This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of how to care for lavender plants! I’ll take you through common problems I have experienced from overwatering my lavender plant, to being attacked by pests. By the end of this article you’ll know that lavender is a sun-loving, drought tolerant plant. I’ll explain how to care for lavender plants indoors too so that you can bring these beautiful flowers into your home!
Lavender is an herb which is popular for its beautiful color and vibrant aroma, it is relatively easy to grow and care for making it an ideal plant for all gardeners.
Here’s everything I know about looking after lavender plants including hours of research and my own personal experiences getting things wrong.
Table of Contents
- How to Grow Lavender Plants Indoors?
- What Is the Best Care for Lavender Plants?
- What Are Common Lavender Plant Problems?
- What Are Some Benefits and Hazards?
- Are There Different Types of Lavender?
How to Grow Lavender Plants Indoors?
Many gardening experts recommend growing a smaller variety indoors, I like English lavender and French lavender flowers!
Since the lavender plant thrives in bright sunshine it is best to plant your indoor lavender by a south facing window which receives the most light in the house. If it seems that this amount of light is insufficient consider adding a grow light.
I would also recommend using a pot that is only an inch or two bigger than the root ball of the lavender plant. Too often people will use big pots which allow room for wet soil to stand and create the perfect environment for root rot.
Fill the pot with a well draining potting mix, this is even more important indoors where there is less airflow. My favorite tip is to use a terracotta pot because they are porous (meaning they absorb water, helping to prevent the soil staying too wet)
Take care to keep the leaves and flowers of the lavender dry when watering, stagnant water leads to pests or fungal infections.
As the lavender indoors will only get sunlight from one direction make sure to rotate the plant pot often for even growth and blooming. Try rotating the pot every time you water it.
To keep your indoor lavender’s soil alkaline you can use recycled eggshells. Eggshells need to be thoroughly crushed or blended in order for the nutrients to become available to the plant. If you add eggshells, do not use other forms of fertilizer as well
Alkaline, Chalky, & Dry Soil Is Best
It might sound irrelevant but actually the type of soil you use can have a massive impact on the success of the plant!
Growing lavender flowers need fast draining soil and will suffer if it is too acidic. It prefers alkaline, chalky and dry soil.
To control its acidity use these tips:
- Add limestone to the soil to lower the pH.
- Clay rich soils will need more limestone to alter the pH than sandy soils will.
- This is a super in depth guide from the RHS on how to change soil pH, when to do so and so much more: acidification of soil.
To control the drainage speed:
- Prepare your beds/pots with free draining soil.
- Add perlite or sand to increase the aeration and drainage.
- Plant lavender in a sunny spot to prevent waterlogged roots.
- Plant in a raised bed or on a mound where the lavender plants won’t sit in wet soil.
Plant Lavender in Springtime
Never plant your young lavender plants in winter time or in cold weather conditions. The cold, wet soil means the lavender is more likely to rot. Instead, plant lavender flowers in springtime, May or April. The soil will be warmer and plenty of starter plants will be available in gardening shops.
Many people struggle with deciding to plant seeds or using a starter plant from a nursery or a cutting. Seeds are quite difficult to grow and they require a lot of patience. Lavender seeds don’t begin germinating until at least 3 months in, and they can be prone to infection. In my opinion, it’s far easier growing lavender from a starter plant.
How to Plant Your Lavender
For planting indoors, lavender can grow best in containers, here are some tips:
- Use a container with plenty of drainage.
- Terracotta pots are best for growing lavender plants (and they look so cute!).
- Terracotta is porous so water will move out of the soil into the terracotta, helping to prevent root rot from overwatering.
- If you choose not to use terracotta, any type of pot will be just fine. Instead, the plant will just need watering less often.
- Plant lavender so the soil comes to the same point on the plant when you bought it from the nursery.
For planting lavender outdoors, follow this guide:
- Prepare your soil
- Use perlite or sand mixed with general houseplant compost.
- Sterilize soil, pots and tools too.
- Plant as soon as you can once you’ve purchased your starters.
- Leave adequate space between plants.
- The amount of space will depend on which type of lavender you’ve chosen.
- Space them approximately 90cm apart, as a general rule.
- 30-45cm apart if planting a hedgerow.
- Water more often after planting until they are established.
What Is the Best Care for Lavender Plants?
Water More in the Summer
During the first summer you must water your plants more regularly as the summer sun and temperatures naturally make the soil drier. This could even mean a daily watering is necessary!
Most of the year you don’t need to water your lavender plant if it lives outside, as they are quite drought resistant. If you grow lavender inside then make sure to water year round, checking the moisture in the soil often.
DO NOT Over-Fertilize
Lavender generally prefers soil which is lower in nutrients. Most of the time your soil will suffice as is and there is no need to add nutrients. Fertilizing your plants too heavily will lead to overgrowth of foliage, leaving no energy for the plant to flower. However, this isn’t to say that you should never feed your plants.
At the beginning of spring it is wise to add some good compost around the base of your lavender plants – a few centimeters should suffice! If you haven’t done this then you can add a small amount of slow-release fertilizer, however only do one or the other.
Don’t fertilize in the autumn time either, this causes the plant to grow new leaves and flowers which aren’t strong enough to survive the winter time.
Bottom line is: less is more.
Lavender Loves the Sun
Lavender plants thrive best in bright and sunny conditions. The plants will also appreciate the warmth from the sunshine too.
In very hot climates, lavender plants are at risk of being burnt or scorched
Overexposure to sun can lead to wilting plants and brown spots. If you notice that your plants are not producing many flowers or little new growth they may need more light.
Full sun also decreases the chance of pathogens or other ailments like mildew and root rot
All in all: lavender plants are not the most long living, tending to last for another four years, give it the best shot you can with full sun!
Deadheading and Pruning Your Lavender Plants
Pruning lavender helps to prevent it becoming woody and helps increase flowers. The lavender plants will only need a light trim in their first year to help prevent them becoming leggy – that’s when they get long stems with few leaves and flowers.
Deadhead after the lavender flowers have bloomed in the summer. There is no need for spring pruning for a first year lavender plant. This is where you remove the old, dead flowers to encourage energy back into the plant.
Pinching (removing) new growth helps new plants, especially those grown from seed or cutting, to become bushy.
Pruning new lavender plants:
- Use clean, sterile secateurs (pruning shears) to cut each stem.
- Remove up to a third of the height.
- Leave plenty of green growth and remove some of the flower.
- Do not cut the growth close to the woody base of the plant, the lavender needs the green stems to photosynthesize.
- Create your desired shape during this stage.
- If you want to grow dome shaped lavender bushes cut your stems shorter as you move to the outer sections of the plant.
Pruning older lavender plants:
Once mature, lavender plant care requires a pruning regime to maintain best practices. This will involve trimming the plant in the summertime to maintain the shape you initially created.
Then, after winter has passed you can do a bigger prune in the springtime. This is where you can cut the plant further back, closer to the woody stems.
Tips for the springtime prune:
- Cut 5-6 centimeters above the woody base of the stem.
- For hedges it can be much easier to use shears.
- If you find any diseased or dead branches remove them completely by cutting as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Tips for the summertime prune:
- The ideal time to prune is when the flowers begin to fade.
- The summer prune is less important than the spring so if you can only do one, prioritize spring.
- Cut back around one third of the lavender plant.
- This may encourage a second bloom.
- Summer pruning does not require as much precision as in the spring, pruning shears are suited well to do a quick trim.
Once the flowers have bloomed and begin to die at the end of the flowering season you can choose to leave the blooms for birds to eat! The flower heads turn into a feast of seeds for wildlife which helps them, it’s okay for the plant too as it will be after the flowering season is up.
Lavender is perfectly safe for birds – they even use it to build their nests. Birds like starlings often steal the Lavender leaves from the bushes. The leaves and flowers bring many benefits like attracting mates and killing bacteria.
If you’re taking your lavender plant outdoors and have any trouble with flying fiends you could try some netting to protect your plants, but from my experience you’re unlikely to encounter any problems.
Overwintering Your Lavender Plants
Winter is the most vulnerable time for lavender plants because of the cold temperatures and wet soil depending on where you live. Plants in containers are more susceptible to cold than plants that are grown in a bed of soil.
Here are my tips to help them survive:
- Use leaves and straw to mulch the soil over the lavender, this helps to insulate the base of the plant and prevent the temperatures dropping too low.
- Remove the mulch when the last frost in early spring has passed.
- Grow lavender in south facing locations where it stays a bit warmer, even in the winter.
- Cut away the flowers as they start to die so that energy is not wasted on them.
- You might choose to prune your lavender about a month before the first frost to reduce its size.
- If the lavender is in a pot you could move it inside.
- Water the lavender less and do not fertilize it.
If you have the capacity to do so, heat lamps or greenhouses can be used to recreate summer conditions all year round – this is not necessary however.
There are plenty of heat lamps that are quite stylish so they fit in well inside your house, even using a regular lamp and having a plant near that will help too.
What Are Common Lavender Plant Problems?
Lavender plants tend to only be fed on by pests which cause cosmetic damage to the leaves. Meaning it is normally okay to leave the pests alone as they won’t actually harm your plants.
These pests include:
- Rosemary beetle
- Most active in August to april.
- Generally accepted as part of a healthy ecosystem (tasty treats for birds).
- Rosemary beetles shouldn’t harm your plant but if they do you can try attracting birds to your window boxes or balconies with other types of flowers.
- Sage and ligurian leafhoppers are most active from April to September.
- They cause the leaves of the lavender to become pale and patterned but don’t generally affect the plant’s new growth.
- Using ladybugs to target these pests is best practice.
- Cuckoo spit
- Caused by froghoppers and spittlebug nymphs.
- Identified by white foam on the stems of the plant, insects live inside of the foam.
- Most active from May to July.
- Generally the plant is unaffected but the tips of the plant may become distorted.
- Froghoppers can spread xylella which can lead to serious problems in the ecosystem.
- It causes plant death.
- Lavender is one of nine high risk plants to be carrying xylella.
Lavender Plants Not Flowering
Here are the most common reasons that your lavender plants are not flowering:
The Soil Is Too Fertile
Lavender plants are adapted to the low nutrient levels in their sandy soils in southern europe. Lavender plants thrive best in nutrient poor soils, even though it sounds counterintuitive. Sand or gravel will help to achieve the low nutrient levels and loose structure that is ideal.
You Have Fed Your Lavender
If you feed your lavender plants they will grow a lot of foliage and less flowers.
Lack of Sunlight
Lavender flowers need full sun as they are habituated to the hot conditions in the mediterranean. Ideally the plant will receive at least six hours of bright direct sunlight.
The pH of the Soil Is Wrong
Lavender plants need a soil with a pH of around 6.5 to 7.5. You can use a soil gauge to measure the acidity levels in the soil.
The Lavender Plant Is Overwatered
Overwatered lavender plants are more likely to be suffering from root rot which prevents flowering. You should only water your plant every two weeks during its first growing season. Most mature lavender plants won’t need any watering besides rainfall.
While all plants are different, the long and short of it is that stressed plants are unlikely to flower.
What Are Some Benefits and Hazards?
As it’s always better safe than sorry, my advice is to keep lavender plants out of the way of children and animals. The lavender flower contains a compound called linalool. Linalool is toxic to pets if consumed in large amounts.
Be extra careful if you use your lavender plants to make lavender oil as linalool is more concentrated in the oil. The potential side effects include nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions.
Using lavender in conjunction with sedatives can be potentially dangerous and cause drowsiness and slowed breathing. If ever in doubt, consult your doctor.
Despite all of that, lavender has tons of amazing uses and benefits, including:
- You can dry your lavender stems with the flowers for a beautiful arrangement that won’t die.
- It attracts insects like bees and butterflies which will pollinate your other garden plants.
- Lavender can be used in bath salts to relieve tension and stress.
- Lavender flowers are actually delicious and make amazing lemonades and infused sugars.
- You can harvest lavender and make scented sachets for your drawers and cupboards.
If sustainability is as big of a concern for you as it is for us, then it’s great to know that lavender is a pretty sustainable crop to grow. Lavender can be considered sustainable because it uses very little water and has a low carbon footprint. Additionally it is pollinator friendly and bees love it.
Another lasting benefit is that it becomes incredibly easy to collect its fallen seeds after you’ve deadheaded your plant. Then you can save them for later as you plan to grow more, saving yourself some money as you’ll no longer need to buy seeds or starters from the store.
Are There Different Types of Lavender?
There’s a wide range of lavender plants, the most commonly grown are English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and hybrids of it. English lavender types are tough and hardy so they make a good option for most gardens. They are purple/blue with a strong scent. Other types of lavender may have different color flowers such as pink and white.
French lavender types are much less tough and won’t live as long, so they are more appropriate for growing inside greenhouses. One the other hand, Spanish lavender has strong stems, unusual pine-cone blossoms with “rabbit ears”, and smooth slightly less green foliage. It grows wonderfully in full sun.
There are also specialist lavenders which are not hardy and must be cared for much more specifically than the english lavender types. Always do your research on the species you think you might buy first.
Hardy lavender types:
- Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender – USDA hardiness zone 5-8)
- Commonly used in cooking, baking and in essential oils
- Can grow up to three feet tall
- Lavandula intermedia
- Is a cross between Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) and Lavandula latifolia (Portuguese Lavender)
- Grow very large and produce more spikes than most lavender varieties
- Weaker lavender types:
- Lavandula stoechas (French lavender)
- Lavandula chaytoriae (hybrids)
- L. latifolia, L. pedunculata and L. viridis (Spanish lavender types)
- Lavenders from Portugal, Madeira and Canary Islands
Consider where you’ll be planting your lavender before purchasing. If you intend to grow lavender in a container then you have more freedom to get some speciality types. You’ll be able to move the container indoors or out of harsh weather conditions!
If you’re looking for a specific type of lavender then consider trying RHS Find a Plant
FAQs About Caring for Lavender Plants
Is lavender a perennial?
Lavender is a perennial herb if it gets sufficient drainage. So whilst some sites or even nursery labels may call lavender an annual plant, that is not true! With our expert tips your lavender plants can live for many years – some gardeners even boast ages of 20 years.
Is lavender evergreen?
Lavender is technically classed as evergreen however in the UK or other cooler climates in the US they often go into dormancy over the cooler periods of the year.
This map shows the growing zones in the US, lavender is truly evergreen in zones 7-8. In general lavender will be happy in zones 5-9
Is lavender easy to grow?
Care for lavender plants requires very little time and is quite easy to maintain. In essence, lavender plants are super useful, easy plants with gorgeous flowers.
The lavender plant requires lots of sun, a little water and well draining soil to be happy. A prune and a shaping in the spring and summer will go a long way too.
The only pests that lavender plants tend to have problems with don’t even cause significant damage, past eating some of the leaves.
Caring for Lavender Depends on Where You Live
All in all you shouldn’t have any problems with growing and maintaining a lavender plant.
Make sure to think about the weather where you live to decide which type of lavender you want to grow. If you have very cold winters consider growing your lavender indoors, in a pot with large drainage holes and a loose soil.
If you have any other questions check out these resources:
- BBC Plant finder
- Wildlife Trust’s guide to the best plants for pollinator gardens
- Wildlife Trust’s guide on starting a wildlife garden
If you really love lavender consider checking out a lavender field near you – or growing your own!
Lavender – The Cool Guy at the Party
Lavender is pretty, purple, and powerful! But so are many of the other houseplants we feature. Click on one of the articles below to see for yourself! If that isn’t enough for you, head on over to our houseplant tip headquarters for the full spread of houseplant info. Don’t forget that once you know all about your favorite plant’s care needs, you’ll need the proper tools. Check out the full list here!
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