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, to food (lavender butter!) — and its scent and aesthetic are spectacular. There are two ways to cultivate lavender — you can grow lavender from seed, or you can propagate lavender from cuttings.
How to propagate lavender is straightforward, and growing plants from cuttings is one of the easiest ways to do so. 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.
Before You Propagate Lavender
If you’re planning to grow lavender plants, it’s important to understand how lavender grows and how to care for it. From the best climate in which lavender plants thrive, to proper lavender plant cultivation, here’s a quick rundown about lavender and how to care for your plants.
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, its grey green foliage, and its heavenly scent.
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
Lavender thrives best in full sun, but can grow in partial shade if needed. 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 it 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.
Some options to ensure your soil drains well include creating a raised garden bed for lavender plants, or propagating lavender in pots.
Best Species For Propagating Lavender
English lavender is 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 is great for more tropical Australian climate zones, since it is very 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 is a hybrid that enables it to 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 is also called fringed lavender, and 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
It’s best to take cuttings from your lavender plants — or from a nursery — after flowering is over. This ensures you time your propagation right, so take cuttings in mid to late summer (or early autumn, if you have a late bloomer). Water your lavender plant before you cut it, as it’ll thrive better after.
Taking Lavender Cuttings
What you’ll need:
- Small container
Optional: rooting hormone
You can propagate lavender from softwood or hardwood cuttings. Softwood is new growth with soft tips, taken before flowering. You’ll need to pinch off flower buds so that the stem has enough energy for growth. Hardwood is mature growth taken after flowering, but before the stems have fully hardened. These have a better chance to thrive.
To take lavender from cuttings, choose healthy, straight stems with good colour and no buds. Try for one with some soft growth at the tip, with several leaf nodes.
Pull your chosen stem to the side and cut from the base of the stem. You’ll need at least 10cm of growth to ensure your lavender cuttings survive. Clip off the leaves from the bottom — that’s where the roots will grow from.
As an optional step, you can dip the base of your cutting in rooting hormone powder before planting. Rooting hormone helps encourage quick, strong root growth and prevents the newly-grown roots from rotting.
Propagating Lavender From Cuttings
Rooting in soil
To root lavender cuttings in soil, you’ll need the following:
- Seed starting mix (or a DIY mix of perlite/vermiculite and peat moss)
- Small pot or propagation container
- Fill the pot with seed mix or your DIY potting mix, then poke a shallow hole (a centimetre or two will do) 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 each other.
- If you live somewhere cool and dry, cover the cuttings with a plastic bag but make sure it doesn’t touch the plants. This will help provide a little extra humidity to help them grow.
- Place the pot somewhere sunny but not in direct sunlight, and make sure it’s out of the wind and rain!
- Water when the soil runs dry — and be careful not to water too frequently, or the cutting won’t take!
Rooting in water
Propagating lavender cuttings in water is more straightforward, but needs extra care when transplanting. Be mindful when rooting in water as your lavender cuttings might have a lower survival rate.
- A clear glass (or similar clear plastic container, like the bottom of a drink bottle)
- Tepid water
- Fill your glass 3/4 full with tepid water — use a glass that lets you cover the bottom 2–3cm of each cutting with liquid. As an optional step, you can cover the top with a mesh bag secured by a rubber band to help the stems stay upright. You can also add a rock or two at the bottom to help stabilise the container.
- Take your cuttings and insert them into the water, but make sure no leaves touch the surface. They’ll only rot and weaken your cuttings, preventing them from developing.
- Once the roots are established, carefully transplant the cuttings to a pot of soil. Keep them somewhere sunny, and water only when the soil is dry.
- Transplant to your garden when they’re 7–10cm tall, ideally during early evening when it isn’t so hot. Keep them well watered to prevent transplant shock, then let them grow!
You can also propagate lavender from seed, although you’re less likely to grow ‘true lavender’ this way. If you need a step by step guide to growing lavender from seed, we’ve got that too!
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
Lavender cuttings need regular watering while establishing, but once they’re mature, they’re very drought tolerant. Just give them a good soak during dry months, but not too much — you don’t want to drown your plants!
You can mulch the soil around lavender cuttings with organic matter to help the soil retain moisture, so long as you keep it away from the base of the plants. As for fertiliser, feed your plant in spring to boost flowering!
Pruning is also extremely important to maintaining the health and appearance of your lavender plants. It also encourages flowering and prevents the shrub from becoming scraggly or developing woody growth. Check this guide to pruning lavender to ensure you don’t over-prune, or simply let a professional gardening service prune them (and all your other plants) for you!