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The simple answer is, yes, you should. Unless you have plans of letting them grow wild, cutting back Lavatera (also known as mallows) is beneficial for the overall health of the plant and its appearance. Many people have asked me this question because they are worried that cutting back Lavatera would be detrimental.
In the information presented in this article, you will discover why pruning Lavatera is advantageous and how you should do it. In general Lavatera, usually the shrubby varieties such as Rosea, Burgundy Wine and even my favourite patio variety the Barnsley Baby (which you can read about here), which is a great choice for patios.
They get very leggy and woody if you do not cut them back. However, it is crucial to do it at the right time of the year, and I will cover this in more detail below.
Why prune Lavatera?
Pruning Lavatera is a bonus if you want to maintain a neat aesthetic appearance or confine it to a certain space. It also ensures they don’t grow too tall and leggy with bare stems, this is a common issue with Lavatera.
Lavatera will thrive without pruning, but if you want to maintain a compact shape with lots of flowers, you have to prune them back hard at least once a year.
Pruning Lavatera is also good for the plant’s ventilation because you are getting rid of any dead or damaged branches. A plant that is well ventilated has lower chances of getting diseases such as powdery mildew, also a common problem associated with mallows.
Annual pruning also helps in preventing old stems from getting woody as already mentioned. Old stems do not produce as many flowers compared to younger stems.
When to cut back a Lavatera
It would be nice if we could prune plants at any time; however, that is not the case. Pruning too early or too late has consequences. You might cut off new growth if you prune them too early as well as leaving your Lavatera open to frost damage.
If you prune late in the season, the new growth won’t harden in time and as the winter sets in, the new growth will shrivel in the harsh cold and die.
The ideal time to prune Lavatera is in early or mid-spring when the temperatures are warmer and the risk of hard frost has passed. That way, the plant can support the new growth into maturity before winter comes around again. Usually, you want to see new buds starting to swell in spring before pruning them back.
How to cut back Lavatera
Pruning Lavatera is not a hard task and you do it annually so it will not require too much of your time. You need clean and sharp secateurs to prevent making uneven cuts or bending stems unnecessarily. This can leave them open to infection and diseases, so clean cuts are essential.
Inspect the plant to identify any damaged, diseased or dead branches that need removal before cutting the entire shrub back. After removing any damaged parts, it is time to cut back the entire plant halfway to two thirds. Don’t worry; Lavatera can bounce back from hard pruning as long as it is done right. You can even prune them back to only a foot above the ground.
If you have infected plants, sanitise the secateurs before cutting back the next plant. By disinfecting the shears, you prevent any disease transfer that will weaken the plants. Also, make sure not to cut off swellings that are about to bring forth new growth, cut above these nodes.
Caring for Lavatera plants after pruning
Here are a few valuable tips to help your Lavatera thrive after pruning.
- Mulch around the plant to act as a temperature control because the soil is exposed to the sun and cold. By pruning, you leave space for the sun to shine through and heat the soil. You want to help the plant maintain internal temperatures, moisture levels and recover quickly rather than wilt.
- Ensure to give the plants enough water as they recover. Pruning is an intense process that will leave the plant with wounds that bleed. Help the plants avoid dehydration, especially when exposed to the scorching sun and rising air temperatures.
- As the plant bleeds after pruning, it may attract insects such as aphids that feed on the sap. Use organic methods such as horticultural oil, soapy water or neem oil spray to avoid exposing the pruned plant to harsh chemicals in its weakened state.
- Feed the plants with well-rotted manure or general fertiliser to help them recover and produce vigorous growth. Remember not to overfeed the plants because overfed plants end up producing more foliage than blooms.
Your Lavatera will not look good once you cut it back, but, once the new growth sets in and the blooms come, you will be pleased. Use sharp pruning shears, you don’t want to leave the plant with uneven wounds that heal slowly. Do you have any questions or comments?