One of the most rewarding herbs (semi-shrub, actually!) to grow in your garden is lavender.
It has many uses – from a companion plant to DIY aromatherapy oils – and its scent and aesthetic are spectacular.
There are two ways to propagate lavender: growing lavender from cuttings or by layering.
How to propagate lavender? It’s easiest to use cuttings, especially hardwood. Simply cut stems from a lavender plant then root it in water or soil. If you’re growing from seed, use a good-quality potting medium and keep the soil moist.
For lavender propagation by layering, you’ll need to bend the low-growing stems of mature plants. Strip the stems before burying them under the soil.
It’ll take a little patience (about a year!) and some elbow grease, but soon you’ll have fragrant lilac blossoms right in your garden.
About Lavender Plants
Lavender (lavandula spp.) is a perennial semi-shrub. Lavender plants are very hardy, able to tolerate droughts and warm climates.
Its defining characteristics are its lilac flower spikes, grey-green foliage, and heavenly scent.
The plant is part of the mint family. It has several uses, including floral arrangements, herb gardens, and potpourri.
Most lavender plants flower from late spring to early summer, although some varieties bloom in early spring or late summer. With proper care, they can even bloom more than once!
Where To Grow Lavender Plants
When growing lavender, position it in full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. It also needs hot, dry summers and mild winters.
English lavender will not tolerate humidity, while other varieties can grow in mild humid conditions. Keep lavender out of strong winds, but ensure it gets good air circulation.
In Australia, lavender will grow best in Zones 4 to 6. But you can propagate lavender anywhere so long as you give it the proper care — or even grow your lavender from cuttings indoors!
It’s important to propagate lavender in well-draining soil that’s slightly alkaline. Do not grow lavender plants in clay soil, since too much moisture could cause root rot.
If you plan to start lavender outdoors, create raised garden beds.
Need help managing your lavender plants (and the rest of your garden)? Get a professional gardening service to take care of them for you!
When to Propagate Lavender in Australia
You should aim to propagate lavender anytime from mid-summer to early autumn, once the growing season has finished.
Best Species For Propagating Lavender
There are several types of lavender that you can grow in Australia.
For lavender plant propagation, these are your best options:
- English lavender: One of the more popular varieties due to its attractive colour and profuse scent. This type of lavender is more suited to cool, temperate climates, and is best for culinary use due to low camphor content.
- Portuguese lavender: Great for more tropical Australian climate zones, since it is drought- and heat-tolerant. You can also grow it along the coast, since it tolerates salt. Like English lavender, you can use it in food as well as aromatherapy.
- Lavandin: A hybrid that can tolerate both heat and cold. It blooms later than other varieties, and cannot be used for food, but its heady fragrance makes it perfect for oils, potpourri, and homemade bath accessories.
- French lavender: Also called fringed lavender, it has narrower leaves and compact flower heads. The flowers have less fragrance, but the leaves have a stronger scent that resembles rosemary.
How To Propagate Lavender from Cuttings
The easiest way of propagating lavender is through cuttings – cut lavender stems. There are two types of cuttings you can take:
- Softwood cuttings
- Hardwood cuttings
Softwood is new growth with soft tips, taken before flowering. If you use these, you’ll need to pinch off the flower buds or lavender flower spike to redirect energy to create a new plant.
Hardwood is mature growth taken after flowering, but before the stems have fully hardened. Hardwood cuttings have a better chance of surviving.
When to take lavender cuttings in Australia
Prune softwood cuttings in spring and hardwood cuttings in late summer to early autumn.
Make sure to water your lavender plant before you cut it!
Taking cuttings from lavender plants
How to take lavender cuttings in Australia? You’ll need:
- Secateurs or a sharp knife
- Small container
- Rooting hormone powder (optional but recommended)
If you want to propagate lavender cuttings, choose healthy, straight stems with good colour and no buds. Best if it has soft growth around the tip, with several leaf nodes.
The cuttings should be around 10cm in length to ensure survival.
Pull your chosen stem to the side and cut at the base of the stem, severing it from the parent plant. Slice just below a leaf node.
Clip the leaves off the bottom – that’s where the new plants will form roots.
To improve your chances, dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone. This powder encourages strong root growth and prevents potential root rot.
Rooting lavender cuttings in soil
If you’re rooting cuttings in soil, you’ll need:
- Seed raising mix
- Small pots or containers
You can make a DIY starter mix with perlite/vermiculite and peat moss. If you’re planting outdoors, make sure your garden soil drains well.
Fill the pots with your seed mix. Poke a shallow hole (about 1–2 cm) at the top.
Carefully insert the cutting and ensure it remains upright. Firm up the soil around it with damp fingers. You can group several cuttings together in one pot, so long as they don’t touch.
Water thoroughly, then make sure the pot has drained any excess moisture.
If your climate is cool and dry, cover cuttings with a plastic bag without touching the plants. This will mimic a humid climate like a mini greenhouse.
Place the pots in bright light without direct sunlight. Keep them out of the wind and rain.
Water when the soil runs dry – but too frequently, or you could cause the roots to rot.
Rooting lavender in water
Rooting in water is another method for propagating lavender cuttings.
However, in this case, you’ll need to take extra care when transplanting. This method also has a lower survival rate when propagating lavender plants.
- A clear glass or plastic container
- Distilled or filtered water (room temperature)
Fill the glass about 3/4 full with the water. There should be enough to cover the bottom 2–3 cm of each cutting with liquid.
Insert the cuttings into the water, making sure no lower leaves touch the surface. They’ll only rot and weaken your plants.
Place the glass in a warm spot but away from direct sunlight. Change the water every few days.
Wait for the cuttings to develop roots (around 2–4 weeks for softwood cuttings and 4–6 weeks for hardwood cuttings). These will emerge from a leaf node.
Transfer the new plants to pots, then keep them somewhere sunny. Keep soil moist to ease the transition from water to dry medium and minimise transplant shock.
Is it better to root lavender in water or soil?
Both methods will work, but lavender propagation works better in soil.
Rooting in water risks your plant suffering transplant shock or simply not taking when you transfer the plants to soil.
One other method of propagating lavender involves layering it.
In this case, you don’t take lavender cuttings; instead, find a long, low-growing stem still attached to a mature lavender plant. Bend it halfway down the stem, towards the ground.
Remove any leaves and buds from the midpoint up, then cut or strip the stem on the underside, near the tip.
You can dust the wounded portion with rooting hormone to encourage growth. Afterwards, bury the stripped portion of the stem in the ground, about 2–5cm deep.
Weigh it down with a stone or similar mechanism to keep it underground.
It will usually take six weeks to establish new roots, at which point you can cut the propagated stem and transplant it to its new location.
And that’s a wrap on how to propagate lavender! Whichever method you choose, just remember to be patient – it’ll take about a year before your lavender cuttings will start to flower.
After that, though, sit back and enjoy those gorgeous lilac blooms every spring… and take a deep breath while you’re at it!
Lavender Plant Care
When you propagate lavender from cuttings, water regularly while the plants are establishing themselves. Once lavender has matured, though, the plants are very drought tolerant.
To water lavender plants, soak the soil during dry months – but make sure not to drown them!
Mulch the soil around lavender cuttings with organic matter. This will help the soil retain moisture, although you should keep the mulch away from the base.
You can feed your lavender in spring to boost flowering.
Pruning lavender is essential to maintaining the plant’s health and appearance. It also encourages flowering and prevents the shrub from becoming scraggly or developing woody growth.
If your lavender plant is drooping, it might be due to overwatering, too much fertiliser, a too-small pot, or extreme heat.
It’s not enough to know how to propagate lavender – you’ll need to know how to care for the plant, too!