a few years to come.

  2. Stevie
    StevieAugust 3,12

    Hi Randy, definitely not true. If you follow the instructions in this post for pruning back your plants in the summer, the plant will continue to produce fresh green stems above a woody base. My plants are many, many years old and they produce quite a lot of lavender buds each year. I hope you do get some to add to your garden.

  3. R.
    R.August 4,12

    Lavender is not my favorite (too much chore-time spent pruning it as a kid, I think) but I love your ladder!

  4. Michelle
    MichelleAugust 6,12

    I too love lavender & visited a lavender farm this year! How glorious to sit in fields of fragrant lavender!
    I use mine in combination with other dried herbs in a blend of herbal salts to use with cooking & baking. I use about half ground herbs to half salt & it adds so much flavour to food, plus allows me to reduce the salt I would traditionally use.
    I’ve also experimented with lavender jelly & have ‘made believers’ out of many of my friends with this amazing flavour. (Think fresh, hot lemon scones with lavender jelly….mmmmmm)

  5. Adventures in Agriburbia
    Adventures in AgriburbiaAugust 6,12

    Why am I not growing lavender? Great photos and great post.

  6. Backyard Chili
    Backyard ChiliAugust 8,12

    Those are stunning pictures. Lovely.

  7. Laurel (@abubblylife)
    Laurel (@abubblylife)August 9,12

    Thank you for the tips! I have two lavender bushes and been wondering what to do! I LOVE LOVE lavender!

  8. Nancy
    NancyAugust 9,12

    I recently bought a perennial lavender plant at home depot but I have no idea how to take care of it. And tips or help? Thanks

  9. Stevie
    StevieAugust 9,12

    Hi Nancy, it’s hard to know without knowing the kind of lavender and where you will be growing it. I would suggest you first check the label in the plant (if there isn’t one, go back to the store and get one and remember that for future its great to have the plant labels). Secondly, you can check out this search I did and if you see your plant there, click on it to see the care instructions. http://www.perennials.com/results.html?findplant=lavender&searchbutton.x=0&searchbutton.y=0

    In my home garden, I plant English Lavender in hot dry areas with lots of sun. They prefer acidic soil so I usually plant them with blueberries and top dress with composed bark mulch. I water them regularly, but they are fairly drought tolerant so they often go in roughest parts of the garden: near the sidewalk and road and far away from the hose. Lavender also grows really well in containers. Just ensure there is proper drainage and they get watered regularly. Care and pruning is as listed in this article.

  10. Paula
    PaulaAugust 10,12

    Your lavender is simply gorgeous. I wonder if I am to far south (Florida) to plant them. Your pictures are amazing. I would love it if you would share this post at our WIW linky party. Hope you can join us. :-)

    Paula
    ivyandelephants.blogspot.com

  11. Rachel
    RachelAugust 10,12

    I always forget about lavender. It’s so beautiful! I am putting this on my list of things to plant next spring :)

  12. Karen Whitney
    Karen WhitneyAugust 11,12

    Thank you for the tips and ideas! I have quite a few lavender bushes in my front yard that I let grow wild. Now I have a reason to harvest it :)

  13. Eleni
    EleniAugust 13,12

    Oh how I love lavender. It has followed us on each move. Thank you for the tips!

  14. Laura
    LauraAugust 14,12

    Hi Stevie, I have a couple of questions:

    1. Is the lavender harvested this way edible? I love the smell and taste of lavender and have always wanted to use it in my baking, but the price tag on specialty “edible” lavender in the stores has always put me off. As long as my plants aren’t being sprayed with harmful chemicals, is there any reason I can’t bake with it?

    2. I enjoy keeping the lavender intact (with stems) in its bundle and putting it in vases around my house. The only problem is that it sheds terribly. Every time I move the vase, dozens of little lavender buds fall off. This drives me crazy! Any way to avoid the mess?

    Thanks for a great article!

  15. Stevie
    StevieAugust 15,12

    Hi Laura,
    1. Yes! It’s edible. Enjoy :)
    2. Regarding the shedding, I’m not sure. I know there are sprays you can buy but I’m not sure if I would use them given I stay away from synthetic products for the most part and it will also cover up the fragrance. Perhaps some other great minds out there have some suggestions…

  16. Ally
    AllyAugust 18,12

    These hanging lavender bunches look both sad and beautiful. I’m not sure it would grow where I’m from but I’d love to have some. Plus they’d take one look at me and die…..
    I’m your newest follower. The lavender got me. :)

  17. Susan M
    Susan MSeptember 4,12

    I am a Brit – but now live in northern Portugal. Three years ago we bought about 20 small plants and planted them under the windows of our bedrooms . We cut them back well in the spring, into the green wood – not the older, brown wood. This makes lavender branch out and grow really thickly. Just remember, lavender AND rosemary does NOT like being cut back so harshly that you cut into the old brown wood – but it loves to be cut back into the green growth! Last year .. it was already a ‘hedge’ as it had all joined together .. and flowered heavily! We prune it well every spring, and just trim back the dead flower heads we haven’t managed to use whenever we can ! Lavender loves the heat, the dry areas, and poorish soils. It grows almost anywhere !! AND .. if you are green fingered if you take little cuttings from your plants putting them in sandy soil you should be graced with lots of NEW plants for the rest of your garden!

    I have SO much dried lavender from last year .. and a HUGE amount to pick from this!! lol!! I made many many little sachets for lingerie drawers and for my grandchildren who like to put them under their pillows to remind them of Nanny! [They still live in the UK] I used those little voile bags you can buy to put jewellery in as they are SO cheap and come in so many colours too. I bought mine on ebay as they were much cheaper than even the local shops.

    I made lavender sugar, lavender bath salts and lavender lemonade which .. was such a success last year there wasn’t a party without it out here !!

  18. Deb
    DebJune 19,13

    Use the dried flower buds in homemade soap which includes lavender Eseential Oil.

  19. Helen at Toronto Gardens
    Helen at Toronto GardensJuly 6,13

    My lavender plant is brand new, so I only have a few stems for harvesting. But thanks for the tip about summer pruning, and my plant (growing in half shade. I know, I know.) is a little leggy. I remember our gran’s lavender *bushes* in Wales. Gorgeous.

  20. Sue
    SueJuly 19,13

    Hi,

    I have three lavender plants in different places in the front yard. I live in Virginia. All the plants flowers have lost their color and are grey. We have had a lot of rain. There is very good drainage for two of them and they are in full sun. Do you know what might be happening and what I can do to have them produce the flowers? Thank you, Sue

  21. Stephanie
    StephanieJuly 19,13

    Hi Sue, it sounds to me like they already flowered and the gray is the dry buds. You could still harvest and use the dry buds, they just aren’t as pretty and fragrant. Next year, try to cathc them a bit earlier if this is the case.

  22. Angela
    AngelaJuly 19,13

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I planted some lavender at the beginning of this summer just for this perpose! And your tutorial has really given me some tips on how to dry it and use my lavender in ways I might not have thought about!

    Lavender is my all time favorite, the smell, and growing it has a feel of enchantment :)
    I don’t know what it is about it!

    Thanks again!
    Angela

  23. Michaela Harris
    Michaela HarrisMarch 1,14

    Oh, I love this! I didn’t even consider planting lavender, but it would be so great to have! We are starting to brainstorm a little garden that would be feasible at our rental home. We ordered dried lavender buds and had the guests throw them (instead of rice or whatever) for our wedding last summer. It photographed so beautifully, smelled great, & didn’t stain anything. Anyways, thank you for the advice on how to harvest. I will be implementing it!

  24. Carol
    CarolMay 25,14

    For Randy & Steve:
    http://www.thegardenglove.com/grow-lavender-like-the-french-7-easy-tips-for-anyone

    Check out # 3:. Lavender are short lived plants by nature. If they are happy in their spot, they will last a bit longer, but even under the best conditions, three years is not unusual for a plant to start dying out in the center.

    So I guess they aren’t long lived plants, but will require replanting, or at least some versions might.

  25. Sarah
    SarahAugust 1,14

    I am glad I found this. I bought a lavender plant this year, and didn’t really have any idea of what to do with it except to look at it.

  26. Stephanie
    StephanieAugust 2,14

    Sarah, you can do so much! Have you seen this post: http://gardentherapy.ca/ways-to-use-lavender/

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