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Harvesting and drying lavender

by Timber Press on August 28, 2013

in Craft, Gardening, Popular

Harvesting lavender with a curved, serrated blade

Harvesting lavender with a curved, serrated blade

A first-year lavender plant will produce only a few stems, and it is best to trim these before they flower completely to strengthen the plant. By year two, your lavender will normally double in size and will produce two or three small bunches, depending on the type of lavender. From year two to year three, your plant will grow quite a bit bigger, normally by two-thirds, so you will have an abundance of flowers in the third year.


The ideal tool for harvesting lavender consists of a curved, serrated blade with a handle. Lavender is tough, so don’t be afraid to grab a bunch and cut a handful. Harvesting tools are available online or at garden shows.

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Lavender blooms at different times throughout the season. How fast your lavender flowers is dependent on the weather. Early bloomers usually flower in May where I live in the Northwest, while others don’t bloom until August here. When you harvest really depends on what you are going to do with your lavender after it is cut. If you don’t plan to create something with it, be it a fresh bunch or a wreath, leave the flowers on the plant to enjoy. Just make sure you cut the stems back after the bloom cycle is finished. Waiting too long to harvest the flowers can stress your plant. Lavender varieties that bloom more than once in a season should be trimmed back anyway to allow for additional flowerings.

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If you plan to use your lavender in crafts or cooking, keep your eye on the lavender buds and harvest the entire plant once a few flowers have begun to emerge from the lavender buds. This technique minimizes shedding and keeps the lavender buds tight on the stem for later use. When a lavender bunch sheds, it is because too many flowers were allowed to open before harvesting.

Drying Lavender for Later Use

Drying lavender bunches upside down in a warm, dry room

Drying lavender bunches upside down in a warm, dry room

Once lavender has been harvested, you can put a fresh bunch in a vase or dry it for later use. Lavender placed in water will get moldy fairly quickly, so change the water frequently. Once lavender is placed in water, you shouldn’t take it out and try to dry it. Lavender stems that have been soaked in water will not dry well.

To dry lavender, cut a bunch with approximately a hundred stems and bundle with a rubber band toward the bottom of the bunch. Pull apart a paper clip and thread one end through the rubber band. Hang your bunch from a chain or rope, upside down in a warm, dark, dry room with adequate circulation. Your bunch should be dry within a few weeks. This method preserves the color of the flower buds and keeps the lavender from getting moldy.

Dried lavender bunches will keep for many years but may lose their fragrance after a season. To release the lavender scent, give your dried bunch a squeeze. Lavender with a higher oil content, such as Lavandula ×intermedia ‘Grosso’, will stay fragrant longer.

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In 2005, Sarah Berringer Bader planted almost 5000 lavender plants with more than ninety cultivars and began propagating her own starts from cuttings. She opened her farm to the public and began holding the classes that inspired this book. Sarah and her farm, Lavender at Stonegate, have been featured in regional publications, on television and radio, and in Grower Talks and Country Gardens magazines.

All images by Janet Loughrey

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Click image to have a look inside this book:


“The best recent all-around lavender book with something for gardeners, crafters, and cooks alike.” —Library Journal

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adele October 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I am just starting to grow herbs, and looking for ways to store and use them, as well as take care of them.

2 Marylyn April 30, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Which type of lavender is culinary lavender?

thanks,

3 Brian Ridder April 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Hi Marylyn,
There are many: You might try ‘Buena Vista,’ ‘Hidcote Pink,’Little Lottie,’ or ‘Melissa.’

4 Amanda April 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Hi, I’m trying to find out how to use my lavender for cooking with but I can’t seem to find exactly what I’m after. I want to know how to take it from the plant to the table. Do I pull petals off? Or use the whole flower head?

5 Brian Ridder May 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

Hi Amanda,
There’s not enough room to answer that here but Sarah’s book has all the information you’ll need to use lavender in the kitchen.
http://www.timberpress.com/books/lavender_lovers_handbook/bader/9781604692211

6 Jerrilyn July 22, 2015 at 9:36 pm

so i am getting married and i want lavender as my flower but it wont be bloomed in time. I want to make my bouquets ahead of time, dry them and preserve them. My question is, is there something i could spray on them or some sort of glue to make it so the flower wont crumble? They will need to keep for about a year and then i will need them to be strong enough to last the day of the wedding.

7 Brian Ridder July 23, 2015 at 10:48 am

Hi Jerrilyn! Dried lavender can last, without a preservation substance, for several years. Keep in mind that the scent won’t last that long and there’s no way (that we know of) to preserve it. Good luck and congratulations!!

8 rosemary October 4, 2015 at 8:16 am

Hi,
I have some lavender that I picked in mid-august and have it in a vase. We were gone for six weeks and now the lavender is falling onto the nightstand (where I have it). Can I spray anything on it to keep it from losing its flowers?
Many thanks,
Rosemary

9 Brian Ridder October 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hi Rosemary! We prefer dried flowers without any preservation technique. However, the staff at your nearest craft store will have some suggestions about how to preserve dried plants. Good luck!

10 Robert Mills June 21, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Dear Sarah Berringer Bader,
My wife was talking with me just 3 days ago about herbs. She advised me that you can grow, maintain and cure the Lavender herb at a approximity of 3000usd per acre. Is this truth or myth. No; we live in South West Central Louisiana not Colorodo.
VR,
Rob

11 Christine Gillis June 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Which is more fragrant – dried lavender or cut lavender in a vase of water? Merci!

12 Debbie July 4, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Hi,
My daughter purchased fresh cut lavender at a Farmers Market and left it in a bag for a couple days and now it is moldy. Is there any way to salvage moldy cut lavender or do we have to throw it away? Thank you!

13 vicki July 12, 2016 at 5:03 am

HI, I just 3 lavender plant hidcote & phenomenal not sure what the other plant is, but does that mean the flowers & green leaf part you can’t use until a few years for oil & fragrant? you site is the BEST thank you Vicki

14 vicki July 12, 2016 at 6:31 am

how far down to you cut the flowering stem?

15 kids learning spanish March 7, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Fantastic Web-site, Carry on the excellent job. With thanks!

16 Mary Thompson July 22, 2017 at 10:53 am

Hi There
I started with thirty plants on my allotment . I now have five rows of thirty . I absolutely love it. I have just potted on some of the babies that I found growing in the wood chip that I have between my rows. Was it OK to pot them on now or should I have waited until the autumn?
I still need to cut my lavender rows , but we have had some rainy days here in England so I will have to wait for a couple of dry ones. I have Hidcote for drying on the stem and Geo and Munstead for their the scent. Can you give me any more examples that I could grow, as I am trying to find a very pretty pink one with a longer stem . I have two varieties of White

17 Sandy October 23, 2017 at 8:55 am

What part of lavender do you use for tea.

18 Maasai Mara December 14, 2017 at 7:50 am

Much thanks! This is definitely an astonishing web page.

19 table et chaise d'extérieur February 19, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Bonjour! Article plutot pas mal. je recherchais tout juste des
réponses a ce sujet. Bon courage!

20 Grand Tour de l'Est - West Bengal et Orissa March 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm

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