How to Harvest Lavender

How to Harvest Lavender

 Have you ever wanted to grow your own lavender and harvest it? In this post, I'll teach you everything you need to know!

If you live in Maryland, you're in luck! With its mild climate and long growing season, it's no surprise that this state is excellent for lavender cultivation and harvesting. 

We have hundreds and hundreds of lavender plants on our Chesterhaven Beach Farm. Lavender provides a source of nectar for pollinators and is a featured ingredient in our Peace of Mind collection. You may only have a few bushes in your garden, but processing the blooms will be the same! 

Below you'll discover when to harvest lavender, drying lavender tips, and more.

bee on lavender plant

How is Lavender Harvested: A Comprehensive Guide

When to Harvest Lavender

I got a late start on harvesting lavender this summer. I did that on purpose: I wanted to leave the flowers as long as possible for the bees. If last year was a helpful indicator, we should have another harvest in the fall, and I’ll ensure I harvest these on time.

Harvesting lavender on time means starting when the flowers bloom, but leaving food for the bees was more important during the summer.

The best time to harvest lavender in Maryland is in early summer when the flower buds are fully formed and beginning to open. This usually occurs between late June and early July. English lavender, known for its fragrance and culinary uses, is particularly suited for this timing. Its flower buds should be harvested when they are just starting to open to capture the best aroma and flavor.

You can determine when to harvest lavender by checking in on the color of the flowers — they should be light purple with deep purple tips. Additionally, the stems should snap easily when bent. If all of these criteria are met, your plants are ready to harvest! This chart illustrates flower blossoms you can plant in Maryland, no matter the season!

 

butterfly on lavender plant

How to Harvest Lavender (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Harvesting lavender requires tools like hand pruners or scissors.

Start by cutting off stems near the base of the plant, leaving some leaves behind so that new stems can continue to grow later on. Make a precise cut just above new growth to encourage the plant to send up two new flowering stems. Remember, it’s important not to cut too close, or you may damage the plant’s root system.

cutting lavender
cutting lavender spikes

Once you have harvested all of your stems, bundle them with twine or a rubber band and hang them upside down in a dry, excellent spot out of direct sunlight until they dry completely (this can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks).

  • Harvest lavender before sunrise. During the season, you can expect new growth if you don’t cut the spikes too close to the plant. For the final harvest of the year, cut the spikes close to the plant, shaping the lavender spikes into mounds to prepare for the winter. Be sure not to cut into the woody growth to ensure the plant's longevity and future growth.
  • Cut in bunches to make it easier for tying and drying.
  • Tie your bunches as soon as you cut them.
tying lavender bunches
wrap bunches that you plan on drying as soon as you harvest them
  • Wrap in bunches using a thick rubber band. Thin rubber bands break.
  • Create a “drying rack” by installing hooks in the ceiling of a cool, dark, and dry room. Attach a single row of chain links from the ceiling hooks to create the rack.
drying lavender
  • Insert a paper clip under the rubber band as a hook for hanging your lavender.
clips on lavender
  • Hang lavender upside down in a cool, dry, dark place and let dry for 2-3 weeks.
drying lavender upside down

Processing and Drying Lavender Tips

Once the waiting period is over, you may begin processing your lavender. To do this, lay down a clean sheet, tarp, or paper to catch the lavender buds as you roll the bundles between your hands. You may find that crunching or shaking the bundles helps to remove the most buds.

Lavender flowers, buds, and leaves are rich in fragrant essential oils. The best time to harvest for the highest fragrance and essential oil content is early in the morning.

Sift through the lavender buds and pick out any sections of stems, leaves, and large particulates you may find. You may also find small bits and pieces of other plant material, so ensure that you pick that out when you see it!

 

  • Remove flowers by rubbing lavender bunches as if you are trying to start a fire with them.
  • Collect flowers and store them in an airtight container.
  • We store our dried lavender buds in the freezer for future use.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark area.
lavender plants upside down

Harvesting Lavender Tips

  • Decide what you are doing with the lavender flowers to determine the best time to harvest.
  • Identify the blooms to be harvested and cut the stem just above the leaves to redirect the plant's energy for rapid growth of fresh flowers.
  • Harvest lavender buds by following a detailed process, including techniques for removing the buds from the stalks and how to store them for different purposes such as cooking and crafting.
  • Tie bunches as soon as you cut them to keep everything tidy.
  • Create a “drying lavender rack” by installing hooks in the ceiling of a cool, dark, and dry room.
  • Insert a paper clip under the rubber band as a hook for hanging your lavender.
dried lavender on top of a cake

Lavender Uses

Once your Lavender has dried, you can use it in various ways!

The most popular use is as an essential oil which can be used for aromatherapy or as a home fragrance. Fresh lavender blooms are known for their fragrance and versatility, and they are also very attractive to pollinators. However, there are many other ways you can utilize this versatile herb!

In cooking, dried lavender buds make an excellent addition to sweet dishes such as cakes and cookies, while fresh sprigs can be added to salads or herbal teas. Fresh lavender flowers can also be used to make salves, sachets, and cocktails. Dried flower heads also make beautiful decorations for wreaths and potpourri sachets.

Lavender flowers can be used for making herbal tea and can also be added to black or green tea.

At Bee Inspired, we use lavender to make our artisanal and customer-favorite: Raven Tea! This is our own personal spin on the classic Early Grey tea which we blend in house. The flavors produced from this introduce a robust floral and citrus flavor that is bold and is perfect for a foggy morning or a summer thunderstorm!

lavender watercolor

What is the Best Time of Day to Harvest Lavender?

Harvest as the sun rises after the dew has dried, but before it’s so hot that the plant will burn in the heat of the sun. If it is particularly hot, as it is most of the time here in the south, we plan our harvest before the sun rises. If you prune properly, cutting spikes two inches above the bark, you will see regrowth before fall. At the final harvest of the year, cut spikes close to the plant shaping plants in mounds to prepare plants for the winter.

When to Harvest Lavender?

Now that you know how to harvest lavender, you may be wondering when to do it! Remember — it depends on how you are planning on using lavender flowers. If you are distilling lavender for hydrosols, it’s best to leave the flowers on the plant for as long as possible. This provides the bees and butterflies with the most food for the season, and the longer the flowers stay on the plant, the more the oils build.

If you would like, you may harvest only a section of your plants— just as the flowers bloom for ideal drying, and leave balance flowers for the bees and butterflies, and distilling for a later date.

How Do You Dry Lavender?

Be sure to refer to our detailed instructions on drying lavender above. In the meantime, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • After harvesting, gather small bunches of lavender stems, approximately 20-30 stems in each bundle.
  • Secure the stems together with a rubber band or string, ensuring the bundle is tight and compact.
  • Hang the bundles upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room, away from direct sunlight.
  • Allow the lavender to dry for about 2-3 weeks until the flowers are crisp and easily crumble to the touch.

Can I Harvest Lavender Multiple Times in a Season?

Yes, especially if you have a healthy and well-established plant! After the initial harvest when the lavender is in full bloom, you can trim the plant back by one-third to encourage regrowth and potentially get a second or even third harvest later in the season. Just make sure to leave enough time before the first frost for the new growth to develop and harden off.

Harvesting lavender in Maryland is easy and fun! With its mild climate and long growing season, this state offers ideal conditions for cultivating this fragrant herb. All you need is a pair of scissors or hand pruners, some twine or rubber bands, and patience while waiting for your bundles of freshly cut herbs to dry completely before using them! Once dried, there’s no limit on how you can use your homegrown lavender — so start harvesting today!

harvesting lavender tall pin