Lavender is a beautiful and fragrant plant. Harvesting and pruning it the right way can improve your plant longevity and allow it to really flourish. Learning how to dry lavender opens up so many ways to use lavender. In this guide, we will discuss when to harvest it, how to prune, and basic drying methods.
How to Harvest Lavender
If you’re lucky enough to have lavender growing in your garden, you’ll be excited to take the opportunity to prune and harvest these beautiful, fragrant flowers. The good news is, the more you prune, the more your plant will grow. When you harvest lavender regularly, the plant will grow as a nice and bushy plant with lots of flowers.
When to Harvest Lavender
Harvesting lavender in the early spring gives the benefit of being able to harvest again in the fall. If you live in an area where lavender blooms year-round you can routinely harvest from the plant as long as it is in bloom. For us northern folks, you’ll want to harvest in the spring and again in the fall.
You should harvest lavender flowers early in the bloom cycle when the flower buds are still tight for the best fragrance. However, if you’re wanting to simply use them as pieces in a flower arrangement, allowing the flowers to bloom fully will give you the most pop in color. Removing spent blooms that are past their prime is also beneficial and these can still be dried and utilized, though the process is a bit messier.
Like most herbs, it is best to harvest lavender in the early morning. Do so after the dew has dried up off of the flowers, but before the sun is really beating down on the plant. This helps retain all of that wonderful fragrance that we all love lavender for.
Harvesting Lavender Flowers
To harvest lavender, it’s best to use a pair of pruning shears. Cultivated lavender flowers should be cut at a junction where two new leaves, blooms, or branches appear. Cutting down the lavender will allow it to produce more and grow fuller.
If you want a longer stem either for hanging or for a flower arrangement, just follow the stem down further until you find that same junction of two new leaves, blooms, or branches.
Your harvested lavender can now be used to put into a vase with water, just like any other cut flower. If you plan to use it in a culinary application, cook or bake with it quickly for the best flavor. For drying and pruning tips, keep reading.
Pruning lavender is similar to harvesting it, but should only be done one-to-two times a year. You’ll want to wait until your lavender has flowered to prune it. If you prune it right before it blooms, you’ll delay, or even prevent the plant from blooming.
If you choose to prune in the spring, it’s more like a heavy harvest. If you don’t want to go through with harvesting the plant, you should still get rid of spent flowers so that your plant can continue growing and thriving.
When the fall comes every year, you will want to heavily prune your plant after the last flowers of the season fade.
Pruning English Lavender
English lavenders are some of our favorites because they make for such an attractive addition to any garden! These plants respond really well to hard pruning in the autumn.
Looking at the bottom of your plant where it enters the soil, you’ll see tough, woody growth without any leaves or branches. Do not prune this part of the plant, but rather be sure to prune at least an inch or two above that on the green, tender growth above it.
You’ll want to cut your plant back by one-half to two-thirds. You’ll prune it the same way you harvest by cutting it back just above two leaves or side shoots.
Pruning French And Spanish Lavender
French and Spanish lavenders are not as hardy as English lavender, so it’s important to prune them differently.
Doing a light harvest in the spring will help stimulate growth for both varieties of plants. You can cut all spent flowers off at this time also or wait until after flowering is complete.
You’ll want to be careful when cutting back, as you don’t want to remove too much and kill the plant. Towards the end of summer, prune back only a third of the plant rounding it just a little.
But, don’t be too afraid to prune. Compared with other kinds of plants, lavenders just require a little more care. They might look a little rough after removal, but they’ll get better looking soon enough. Besides, pruning your plant regularly will prolong its life and create a bushier, stronger plant.
How to Dry Lavender
Work out how to dry lavender when you know it’s time to harvest it and whether it will be hung up, dehydrated or left dry on the plant.
How to Hang Lavender to Dry
Drying lavender by hanging it is the simplest way to dry it.
Be sure to harvest lavender in the morning after dew has dried. Don’t harvest lavender on rainy days since it will dry more quickly and have less of a chance of mold or mildew.
Bundle the cut lavender loosely, just tight enough that it stays together so that it can dry more quickly.
When harvesting lavender, the harvested plants should be hung upside down in a dry and well-ventilated area where they are protected from sunlight. It will take at least two to three weeks for the plant to fully dry.
When the plant is dry, its stems will snap rather than bend.
How to Dry Lavender in a Dehydrator
In addition to hanging the lavender from your porch or other area, you can also use a dehydrator. This method works quickly and efficiently – cutting out days of waiting for your plants to dry naturally at room temperature.
If dried lavender is to be used in a product, it needs to be completely dry. So if you plan on infusing oils or making salves, using the dehydrator is recommended. Leaving any moisture in your lavender will lead to mold and no one wants that!
When using a dehydrator, be sure to set it at the lowest possible temperature so you don’t overheat the herbs and diminish the oil content. Our Excalibur dehydrator goes down to 95°F to 105°F and that’s the setting we use.
To dry lavender in a dehydrator you will:
Harvest your lavender like normal. Then, remove the excess stems and compost those while retaining the flower buds to dry.
Spread the lavender buds out on the dehydrator trays in a single layer, being careful not to let them touch.
Place the trays in a dehydrator on the lowest temperature setting available. It will take anywhere from 24 to a full 48 hours for them to dry completely. To check for dryness, see if the bud crumbles and if it snaps rather than bends at all when you try to break it off.
You can store the dried lavender in an airtight container until ready for its intended use.
How to Dry Lavender in Baskets or On Screens
You can also dry lavender by laying loose stems or just buds in a single layer in an airy basket or a on a screen.
This method works much like the first one, but without fussing with creating bundles. It will require warm, dry conditions to work effectively and it will take 2 weeks + to produce drying lavender. You may also consider using an herb drying rack like this one.
How to Store Dried Lavender
Once dry, lavender can be left out with the flowers intact on the stem and put on display. If you want to keep it longer, remove the flower buds from the stems and store the dried lavender buds in an airtight, glass jar with a tight seal.
As long as it is stored properly, lavender will remain viable for up to two to three years.
How to Use Dried Lavender
Dried lavender is a wonderful plant to have on hand in the kitchen or workshop. Drying your own can save you money and provide herbs that are fresher than what you find at grocery stores.
There are many ways dried lavender can be used:
- Create your own aromatherapy packets by filling individual fabric bags with dried lavender.
- Lavender is an excellent insect repellent. Place fresh or dried lavender in closets to repel moths or on windowsills to keep insects at bay.
- Make lavender honey to sweeten beverages naturally.
- Dried lavender flowers can be placed around potted plants or within the garden to serve not only as an insect repellent, but also a mulch.
- Place lavender bunches in chicken coop nesting boxes to help keep flies away and reduce odors.
- This versatile plant can be useful for making an herbal potpourri or adding fragrance while cooking.
- Use lavender to make teas, cookies, cakes, and more in the kitchen.
- Make lavender infused oil that can be used to produce tinctures and salves for use around the house.
- Mince the lavender, including flowers and stems. Mix with sugar to use as a sweetener in baked goods.
- Dried lavender is an excellent decoration either by itself or when mixed into a dried arrangement.
Harvesting, drying and pruning lavender can be a fun and calming experience. If you’re looking for an herb to start with, try drying some lavender in your home!