Lavender is accustomed to a Mediterranean climate but can still survive our winter. We reveal what to consider when overwintering lavender.
Lavender (Lavandula) is originally from the warm Mediterranean region, where it is found in mountainous areas or near the coast, depending on the species. While true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is extremely hardy and easy to care for, French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) require special protection, at least over winter. In this article, we explain how to successfully overwinter your lavender in a pot and in a bed.
Not every species of lavender is hardy and can survive our cold season unprotected. Probably the most robust species is true lavender. This can usually survive in the bed without any problems. French lavender, spike lavender and others are, in contrast, rather sensitive to frost and therefore need special protection in winter. If you plant them directly in a container, they can be easily relocated to a sheltered place in the garden or house.
Pruning before winter?
Regular pruning of lavender is important to prevent the shrub from becoming bald in the long term and to keep the plant compact. If the lavender is pruned too late in the summer, it will not be able to mature in time. Therefore, the last pruning should be carried out no later than the beginning of August. If frostbite still occurs during the winter, you can remove the dead plant parts in late spring.
How and where to overwinter lavender?
Depending on the type and variety of lavender, it is possible to overwinter in a pot and/or in the garden bed. We explain what to consider here, depending on the form of cultivation.
Potted lavender in winter
Frost-sensitive lavender species (spike lavender, French lavender) are best cultivated in planters. Before the first frost, it is best to bring the potted plants indoors and place them in a dry, unheated room. Cellars, garages, greenhouses or winter gardens are particularly suitable for overwintering.
If you have no space indoors, the place in the garden should be frost-free, protected from the wind and semi-shaded. A house wall provides additional shielding against wind. As a protective measure against ground frost, you can put the pot on a base of polystyrene or wood. Terracotta pots are good in winter because they bind excess moisture, protecting the roots from freezing. If the temperature drops below zero for a long period of time, you should bring the container indoors temporarily, or at least wrap it with straw mats for thermal insulation.
Overwintering lavender in a bed
For species that can be overwintered outdoors – these especially include true lavender varieties – a location protected from wind is extremely important. A layer of brushwood, leaves or mulch will provide you with protection from precipitation and cold as well as from excessive sunlight. The combination of frost and sun can be the doom of lavender. If more water evaporates through the leaves than the plant can absorb from the soil, there is a risk of dehydration even in winter. If necessary, a cover of garden fleece or coconut matting, which serves as thermal insulation, also protects against permafrost (below -15 °C).
Watering lavender in winter
Thanks to its long taproot, lavender planted in a bed is able to supply itself with sufficient water and nutrients from deeper layers of soil. In winter, watering should be done only when the soil is frost-free and permeable. Otherwise, the roots could be damaged when the water in the soil freezes again due to cold temperatures. Lavender grown in a pot requires more regular watering. Nevertheless, water it in moderation during the cold months and make sure that excess water can drain away. You should avoid waterlogging at all costs, otherwise the Mediterranean herb will be prone to root rot. More detailed information about watering lavender can be found in our dedicated article.
Particularly hardy lavender species and varieties
The varieties of true lavender are particularly hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as -15 °C, as long as there is no permafrost. Spike lavender, for example, is much more sensitive to frost and does not cope very well with fluctuating weather.