Lavender plant care: tips for pruning, watering & more

Sabine
Sabine
Sabine
Sabine

I am currently studying agricultural and food economics. As a keen hobby gardener, plants take up most of my free time. A few years ago, I got especially interested in herbs, which is why I completed my studies to become a certified herbalist in 2018.

Favourite fruit: apples, cherries
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, fennel

Even though lavender is quite frugal, it needs a little care now and then. Find out all about lavender plant care – pruning, fertilising and watering.

hand touching lavender flowers
The right care is important for abundant flowering [Photo: freya-photographer/ Shutterstock.com]

All species of the genus Lavandula are originally from the Mediterranean region. Lavender but now feels at home in more northern countries and can be found in many domestic gardens. However, a sufficient supply of nutrients and water are vital for your lavender bush. However, regular pruning and forest protection measures are also of great importance for a magnificent flourishing. Below we have summarised for you the most important aspects of lavender plant care.

Mediterranean lavender prefers warm and sunny locations with calcareous, well-drained soil. While real 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. With the right location and good care, your lavender will thank you with lush growth and abundant flowering. For more information on caring for French lavender see our dedicated article.

Pruning lavender

Regular pruning will keep your lavender in good shape, promote plant health and counteract the long-term thickening of older lavender shrubs. It is best to prune your lavender twice a year. Already with the first shoots in the spring can be vigorously pruned lavender (by one to two thirds).

Lavender being pruned
Regular lavender promotes compact growth [Photo: Kateryna Ovcharenko/ Shutterstock.com]

After flowering (mid-July), light pruning encourages bushy growth. Young plants can be cut more (up to half) than older ones (about one third). If the lavender is cut too late in the summer, it will not be able to mature in time. Therefore, the last cut should be made no later than the beginning of August. If frostbite still occurs during the winter, you can remove the dead plant parts in late spring.

Detailed instructions for proper cutting lavender can be found here.

Watering lavender

The lavender can supply itself with water very well via its long taproot, but waterlogging is hard on it and can promote the development of root rot. In the garden bed, you need to water lavender in the summer only during prolonged periods of drought. In winter, watering should be done only when the soil is frost-free and permeable.

Lavender planted in pots should be watered regularly. It is best to ensure optimal pot drainage already at the time of planting. A drainage hole at the bottom allows excess irrigation water to drain away. Everything else that is important when watering lavender, we also explain here.

Fertilising and liming lavender

Already at planting, you can add a little fertiliser or compost into the soil. In subsequent years, annual basic fertilisation at the beginning of the growth phase (March/April) will then suffice. Here, it is best to rely on slow-release fertilisers such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, because it decomposes slowly and provides your lavender with sufficient nutrients even in the long term.

In pot cultivation, a second fertilisation at the beginning of summer (end of June / beginning of July) supports your lavender optimally. Soils low in lime – such as sandy soils – can be improved in spring with a handful of commercial garden lime. But you should not just lime it. Make sure that it is really the true lavender that is in your garden. After all, there are close relatives – such as French lavender – for the growth of which calcareous soils are rather disadvantageous.

Precise instructions for fertilising lavender and further information on liming can be found in our dedicated article.

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Caring for lavender in a pot

While the robust true lavender can be cultivated year-around in the bed, many frost-sensitive species must be moved to a pot in autumn at the latest. Here it should be noted that when grown in a pot, lavender forms a very large root system, which requires a lot of space. Therefore, a sufficiently large planter is mandatory. In addition, in this form of cultivation lavender somewhat greater demands on care due to the small volume of the pot. Regular pruning, appropriate overwintering and annual repotting are critical for abundant blooms.

Repotting lavender

When cultivating in planters, be sure to replant your lavender in a larger pot if needed. The new pot should be about 10 cm larger than the root ball of the plant. The installation of a drainage layer also avoids waterlogging. You should also replace the old soil with fresh substrate, so that your lavender has sufficient nutrients again.

Lavender being repotted
Most lavender varieties also feel comfortable when grown in a pot [Photo: Robert Przybysz/ Shutterstock.com]

What you should consider when repotting and cultivating potted lavender in general, we explain in our dedicated article.

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Caring for a lavender tree

The term “tree” or “perennial” is actually nonsense in the context of lavender. In fact, botanically speaking, lavender belongs to the semi-shrubs. Older lavender, accordingly, naturally lignifies with age, and with proper training can even form a standard tree. In this regard, the care of lavender as a standard tree differs only slightly with regard to the procedure of lavender in the form of a bush.

There are actually only major differences when it comes to pruning the lavender tree. In order to enjoy your lavender tree for a long time, you should prune it regularly so that the standard tree does not run wild and, in the worst case, reverts to its natural, bushy growth habit. Here, in fact, you only need to trim the crown. In the spring (March/April), when frost is no longer expected, you can cut back one to two thirds of the new shoots. When doing this, make sure to maintain as around a shape of the crown as possible. You can then make a second cut after flowering (mid-July) to encourage a second flowering.

You can find more information about lavender trees here.

Overwintering lavender

Mediterranean lavender is only conditionally accustomed to the low temperatures in our latitudes. While hardy lavender varieties – such as true lavender – can be planted in the garden bed without any problems, frost-sensitive varieties are better cultivated in pots.

dried lavender plant with snow
True lavender can survive the winter in the garden bed [Photo: RomeoLu/ Shutterstock.com]

However, those species that are wintered outdoors, necessarily need a sheltered location from the wind. A layer of brushwood, leaves or mulch will provide you with protection from precipitation and cold as well as from excessive sunlight. If necessary, a cover of garden fleece or coconut matting, which serves as thermal insulation, also protects against permafrost (below -15 °C).

Potted plants should be brought indoors before the first frost and placed in a dry, unheated area (basement, garage or conservatory). If you do not have enough space indoors, the place in the garden should in any case be frost-free and semi-shaded. As protection from ground frost, you can put the pot on an insulating mat, Styrofoam or wood. In addition, if the temperature drops below zero for a long time, the bucket can be wrapped with straw mats for thermal insulation.

Detailed instructions for successfully overwintering your lavender can be found here.

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