Answering Your Questions About Lavender

We get questions about lavender regularly and have compiled those most frequently asked. The answers provided will be based on Nell’s experience of growing and caring for this plant.

Lavender is sought after for its fragrant-smelling flowers and the calming effect of its oils. This plant is a real sun lover, and if you live in the right climate for it, we suggest adding it to your garden. The pop of summer color it brings to a landscape is stunning.

Our Q & A series is a monthly installment where we answer your most common questions on caring for specific plants. Our previous posts cover Christmas Cactus, Poinsettia, Pothos, String Of Pearls, LavenderStar Jasmine, Fertilizing & Feeding Roses, Aloe Vera, Bougainvillea, Snake Plants.

Common Questions About Lavender

1.) Does lavender need full sun? Can lavender grow in the shade? Where should I not plant lavender?

Lavender definitely loves the sun and needs full sun to look and bloom its best. The exception would be very strong summer sun like here in Tucson, which would prove to be too harsh.

Growing lavender in shade is not the ideal growing location. The plant will get weak over time and the blooming will be sparse if at all. In most locations, a bit of morning shade is fine.

When you are getting ready to plant we recommend staying away from shade, acidic soil, and/or heavy soils. If you live in a high humidity climate, you may find it hard to grow lavender. 

lavender farm with numerous lavender plants growing in shrub form and in bloom oak trees seen in the background and a pergola
The fields at Life Under The Oaks Lavender Farm.

2.) What climate is best for lavender? Where does lavender grow best? What is the secret to growing lavender?

It depends on the type of lavender, but in general, it likes a warm and sunny climate on the drier side.

Lavender grows in many different countries. I’ve seen it growing in France, England, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Here in the US, I’ve seen lavender in California, Washington state, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. There are commercial lavender growers in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, and the Midwest (as well as other places I’m not aware of).

So, I’d say it’s a versatile plant that prefers sun and heat that needs well-draining soil on the alkaline side.

3.) Does lavender bloom in its first year? What month does lavender bloom? What are the benefits of lavender flowers? Should you deadhead lavender?

Yes, in my experience it blooms in the first year but don’t expect a big harvest of flowers. The big show of flowers but that will come as the plant ages and gets bigger. Most lavender that I’ve bought has been in bud or in bloom.

The month(s) it blooms depends on what type of lavender (English, French, Spanish, or a cross) it is and what your climate zone is. You should see the first blooms in late spring and perhaps continue into early fall. In general, the main bloom time for lavender is in the summer.

The benefits of lavender flowers are that they can be used for culinary, fragrance, beauty, and healing purposes. Plus, it’s an attractive landscape plant and is a staple in the cottage garden.

Yes, you should deadhead lavender as it encourages more blooming. Plus, it just looks better with those spent flowers pruned off!

4.) Is lavender easy to grow? What is the secret to growing lavender? Why is my lavender not growing?

In the right conditions and climate, it can be easy to grow. If your climate is very humid or foggy it can be difficult to grow. Just know that you’ll have to deadhead and prune to keep it looking and blooming its best.

I’d say the secret to growing lavender is to choose the right one(s)for your climate zone and to give it plenty of sun.

If you’re having trouble growing lavender it could be not enough sun, the soil is too heavy and/or acidic, or you have the wrong type for your climate. For instance, I went to Life Under The Oaks Lavender Farm in the mountains north of Tucson where they grow a lot of Lavender Grosso. This is a type of French Lavender that can take more sun and heat than the English lavenders.

5.) How long does it take for lavender to grow full size? Do lavender plants spread? What type of lavender should I grow?

Lavender usually takes 2-3 years to reach maturity. A plant in a 1-gallon pot will have more of a head start than 1 in a 4″ pot.

As Lavender grows it’ll become wider and take on a rounded shrub form.

There are so many lavenders on the market so what type you grow depends on where you live. For instance, a French lavender will do better in Arizona because it can take more sun. English lavenders are the most cold tolerant. Just know that lavender stays at 12 inches whereas others reach 4 feet. 

lavender plant in bloom purple flowers green foliage bright sunny day

6.) Does lavender come back every year? What happens if you don’t prune lavender? When should lavender be pruned? Can I cut my lavender back all the way?

Lavender is a perennial which will come back every year. At some point, it’ll get woody and have to be replaced.

Lavender tends to get leggy if not pruned and doesn’t bloom as well. The best time to prune is after flowering and in early fall to shape. They will get woody if not pruned, so you want to keep up with pruning. It looks much better since some lavenders can get leggy and have woody stems.  

I would not cut back all the way to the ground, especially on an established one, for you’ll risk it not coming back. After the 4 year mark or so, yours may start getting woody and stemmy. Once this happens, it doesn’t respond to heavy pruning.

Related: How To Sharpen Garden Shears: Cleaning & Sharpening Pruning Tools

7.) Can I leave lavender outside in winter? Should I cover my lavender for the winter? Can lavender survive winter in pots?

It’s both a yes and a no answer as to whether you can leave your lavender outdoors in the winter. It depends on your climate and the type of lavender. Spanish, French, English, and the crosses of lavender all have different hardiness zones and will react differently to winter cold. You will want to check your USDA hardiness zone to see if and what lavender can be grown year-round in your climate. 

I’ve never covered a lavender plant in winter but English lavenders are the most cold-hardy.

As to whether your lavender in pots can survive winter, see the answer to part A.

multiple lavender plants planted in mass all in bloom purple flowers appears to be blowing in the wind

8.) Does lavender do well in pots? How to grow lavender in a pot? Does lavender do better in pots or ground?

Lavender does well being grown in pots. The larger the lavender you’re growing gets, the larger a pot it’ll need. For instance, Lavender “Provence” reaches 3′ and requires a bigger pot than Lavender “Hidcote” and “Munstead” which reach 1-1/2′.

Growing lavender in a pot is basically the same as growing it in the ground. The main difference is that it’ll most likely dry out quicker in a pot and will need to be watered more often.  

I’ve seen it growing beautifully both in the ground and in pots. If your soil doesn’t have good drainage or it’s on the acidic side, then lavender will do better in pots.

Related: Planting Lavender In Pots

9.) How often should lavender be watered?

It depends on your climate. Here’s a general answer: in the warmer months and when newly planted, once a week should be good. After established, every 2 weeks. 

10.) Does lavender need fertilizing? What’s the best fertilizer for lavender?

I was a professional gardener for over 20 years and never fertilized lavender. I did topdress it with compost every 2- 3 years.

I can’t recommend a fertilizer because I’ve never used one when growing lavender. If the lavender is happy where it’s growing, it’s going to bloom. 

Bonus: How do you keep lavender alive indoors? How do you grow lavender inside? Is lavender an easy houseplant?

It is very hard to grow lavender indoors unless you have high light and a lot of sun. It’s similar to Rosemary, in that it will look fine for a couple of months but won’t grow indoors for the long haul. 

Growing Lavender Video Guide

I hope we’ve answered your commonly asked questions about lavender and its care. We’ll see you next month for questions on growing the very popular String Of Pearls.

Happy gardening!

Nell

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