Layering lavender, a great way to propagate old, woody lavender

Layering lavender, an alternative for propagation

Layering is a propagation technique that can be used for lavender. It’s particularly well suited to recovering new, vigorous plants from a woody lavender bush that has lost its shape.

Lavender layering quick facts

Success rate – around 50%
Difficulty – average
Time – 2-3 years
Yield – 3 to 4 plants per mother plant

Layering lavender will help you learn more about how versatile nature is. Growing a new plant from a live branch buried in the ground is a gratifying endeavor!

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Layering, a few short words

Layering is a propagation technique. Through layering, older plants can be multiplied to produce one or more younger plants.

What is layering?

Layering takes advantage of the fact that some cells in the bark or near leaves can turn into roots.

  • To layer a plant, a branch is bent down to the ground.
  • A portion of the stem is buried under a small mound of soil.
  • This portion will sprout roots that will feed the plant.
  • After one or two seasons, you can remove the branch that connects the new rooted section to the mother plant.
  • The young plantling can be dug out and transplanted elsewhere!

You can also layer lavender.

  • Variations of this technique include air-layering or marcotting.
  • This works with most types of lavender, including French lavender

Advantages of layering

Layering will produce a plant that is already much larger than those you might get from cuttings or from seed.

  • Indeed, you’re growing a plant from an entire branch, instead of just a six-inch cutting (12 cm)!
  • Layering is a great way to reproduce a particular variety, especially if it’s difficult to find on the market or in garden stores.

When to layer lavender

Early fall or the end of summer is the best time to start layering lavender.

Layering lavender

Lavender is harder to layer than certain other plants such as blackberry and strawberry, but it works nonetheless.

  • This works well, since the main branch is still nourished by the mother root system.
  • This will, after two years, produce healthy new shrubs that can be detached from the mother plant.
  • It’s a great way to deal with an old lavender shrub without letting it go to waste.

Preparing the lavender shrub and soil

First of all, perform a simple maintenance pruning on the lavender shrub.

This will channel most of the growing power of the plant away from the tips, towards other parts of the plant – including our layering spots!

Mark out which branches you intend to layer.

  • These should be among the longest ones.
  • If they’re already touching the soil in spots, even better.
  • Select branches on opposite sides of the plant, or all around it. This will make digging layered growth out easier.
  • If you’re reducing the size of your lavender, select the branches you’ll be cutting off last for layering.

Prepare the soil

In those spots where the branches will be layered under soil, it helps to prepare the soil beforehand.

  • In clay soil that is heavy, work to lighten the soil. Simply work in mulch or sand under the surface.
  • Break it up to a depth of about half a foot (10-15 cm).
  • Weed.

Steps to layer lavender

On longer branches that have already fallen over, do the following:

  • Scrape off little shavings of bark, lengthwise, along the portion of the branch that is already closest to the ground. This is called scarring.
  • Shavings should be very shallow. Just below the gray-brown surface, a thin layer of green cambium appears. Keep this intact.
  • Immediately, without necessarily hardening the wound, cover this portion with healthy, sterile soil mix.
  • Cover it generously, burying the branch under at least 1 or 2 inches (3-5 cm) of soil mix.
  • Attach the branch to the ground with a small metal hoop which will keep the branch in place.
  • You can also wedge the branch between two sticks, crossed just above the buried branch. Tie these two sticks together to fasten and lock the branch under them.
  • To keep the soil from drying up or washing away, cover it with mulch. Any type of mulch works fine here.

One or two years later…

The bend that was underground should have sprouted roots. These feed the extended portion of the branch.

If the root systems seems strong enough after a year, you can transplant. However, it’s best to wait two years to make sure.

  • Cut the branch that connects the new plant to the old mother plant.
  • As is always recommended to control transplant shock, prune the extra part of the plant. Take care to remain within a portion that is carrying green leaves (old wood, even from a layered lavender, has trouble sprouting new shoots).
  • Dig the plant out carefully and transplant it. Learn about transplant shock and follow our tips to reduce it.

Increase chances of success

  • Lather rooting hormones on the wound you created to trigger rooting.
  • You can use natural rooting hormones such as aloe vera gel or even honey.
  • Keep these particular branches from blooming. Pinch or cut any flower stems that emerge from the branch you are trying to layer.
  • The first time you water, use sugar water: 10 ounces to a gallon or 70g to a liter of sugar. The sugar water will feed healthy fungus, helping them partner with the new lavender roots.

Air-layering the entire trunk, a brilliant option

What you do for large branches, you can try on the entire trunk! Bury the trunk and main branches of the original old lavender plant.

  • It’s critical to make sure everything drains extremely well. Otherwise, the trunk will wallow in moisture and rot.
  • Use draining soil mix, gravel or clay pebbles, and cover with light mulch. Remember to scar the trunk in places before piling the soil up around it.
  • New growth will start sprouting from the area, success! Clear out old branches that block the sun out and start pruning it yearly as for a young plant.
  • Wait for an entire year before cutting the older, larger branches off or you might shock and kill the lavender, even though a small shoot has appeared.
  • When new shoots are well established, check to see if you can remove the mulch and extra soil. If ever too many roots have developed directly from the main branches, keep the soil in place.
  • Resume regular pruning.

Smart tip on layering lavender

Don’t forget to make sure the branch is well secured to the ground. Any movement due to wind or passing animals will destroy the young roots!

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Scarred layer for layering by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work