Lavender is a lovely fragrant plant that brings a burst of color to your garden. It’s also one of my favourite plants to use for crafts and recipes. Here’s how to harvest lavender in a way that helps you enjoy healthier plants for longer, and gives you a whole lot of gorgeous lavender to work with. Plus, I’ll show you 24 creative ways to use lavender once harvested!
Lavender is by far my very favorite 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 soothe an achy head. Oh, and the bees and butterflies love it too. We can’t forget the pollinators.
Too often I hear landscapers and gardeners talk about how short-lived lavender is as a garden plant. After growing it for almost 15 years in my home garden and visiting/interviewing a number of growers and lavender farms, I have to say that it can look gorgeous in your garden for a whole lot longer, with just a bit of care.
When you harvest lavender, you not only get to use the blooms to create scrumptious DIYs, but you actually help your plant yield more blooms and live longer too.
When to Harvest Lavender
Like most things, knowing how to get the best lavender harvest is all about timing. The exact time will depend on your gardening zone and climate, but I’ve got a quick trick that will make knowing when to harvest easy.
The best time to harvest English lavender is when the flower buds have formed on the plant but the flowers themselves have not yet opened. Lavender flowers harvested at this time of year will fall off the stems more easily when dry, making it easier to collect.
Closed buds will also retain fragrance and color longer.
Need a visual? The image below shows the stages of bloom. The one on the left has fully-formed closed buds. The middle image has a mix of open and closed buds. The image on the right has fully open flowers, some of which are finished blooming. Choose buds that look like the left image.
How to Harvest Lavender
To harvest lavender, use sharp bypass pruners and gather a small handful of long flower stems. Be sure that you are leaving behind at least two sets of leaves on the green part of the stem. If you cut all the way back to the woody part of the stem, that stem will not regrow.
I like to be generous and leave at least 3-4 sets of leaves on the plant, then go back and prune it to two sets of leaves on the green stem. This ensures that I’m not damaging the plant that gives me all these beautiful flowers!
Continue collecting stems in your hand until you have a nice-sized bundle. Secure the bundle with twine or a rubber band and continue until the plant is fully harvested.
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.
You can safely prune lavender plants twice in the growing season to help define and maintain their shape.
How to Dry Lavender
Once you have harvested lavender, you’ll need to dry it out before storing it. Thankfully, this is very easy to do.
Dry lavender bunches by hanging them upside down in a warm, dry spot, out of direct sunlight. Under eaves, in the garage, or somewhere in the garden that is protected is ideal. You want to avoid moisture as much as possible.
My herb dryer is an old painting ladder outfitted with some hooks for the twine. But I have also dried lavender along a shady fence and made it into a dried lavender wreath. Adding some drying lavender around your home will make it smell heavenly. I highly recommend it.
After 2-4 weeks, check to see if the lavender is fully dried. You’ll be able to tell because the dried blooms will easily fall off the stem with very little resistance.
Once the lavender has fully dried, you can shake or gently rub the lavender buds into a tray or bowl. To store it, place the dried buds in a lidded glass jar in a cool dark place and repeat next year.
Which Kind of Lavender is Best for Harvesting?
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. There is a proper way and ideal time to cut lavender flowers that is best for both the dried flowers and the plants.
That being said, the best way to get a good harvest starts with planting the right kind of lavender.
English Vs. French Vs. Spanish Lavender
Lavender is commonly grouped into English lavender, French lavender, or Spanish Lavender, but the common names can become quite confusing as they can refer to a number of different lavender varieties.
The best way to differentiate them comes from separating Lavandula angustifolia and L. x intermedia, plants that have delicate flowers and long stems that soar above the woody evergreen plant, from Lavandula stoechas with its showy hat of butterfly-like bracts on a perennial shrub.
English Lavender is the common name for L. angustifolia and a hybrid of L. angustifolia is L. x intermedia which I have seen called both English and French lavender.
In any case, this guide is for harvesting L. angustifolia and L. x intermedia, which are the varieties most often cultivated for culinary, craft, and medicinal properties. That being said, these harvesting techniques can work for any kind of lavender.
Read more about growing and propagating lavender in this article: The Essential Guide to Growing Lavender.
The Best Varieties for Harvested Lavender
The cultivar of your lavender will also determine fragrance, color, and longevity of the dried stems as well. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ English lavender varieties are noted by many to be the best for drying (L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’).
When looking for dried lavender options, I really love ‘Thumbelina’ for producing a bounty of small, deep purple flowers that hold colour really well. I should also add that after visiting a ton of growers and farms, they all seem to have developed cultivars that work best for them.
If you can, I highly recommend visiting a lavender farm, asking some questions, and buying your garden plants from them. They will certainly have some gems that will perform best in your garden.
How to Use Dried 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. There is so much you can do with this lovely flower from potpourri to culinary uses to creating salves and tinctures. There is truly something for everyone on this list.
- Dried Lavender Wreath
- Serenity Now! DIY Lavender Eye Pillows
- Lavender Dryer Bags
- Lavender Linen Water Recipe and Printable Label
- If This Doesn’t Help You Sleep I Don’t Know What Will!
- Herbal Dream Pillows: Aromatherapy for the Restful Sleep You Need
- DIY Plantable Seed Paper = Valentine’s Day Cards
- Dryer Bags with Lavender
Lavender Skin Care
- Lavender + Marshmallow Root Homemade Conditioner for Dry Hair
- All-Natural Rose and Lavender Spray Deodorant Recipe
- Lavender and Oatmeal Tub Teas
- Tub Tea Time!
- Healing Cuticle Balm Recipe
- Gardener’s Herbal Foot Soak Recipe
- Cold-Process All-Natural Handmade Soap
- Lovely Lavender Ombre Melt and Pour Soap
- Gorgeous Lavender Oatmeal Soap Cupcakes (that Anyone can Make)
- Lavender and Cocoa Butter Bath Melts
- Infused Herbal Oils
- Herbal Roll-on Remedies for Headache, Sleep, and Cold & Flu
- Insect Bite Roll-On Remedy
Planted 76 Grosso lavender plants. Now in forth year and are quite large and produce beautiflly with tons of long spikes. Problem is the blooms never open except on the tips – whether harvested or left on the plants. Figure must be missing some nutrient — but can’t find any information to help. anyone have any ideas why the blooms don’t open further?
John, I would recommend contacting Pelindaba Lavender Farm (https://www.pelindabalavender.com/) as they grow grosso extensively. In my garden, I’ve had the most success in adding homemade compost to build the native soil microorganisms naturally and pruning the plants three times each year.
I have just now cut my lavender for a gift at Thanksgiving. Just wanted to put the bundle in a jar but still would like them to look somewhat fresh and continue to smell….is this possible? Wanted the shabby chic simple look. No water. Can I spray something on them now to help preserve them?