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Lavender Plant Care: How to Grow and Care for Lavender Plants


lavender plant care

Distinguished for their exuberantly patterned foliage and manageable care requirements, lavender plants are treasured among both novices and seasoned indoor plant lovers alike. These plants are renowned for their ability to adapt to diverse light conditions and for their therapeutic qualities, notably their aromatic scent, which aids in relaxation and sleep. A well-cared-for lavender plant makes a remarkable addition to any indoor greenery collection.


Native to the Mediterranean region, lavender plants have journeyed across continents, enhancing indoor spaces from Asia to North America with their lush foliage and calming fragrance. Yet, the allure of lavender extends far beyond its sensory appeal.


Lavender plants are recognized for their hardiness. They are able to withstand a variety of care routines and are forgiving of occasional oversights, such as inconsistent watering. This quality makes them an ideal choice for both beginners and experienced indoor gardeners alike. Moreover, their ability to produce a calming and stress-relieving scent contributes to an improved living or working environment, making them an attractive addition for those seeking to cultivate a serene indoor space.


Whether you're a seasoned horticulturist or a newcomer stepping into the exciting world of indoor gardening, this guide intends to distill the essentials of lavender plant care. Let's delve into each aspect, empowering you with the knowledge you need to ensure your lavender plant not only survives, but thrives.



Appreciate the straightforward care needs for lavender plants:


1. Lavender plants exhibit a robust nature, flourishing in full sun to light shade, and tolerate a temperature range of 45-85°F.


2. They need to be watered roughly once a week during the growing season, and less frequently during the winter months, depending on the room's humidity and temperature.


3. Lavender plants thrive in well-draining soil mixtures, ideally ones that are slightly alkaline and rich in organic matter.


4. An occasional application of balanced, slow-release fertilizer can enhance their growth, particularly during the flowering period.


5. Typically, lavender plants require repotting every 2-3 years, or when they outgrow their current container.


6. Propagation of lavender plants can be achieved through various methods including stem cuttings, layering, or division of mature plants.


7. Regular pruning, particularly after the flowering period, can stimulate new growth and maintain the plant's aesthetically pleasing shape.


 

Lavender Plant Care


Light & Temperature

lavender plant care

Lavender, a quintessential Mediterranean herb, typically requires full sun exposure, with a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day to truly flourish. It thrives in bright, sunny environments due to its origin, which shapes its growth and blooming patterns. Therefore, when selecting a location for your lavender plant, consider a spot that gets ample sunlight throughout the day.


However, despite its love for sun, lavender plants can struggle in excessively hot, humid climates. They prefer cooler conditions and have a low tolerance for high heat and humidity. If you live in an area with particularly hot summers, it's beneficial to position your lavender plant in a location that offers partial shade, especially during the most intense afternoon heat. This mitigates the risk of the leaves wilting and the plant experiencing undue stress from extreme temperatures.


In terms of temperature, lavender plants generally thrive best in a range between 60-80°F (15-27°C). They can tolerate cooler temperatures and even light frost, but persistent high heat can cause problems. If indoor temperatures exceed this range, particularly during the summer, consider moving your plant to a cooler location or providing additional ventilation.


Alongside adequate light and temperature control, lavender plants necessitate well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging. They are particularly intolerant of soggy conditions, which can lead to root rot, a serious condition that can impede the plant's growth and overall health. Only water your lavender when the soil is dry to the touch, allowing it to dry out between watering. This mimics the natural, arid conditions the plant is accustomed to.


To sum up, successful lavender cultivation hinges upon selecting a sunny location with well-draining soil. Watering should be done judiciously, ensuring the soil is dry before the next watering session. If you're situated in a region with intense summers, you might also consider providing your plant with partial shade during the hottest part of the day to mitigate heat and humidity-induced stress. By carefully considering these factors, you can create an optimal environment for your lavender plant to thrive.



Water & Humidity


Lavender, given its Mediterranean origins, is an impressively drought-tolerant plant. This means it is well-equipped to endure arid environments with minimal water availability. Consequently, its watering needs lean toward deep but infrequent hydration. To achieve this, saturate the plant thoroughly, letting the water penetrate deep into the soil, then hold off on the next watering session until the soil is nearly dry.


One of the biggest threats to lavender health is overwatering, which can result in damaging issues like root rot. This is why it's crucial to allow the soil to completely dry out between watering cycles. This is particularly true in humid environments, where moisture retention in the soil can be high. Here, the soil can become overly saturated and cause root suffocation, making it necessary to reduce watering frequency to avoid excessive moisture build-up.


Choosing well-draining soil for your lavender plant is another key factor in successful cultivation. Ensure the location or container chosen for planting provides an easy escape route for excess water, preventing waterlogging. Lavender plants are particularly intolerant of standing water around their roots.


To further enhance your lavender care routine, consider adding a layer of mulch around the base of the plant. Mulch can provide a dual benefit for lavender: it helps retain appropriate moisture in the soil, and also keeps the roots shielded from intense heat during hotter weather.


Lavender, being a drought-tolerant plant, needs deep but infrequent watering. Overwatering poses the risk of root rot, hence the importance of allowing the soil to dry out fully between watering sessions. If you're in a humid region, you might need to lessen the watering frequency to prevent soil saturation. And remember, the use of well-draining soil and the addition of a mulch layer can significantly boost your lavender plant's health and vitality.




Soil


The soil is a fundamental aspect of lavender care. For these plants to prosper, they require soil that drains well. In other words, the soil should not be overly dense or moisture-retentive. Lavender plants are particularly intolerant of waterlogged conditions, which can lead to root diseases like root rot.


A soil pH range of 6.0 to 8.0 is optimum for lavender, with a preference towards the higher end of the scale. This slight alkalinity mimics the natural growing conditions in their native Mediterranean soils, enabling the lavender to develop robustly and healthily. If you're attempting to plant lavender in heavy clay soil, which typically retains more water, it would be beneficial to amend it with sand or perlite to enhance its drainage capabilities.


Furthermore, lavender plants can greatly benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to the soil. Incorporating these organic materials can significantly enhance the soil's structure, improving its porosity and making it easier for the roots to penetrate and absorb nutrients. It also boosts the soil's fertility by introducing essential nutrients that lavender plants require for healthy growth.


As a practical tip, add a layer of compost or well-aged manure to the topsoil just prior to planting your lavender. This organic top dressing enriches the immediate root zone with nutrients as it breaks down, offering an effective, slow-release feed for your plants. This practice can significantly contribute to the overall growth, bloom production, and resilience of your lavender plants.


To ensure the best growth conditions for your lavender, select or create a well-draining, slightly alkaline soil, enriched with organic matter. Such preparation and attention to your lavender's soil needs can yield a lush, fragrant, and thriving plant.




Fertilizer


While lavender isn't typically a heavy feeder and can often grow well in modest soil conditions, it can certainly benefit from the occasional nutritional boost. A light application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the early spring can provide a helpful start to the growing season. A balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10, which contains equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, can be particularly beneficial. These macronutrients contribute to the plant's overall growth (nitrogen), flower and root development (phosphorus), and general vitality and disease resistance (potassium).


That said, it's crucial to be cautious with fertilizing lavender plants. Over-fertilization can do more harm than good. Excessive fertilizer can spur rapid, lush foliage growth at the expense of blooming. Moreover, the unnatural lushness can lead to weak, soft stems that are more vulnerable to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses.


Over-fertilizing can also upset the nutrient balance in the soil and increase salinity, both of which can harm the plant's roots and impair its ability to uptake water and nutrients. Therefore, when it comes to fertilizing lavender, less is often more. Always follow the recommended application rates on the fertilizer package, and consider applying less than the suggested amount.


In fact, a good rule of thumb for fertilizing lavender is to aim for the lower end of the fertilization scale. If the lavender is growing in rich, fertile soil, it may not need additional fertilizer at all. If the plant is growing in poor or depleted soil, a single, light application of a balanced fertilizer at the start of the growing season should be sufficient.


While lavender plants don't demand heavy feeding, a cautious application of a balanced fertilizer can benefit their growth and blooming. However, avoid over-fertilization to prevent excessive foliage growth, weak stems, and potential damage to the root system. With sensible fertilization practices, your lavender plant can grow strong, bloom beautifully, and resist diseases and pests more effectively.




Repotting


Lavender plants are generally tolerant of their growing conditions and do not necessitate frequent repotting. They thrive in well-drained, somewhat lean soil conditions which can often be maintained in the same pot for several years. However, there may be situations where repotting becomes necessary, such as if the lavender plant has outgrown its current pot or the soil has become depleted or overly compacted.


If repotting is needed, it is best to do so in early spring before the onset of new growth. This timing allows the plant to adjust to its new environment before it expends energy on spring growth and blooming.


When repotting, it's crucial to select a well-draining potting mix. Given lavender's intolerance of waterlogged conditions, a mix that includes coarse sand, perlite, or grit will provide the excellent drainage these plants need. You may also consider a soil mix specifically designed for Mediterranean or other drought-tolerant plants.


Choosing the right size pot is another important consideration. Opt for a container that's only slightly larger than the current one, providing just enough room for the roots to spread a bit. Lavender plants prefer a snug fit in their pots, and too much extra soil can stay moist for too long, risking root problems. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom.


In the process of repotting, handle the root ball gently to minimize stress and damage. Once you've placed the plant in the new pot, fill in around the roots with your potting mix, firming gently to eliminate air pockets but ensuring not to compress the soil too heavily.


While lavender plants typically do not demand frequent repotting, certain conditions might necessitate it. If you do find the need to repot, do so with care, ensuring to use a well-draining soil mix and a properly sized pot. With careful handling during repotting, your lavender plant will have the opportunity to grow more robustly, enhancing its overall health and productivity.



Propagation


When it comes to propagating lavender, there are several methods that you can use, including stem cuttings, layering, or seed germination. However, propagation through stem cuttings is the most common and often the most successful method, providing a genetically identical plant.


To propagate lavender from cuttings, begin by selecting a healthy, non-flowering shoot from your existing lavender plant. Cuttings should ideally be taken in late summer when the plant is still growing but not actively flowering, but spring can also be a successful time. The cuttings should be around 4 to 6 inches long, taken just below a node (the place where a leaf joins the stem). Remove any foliage from the lower half of the cutting.


Prepare a pot with well-draining potting mix, similar to the mix you would use for repotting. Lavender cuttings prefer a light, sandy mix that drains quickly to prevent the cutting from becoming waterlogged. You can create your own mixture by combining equal parts of sand, perlite, and peat moss, or use a commercial cactus or succulent mix.


Make a hole in the soil with a pencil or your finger and insert the cutting, firming the soil around it. You should place several cuttings around the edge of the pot to increase your chances of successful propagation.


After planting, water thoroughly and place the pot in a shaded spot, out of direct sunlight. While the cuttings need plenty of light, direct sunlight can cause them to dry out before they have a chance to establish roots. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag or place it in a propagator to maintain high humidity, which encourages root development.


Monitor the cuttings regularly. Water sparingly, as too much moisture can lead to rot. The cuttings should root within 2 to 4 weeks. You'll know that the cutting has successfully rooted when you see new growth.


Propagating lavender plants involves taking healthy stem cuttings, planting them in a well-draining soil mix, and providing them with the right conditions for rooting. With patience and careful attention to moisture and light conditions, you can effectively propagate new lavender plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant.



Pruning

lavender plant care

Pruning lavender is vital for promoting its lush, healthy growth and ensuring a bounty of blooms. This process also maintains the plant's iconic mound-like shape and prevents it from becoming woody or leggy over time.


Pruning should typically be performed in early spring as the new green growth begins to appear. In some climates, a light second pruning might be beneficial in late summer, after the primary bloom period, but be sure not to cut into the old wood, as this could harm the plant.


To prune your lavender, begin by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. These parts can draw energy away from healthy growth and may potentially harbor pests or diseases. Removing them keeps the plant robust and vibrant.


Following this, trim back about a third of the plant, focusing on the previous year's growth. Aim to leave a few inches of the previous year's green growth above the woody stem. The goal here is to maintain a well-rounded shape without cutting into the old, woody part of the stem, which doesn't typically regenerate.


Utilize clean, sharp pruning shears for this task to ensure clean cuts and avoid tearing or damaging the plant. If your lavender plant is quite large, you might need to use long-handled loppers for the hard-to-reach center.


Apart from shaping the plant and invigorating growth, pruning has the added advantage of increasing air circulation within the plant, which can help prevent fungal diseases. It also allows better sunlight penetration to the plant's center, promoting more uniform and vibrant growth.


The more you prune and pinch back your lavender (avoiding the old wood), the more it will reward you with lush growth and blossoms. However, remember that lavender is a slow grower, so if you prune too much at once, it may take a while for the plant to recover.


Proper pruning, done with attention to timing and technique, not only helps your lavender plants maintain their pleasing shape but also encourages healthier growth, abundant flowering, and increased longevity.




Troubleshooting Lavender Problems

lavender plant care

Despite lavender's overall hardiness, it can experience several issues, usually related to growth conditions and care. Here are some common challenges you may face while cultivating lavender and solutions to address them:


Stunted Growth: If your lavender plant is not growing or thriving as expected, there could be several potential culprits. Here are a few factors to consider:


Soil Quality: Lavender plants prefer well-draining, slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.0 and 8.0. If the soil is heavy, retains too much water, or is too acidic, it may inhibit the plant's growth. To improve soil drainage, incorporate amendments such as sand, perlite, or small gravel. To adjust the pH, consider adding lime to make it more alkaline or sulphur to make it more acidic, based on your soil test results.


Light Availability: Lavender is a sun-loving plant and requires a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your lavender is situated in a shaded or partially shaded area, consider relocating it to a sunnier spot.


Overwatering: Lavender is drought-resistant and susceptible to root rot if overwatered. Ensure the soil is almost dry before watering again. The watering frequency will depend on your climate and the time of year, but typically, deep watering once every 1-2 weeks should suffice.


Nutrient Deficiency: While lavender is not a heavy feeder, it can benefit from a light application of balanced fertilizer in early spring. However, avoid over-fertilizing as it can lead to lush foliage at the expense of blooms and may make the plant more susceptible to pests and diseases.


Remember, the secret to a thriving lavender plant lies in mimicking its native Mediterranean conditions - well-draining alkaline soil, plenty of sunlight, and sparse watering. Paying close attention to these conditions can help ensure your lavender plant grows healthily and robustly.



Pests


Even though lavender plants are relatively pest-resistant due to their aromatic oils, they may occasionally suffer from infestations by aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Here's a more comprehensive approach to managing these pests:


Aphids: These tiny pests suck sap from the plant, which can cause deformed growth and a decline in plant health. Check regularly for clusters of these tiny insects on the undersides of leaves. If you spot them, consider using a strong spray of water to dislodge them initially. For a heavier infestation, use a solution of insecticidal soap and water (usually a ratio of 2.5 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water is recommended, but always follow the product instructions). Spray this solution thoroughly on the plant, making sure to cover both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves.


Spider Mites: Spider mites are tiny mites that create a fine, cobweb-like substance on the plant. They feed by puncturing plant cells and can cause leaves to yellow and drop off. Like aphids, they can be treated with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. Another preventive measure includes ensuring your plant isn't water-stressed, as spider mites often attack drought-stressed plants.


Whiteflies: Whiteflies are small, white insects that can cause yellowing leaves and stunted growth. They are more challenging to control because they have a rapid life cycle. Sticky traps can be used to catch adult flies, while insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can help manage nymphs on the undersides of leaves.


Maintaining the health of your lavender plant and regularly inspecting for pests will help prevent infestations. Remember that biological control methods, such as encouraging beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings which prey on these pests, can also be a very effective long-term solution for pest management. Additionally, always ensure you're using safe and environmentally friendly methods to treat any pest issues.




Diseases


While lavender plants are generally robust and resistant to many diseases, they are not entirely immune. The most common issue they encounter is root rot, usually a result of overwatering or poor drainage. Here's an in-depth approach to tackling this and other potential disease issues:


Root Rot: This disease typically occurs when lavender plants are kept in conditions that are too wet, either due to excessive watering or poor soil drainage. Root rot causes the roots to decay, which in turn affects the overall health of the plant, often resulting in yellowing leaves and stunted growth. To prevent this disease, ensure the lavender is planted in well-draining soil and is not overwatered. Water the lavender deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out in between watering. In addition, adding a layer of mulch around the base of the plant can help to retain moisture and prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.


Fungal Diseases: Lavender can be susceptible to several fungal diseases, including leaf spot and gray mold, particularly in humid conditions. These diseases can cause discoloration, wilting, and sometimes death of the plant. To prevent fungal diseases, ensure the plant has adequate airflow and avoid wetting the foliage when watering. If a plant becomes infected, remove and destroy the affected parts and consider applying a fungicide as a last resort.


Phytophthora: This is a serious disease that can cause wilting and death of lavender plants. It's caused by a soil-borne fungus and can be challenging to control once it has infected a plant. Prevention is the best approach, which includes planting in well-draining soil, avoiding overwatering, and providing good air circulation.


Remember, the best way to prevent diseases is to provide the right growing conditions for your lavender plants. Good cultural practices such as proper watering, sufficient sunlight, and regular monitoring can keep your lavender plant healthy and less susceptible to diseases.



 

Frequently Asked Questions


Does lavender come back every year?

Lavender is a perennial plant, which means it can come back every year if it is well-cared for and protected during the winter months.


To ensure that your lavender plant comes back each year, it's important to plant it in well-draining soil and choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight. Lavender also prefers dry soil, so be careful not to overwater it. In colder climates, lavender may need extra protection during the winter months, such as covering it with a layer of mulch or bringing it indoors.


Regular pruning and deadheading can also help extend the lifespan of your lavender plant, as it encourages healthy growth and prevents disease. With proper care, your lavender plant can provide beauty and fragrance for many years to come.


Is lavender plant easy to maintain?

Lavender plants are generally easy to maintain, but they do have specific requirements to ensure their health and longevity. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy lavender plant:


Choose the right location: Lavender plants prefer full sun and well-draining soil. Make sure to choose a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and has good drainage.


Water sparingly: Lavender plants do not like to be overwatered. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, and be sure to avoid getting water on the foliage or flowers.


Prune regularly: Lavender plants benefit from regular pruning, which helps to maintain their shape and encourage healthy growth. Prune back the stems by about one-third each year in the spring, just as new growth begins.


Deadhead regularly: Deadheading (removing spent flowers) can encourage the plant to produce more blooms and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy.


Fertilize sparingly: Lavender plants do not require heavy fertilization. A light application of balanced fertilizer in the spring and again in the fall is sufficient.


Protect from harsh winter conditions: Lavender plants can be sensitive to cold temperatures and wet soil. Protect your plants from harsh winter conditions by covering them with a layer of mulch or bringing them indoors.


Overall, lavender plants are relatively low-maintenance and can be a great addition to any garden or landscape. With proper care, they can thrive for many years and provide beauty and fragrance to your outdoor space.


How long do lavender plants last?

Lavender plants can live for several years with proper care. Some varieties of lavender can live up to 15-20 years, while others may have a shorter lifespan.


The lifespan of a lavender plant can also be influenced by factors such as growing conditions, climate, and care practices.


Regular pruning and deadheading, proper watering and fertilization, and protecting the plant from harsh winter conditions can all help to extend the lifespan of a lavender plant.


Can you leave lavender out all winter?

Whether or not you can leave lavender plants out all winter depends on the specific variety of lavender and your climate.


Most lavender plants are hardy to USDA zone 5 or 6 and can withstand winter temperatures down to around -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. In these zones, lavender can generally be left outside in the winter with some protection, such as a layer of mulch or a row cover, to protect the roots from freezing.


However, if you live in an area with harsh winter conditions, with temperatures that drop well below these ranges, it may be best to bring your lavender plants indoors or protect them in a greenhouse or other sheltered location. Alternatively, you can also grow lavender in containers that can be moved indoors during the winter.


It's also important to note that wet soil and excessive moisture can be damaging to lavender plants during the winter months. Make sure that your lavender plants are in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering them during the winter.


 

Summary: Caring for Lavender


The vibrant colors and mesmerizing leaf patterns of the Lavender plant have made it a popular choice for gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike. Beyond its stunning appearance, Lavender is also celebrated for its aromatic and therapeutic qualities.


For your Lavender plant to thrive, consider these detailed care instructions:


Light and Temperature: Lavender plants prosper in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Direct, intense sunlight is essential to their growth. In terms of temperature, Lavender plants, which are native to the Mediterranean region, can withstand a broad temperature range but prefer cooler conditions. The ideal temperature range for Lavenders is typically between 60-80°F.


Watering and Humidity: Lavender plants are highly drought-tolerant, adapted to survive in dry environments with minimal water. Water deeply but infrequently, allowing the water to reach deep into the soil, and then wait until the soil is almost dry before watering again. The plants prefer lower humidity levels, so avoid creating a humid environment.


Soil and Fertilization: Lavender plants demand well-draining soil, ideally a sandy or gravelly mix. A soil pH range between 6.0 to 8.0 is ideal for healthy growth. While Lavenders are not heavy feeders, an occasional dose of balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season can provide essential nutrients and enhance the plant's overall health.


Repotting and Propagation: While Lavender plants generally prefer to stay in the same pot, if the plant is outgrowing its container or the soil is not draining well, repotting may be necessary. Do this in early spring before the onset of new growth. Lavender plants can be propagated through softwood cuttings.


Pruning: Regular pruning is crucial to maintaining a healthy and well-shaped Lavender plant. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and trim back the previous year's growth to encourage new growth from the base. Prune your plant in early spring just as new growth emerges.


Pest and Disease Control: Monitor your Lavender plant regularly for any signs of pests or diseases. Aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies can be managed with insecticidal soap sprays. To avoid root rot, ensure that the plant is not overwatered and that the soil drains well.


Cultivating a Lavender plant is a journey rather than a race. With patient care, consistent monitoring, and the instructions provided here, your Lavender plant can grow robust and vibrant, enriching your garden with its beauty and soothing fragrance. Enjoy this rewarding journey of plant care and allow the aromatic essence of your Lavender plant to create a calming ambiance in your home or garden!



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