Growing Lavender

Grow herbs and flowers in containers in a small urban garden.
Lavender grows in a large field in Provence.

This field of lavender grows by Senanque Abbey in Provence, France, for which Provence lavender is named. At home, just a few plants are all you need for color and perfume.

In the Garden

The countryside of southern France is legendary for its fields of lavender (Lavandula x intermedia Provence) grown for the perfume industry. In North America, lavender is a shrubby perennial grown for its flowers and fragrance, but it also serves as a landscape item for its beauty and ability to stand heat and drought. In parts of California, is it used in islands of commercial parking lots, which attests to its toughness.

In a formal garden, lavender may be clipped to form a low hedge or an aromatic border along a path. In a rock garden, a single plant or just a few plants may be used to great effect as an accent. And, of course, lavender is a natural choice for any herb garden. The cool, gray-green foliage contrasts nicely with its own flowers, as well as dark green herbs and other plants.

Lavender also grows quite well in containers. In the Deep South, it actually does better in pots, as it benefits from improved drainage and air circulation. While the plants thrive in arid Western climates, they are usually considered annuals in the South.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Purple lavender and orange poppies growing in a rock garden have well draining soil.

Lavender plants have a neat, shrub-like form. This lavender grows alongside orange poppies in a rock garden, an ideal spot since it provides good drainage.

Set out plants 12 to 18 inches apart in an open area with full sun and good air circulation. Plant lavender in well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3. You can add builder’s sand to the soil before planting to increase drainage, which is vital because lavender will not tolerate excessive soil moisture or humidity. To further improve drainage, plant lavender in a raised bed, along a wall, or near the top of a slope. In an herb or perennial bed, ensure good drainage by planting lavender on a small mound. Lavender flowers bloom in summer; you can clip faded blooms to encourage continued blooming throughout the warm season. Prune lightly to promote branching, especially in spring once the plants show new growth.

Sprinkle bone meal or other phosphorus-rich fertilizer around each plant in the fall to make it stronger and more winter hardy. Work the fertilizer into the first inch of soil, or let the rain soak it in.

Troubleshooting

Plant lavender transplants in a pot to start them growing right with well draining soil.

Start your plants in pretty containers, especially in humid climates where good air circulation is a must.

Remember that lavender needs good drainage and good air circulation. Do not over-water, and allow the soil to dry before watering again. When there is a lot of heat and humidity, fungus can attack the plants, turning the leaves brown. To minimize the chance of having such a problem, mulch with pebbles or sprinkle sand around the base of the plant for faster evaporation. If you cut the blooms, trim in a way that thins the plant a bit, leaving it open for better air circulation.

Harvest and Storage

Cut lavender flowers with a long stem attached.

When you cut lavender blossoms, leave a long stem attached for handling.

Harvest lavender stems at any time by cutting them from the plant. However, avoid clipping more than every third stem to keep the plant looking full. Flowers will keep their perfume for months when you harvest just before they are entirely open. To dry flowers, gather a bunch of stems and hang them upside-down in a dark, well-ventilated place to preserve color and keep the stems from molding.

Uses

Hang lavender blossoms upside down to dry them.

You can dry lavender easily by tying the cut stems in clumps to hang upside-down away from direct sunlight.

Fresh flowers may be used in sauces, marinades, and desserts. Handle fragile dried blossoms with care and use them in teas, salts, potpourri, sachets, and crafts.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

What is the secret to growing lavender?

Lavender needs full sun and good drainage. It is more likely to die from excess moisture than from cold in winter. A pot is an excellent way to provide drainage, though the plant will be more vulnerable to cold temperatures than it would be in the ground.

Can I grow lavender in a container?

Absolutely! If you live in a moist or humid region, a container may be the only way to give your plant adequate drainage and sufficient air circulation to prevent rot. While lavender thrives in the dry, arid climate of the Provence region of France and in sunny California gardens, it may turn brown from fungal infection as the result of too much moisture in regions with higher rainfall and humidity. A terra cotta pot filled with a quality potting mix is ideal. Also, lavender grows best at a slightly alkaline pH of 6.7 to 7.3. Most potting soils are slightly acidic, so you may wish to mix lime into the soil at the rate of 2 to 3 ounces per cubic foot of potting mix. Also, when fertilizing, opt for timed-release granules or a product providing the nitrate form of nitrogen.

I have never planted lavender before and need some information about its habits. How much is it likely to spread?

Lavender is a small shrub that usually grows 20 to 24 inches tall and wide. The height includes the flower stalks, so when not in bloom, the foliage may be only a foot tall. The plant does not spread as thyme, oregano, and other herbs tend to. Whether the plant will grow to its greatest potential size also depends on growing conditions.

I just purchased lavender. Can I use it in cooking?

Yes. It lends a delicate floral essence to both teas and desserts. In the latter, the flower are usually combined with a liquid ingredient in which their fragrant oil is released. Then the flowers themselves are strained from the cream, honey, or other carrier of the flavor.

My plants look great and are growing but not flowering. Any suggestions?

Lavender is a perennial herb in many areas – that is, perennial if it gets really good drainage. Growing in a pot is an ideal way to provide good drainage. However, if the potting mix is extremely fertile, the plant may grow leaves and stems rather than flowering. Cut back on your fertilizer, especially if it is high in nitrogen. You can try switching to a bloom-booster formulation, or simply stop feeding it for a few weeks.

What is the best way to keep lavender plants over the winter?

Lavender plants are a challenge to grow in areas of high rainfall, particularly in winter. Many gardeners in the Southeast consider lavender an annual. Be sure to plant lavender in a pot, raised bed, or atop a retaining wall. Given sufficient drainage, plants will be winter hardy in zone 5 and areas that are warmer. If grown in a pot, lavender will need some protection during winter in zone 5 and areas that are colder.

Can one lavender plant be split into several in the springtime?

No. Unlike herbs that spread into clumps with underground or above-ground stems, lavender is a woody shrub and does not form a clump.

47 Comments

Sharan

Hi are all the plants sold by you of the “potpourri” variety or do you have other varieties too or rather how do I know what variety did I get from the shop

Danielle Carroll

Hello Sharan,
Yes, that is the variety that is grown and sold. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Joe

Hi! I just got a lavender plant from a Lowe’s in Rome, Ga. Can you tell me what variety you ship there? Thanks!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Joe,
You are growing “Potpourri” lavender. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

vicki

I just purchased a Bonnie Plants lavender plant at the Home Depot in Columbia, South Carolina. What variety do I have? Thank you.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Vicki,
Great choice! You are growing Potpourri :) – danielle, Bonnie Plants

pearse

Hi
I bought an English Lavendar yesterday and I am Wondering whether it can be left in a pot outside for summer and bought it in for the cold, harsh winter of Iowa. since the winter is long and bitter cold here , i would like some greenery inside the house. will the lavender survive and grow this way. i have a south facing window of walls.
thanks in advance

Danielle Carroll

Hi Pearse,
English lavender is a wonderful choice for your area. Do you know what zone in Iowa you are in? English lavenders will overwinter in zone. You may find helpful this blog post from Martha Stewart on the wonderful Engish lavender. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

Josephine Genovese

I bought one of your plants at the home depot store. I’ve been looking for this plant for a long time. I want to use the flower for baking a cake when the flowers come out in the summer. Can’t wait to bake with it. Thank you,

Danielle Carroll

Hello Josephine,
Let us know how the cake turns out. Lavender flowers are often used in sauces and marinades, but cake sounds GOOD! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Elaine Schaeffer

I am planting lavender for the first time. I bought 3 potted lavender. There was also a big plant and not sure if they were different or just bigger. I live in Va and believe it may be to early to put out as it said wait until the last frost has pasted and that is usually May 15. I am keeping them inside for now at the window sill in the garage. I do receive your newsletters Thank you Elaine

Danielle Carroll

Hi Elaine,
I hope you enjoy your lavender plants – one of my favorites. If you have a concern that one of your plants you purchased is not a lavender plant, send a picture in to our Ask an Expert site for identification. Hope spring warms up quickly for you.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Angela

Hi,

I bought a pot of Bonnie Lavender yesterday and can’t decided should I plant it in the container or in our garden. I live in south part of Illinois, 30 miles north of St. Louis. We get cold and snow in the winter here. I thought I can move the Lavender inside in the winter if it’s in the container but my husband said it will be okay to plant it in the garden, is that right? Also, our front yard is very shady since we have a lot of trees around, we can get 3-4 hours of sun in the morning, is that ok for lavender? Thanks.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Angela,
Lavender grows well in Illinois. In fact, this is an article on lavender from your local extension system. Full sun is best which means at least 6 hours every day.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Hank

I planted a lavender bush about 4 weeks ago in a pot. It was doing well, then all of a sudden the tips of the leaves turned brownish yellow, became brittle and started to fall off. The leaves now crunch if I apply pressure and the plant just looks bad. I live in Tucson, AZ. The plant gets at least 8 hours of full sun and is in its own pot with rich soil. Do I need to add some sand for drainage? Am I maybe watering it too much? Any help is greatly appreciated!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Hank,
Lavender plants will grow well in a pot as long as the pot has plenty of drainage holes and a good potting mix (not potting soil). Check the potting mix in the container and make sure it is draining well. If it is not, you may place some styrofoam peanuts or large gravel in the bottom of the pot for better drainage. I would start with the soil first. Let me know what you find.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Gabi

I have three french lavender and I have them in separate garden beds. They have been clipped back a little this Autumn and are looking a little rocky. Two of them are developing yellow leaves at the base and I know that’s too much water. the third is ok and is in with the herbs. The weather is partly to blame, we have had a lot of rain in the last 2 years – summer and winter! Redoing the beds, what can I plant with them that will keep them happy? I note the Orange poppies above, Californian, are they annuals? I am looking at Alyssum, Crystal Palace Lobelia, very traditional plants; they will reseed themselves each year. I have a small rose “White Ensign”which I will move to the far side of one bed bed and possibly sink it in it’s own pot. Any suggestions will be gratefully received? So glad to find this site!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Gabi,
You are right, lavender does not tolerate really wet soils once the plants are established. The poppies in the picture are annuals (reseeding annuals). I do like the plants you have chosen. I am not sure what area you are in, so choose plants with like requirements: full sun and a well-draining soil. A lot of the herbs like lemon thyme fit this requirement and grow well together. I like rudbeckia too!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Pattie

I just bought a Lavender plant. It’s new home is in south central Oklahoma. It is hot and dry here. I am going to put it in a container and hope it does well.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Pattie,
I hope it does well also! Take a picture and post it on our facebook page when it starts growing well. We love to our plants in the your garden.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Joanne

Hello Kelly.

I forgot the variety of my lavender in the front of our house. The year I put it out I planted several varieties and can’t remember if I marked it or not but even if I did it’s probably gone by now (and it’s dark right now so I can’t go look). :o) Anyway, even though I live in zone 6 (a or b, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO) and we can get VERY frigid Winters (though the last two have been relatively mild) that plant is SO happy where I put it! It’s on a good size mound by the street, and composed of very loose soil and has excellent drainage. Even in our horribly humid Summers it doesn’t show any signs of stress… grows large, blooms well and comes back yearly. My problem is that even though I’d like to prune it back some (it’s probably 2 ft high and gets a bit leggy) I’ve read that Lavender should only be pruned back ‘lightly’ in the spring (and after blooming if desired). So will I never be able to prune it back by say 10 inches or a bit more? It really needs to bush out some and I know of no other way to achieve that but by pruning. But I DON’T want to hurt it since it’s SO happy there!

Thanks in advance for your advice.
Joanne

Danielle Carroll

Hi Joanne,

I’ll bet it’s beautiful…hard to beat the blooms of lavender. Your are correct on your pruning times…Spring and sometimes lightly after flowering. Lavender has been showcased in this article from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension which discusses growth requirements as well as pruning tips. Pruning will help reinvigorate the plant.

Happy Gardening,
Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Joanne

Thanks Danielle. I’ll look through it more thoroughly. My plant is so happy there I just don’t want to kill it off! :o)

Joanne

Zee

Hi,
I received a lavender plant about 2 months ago. About a week later it started growing what seems new light green thin leaves “stalks”- not sure of the lingo. A lot like a previous postr had stated. Now its leaves are turning purple and it looks sad and saggy. I live in Cincinnati, OH. What can I do to save it if it needs saving. Its such a beautiful plant. Oh yes its in a ceramic pot.
Thankyou,
Zee

Mary Beth

Hi Zee,
Make sure that ornamental pot has holes for drainage. Lavender does not like to sit in water or be overwatered. Also, it will need full sun. If you have it indoors in low indirect light, those new stems will stretch for the sun and be discolored from the ideal green/gray shade. Hope that helps. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Zee

Thankyou MaryBeth!
I moved it by a window and will be putting it in a bigger pot with bigger holes. Hopefully that works. :)

Zoey

Hi,

I have a Provence Lavender in a plastic pot in my apartment. Previously it was outside, but since the weather has gotten cold (I live in a slightly northern climate), I have taken it inside to avoid the frost. I have it in front of a south facing window, however, recently there has not been much light. Over the last two or three weeks it has started to grow rapidly, but the new growth is very thin and pale green, as opposed to the rest of the plant which is darker and more full. It almost seems as if the more full and greener part of the plant is actually stretching into this thin, pale form. Also, there is a little bit of brown starting to creep in at the bottom. I try not to water it too often – less than once a week, and my apartment is quite hot most of the time.

Please help!

Thank you :)

Mary Beth

Hi Zoey,

It sounds like your Lavender is starting to stretch due to the warmer temperatures in your house and lack of light. It is a plant’s natural response to try and find light, when it doesn’t get enough it will start to stretch to get to whatever it can. I would try to get it some light, as best as you can. If you could stick it outside during the day it will help. Lavender, when properly acclimated, will tolerate cooler weather. The cooler temperatures will help harden off the part that seems to be stretching.

Just pick off the leaves with the brown spots. The cooler temperatures will also help if there is any disease development. If they continue to appear please let us know and we will help you further. ~ Freeman at Bonnie Plants

Zoey

Dear Freeman,

Thank you very much for your response. I have started to put my lavender plant outdoors during the day, but I have noticed that now it is starting to get droopy. I also noticed that it is actually the stalks from the bottom of the plant as opposed to just some leaves that have started to turn burn and get hard. :( I put some craft sand along the top of the soil today in case one of the causes is poor drainage. I don’t water it very often though, maybe once a week at the most. I feel like my plant is definitely under a lot of stress, and I am hoping that it can still be saved.

Thank you very much for your help!

Lisa

I am using dried lavendar to make a wreath but over 2 nights wrapped in bubble wrap it is already going brown despite the actual bunches retaining their colour? Is there anything I can do please?

Mary Beth

Hi Lisa,
Let’s figure this out together. Have you dried the lavender in bundles and ensured it is completely dry before putting it bubble wrap? If there is any moisture left in the plant it will mold or brown when confined in plastic or non-aerated areas. Using wet stems to make your drying bundles will cause the flowers to brown, an online source confirms. The most important thing is to ensure it’s completely dry and to keep it out of direct sunlight, as the light and heat may also cause it to prematurely brown. I hope that helps. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Philip

Hi Kelly, Would you recommend against growing lavender in a desert area like Joshua Tree, CA.? I’m thinking of many lavender plants. Thanks…

Mary Beth

Hi Phillip,
As we mention in our article above, lavender grows so well in much of California that it’s considered the perfect plant in hot, arid highway islands. Lavender prefers climates that mirror the hot and dry Mediterranean, so I think you will have success with yours. This article from LA Times also speaks to lavender love in your regional area. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

hmon hmon

i want to plant lavender. But i am in warm weather. please help me .

Mary Beth

Lavender can be great in most gardens if you pick varieties that work with your soil and humidity. Use the step by step guide above to learn the growing conditions and how to plant, care for and use your lavender. If you have more specific questions, please email our localized Ask An Expert service and include your zip code.

diana zarate

I AM TRYING TO GROW LAVANDER , BUT I AM IN A COOL WEATHER DO YOU THINK IT WILL GROW THANK YOU

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Diana,

Lavender can grow well in a cool climate provided that it doesn’t get too much moisture. That’s the real kicker for lavender. It doesn’t like humidity or too-moist soil. Make sure you provide your lavender plant with great drainage and the sunniest possible spot, and it should be fine. Be sure to read all the tabs above for more info about growing and harvesting this lovely herb. Also, you might enjoy this blog post about growing lavender in Zone 4 from Martha Stewart. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Maddie,

While lavender will grow lovely and carefree as a perennial in arid climates, it’s prone to problems in humid climates such as the Southeast. If you’re in an area with rain and high humidity, this may be your problem. It’s possible to grow lavender well in pots, though, because you can provide just the right soil and drainage conditions for the plant. Read above in the “Soil, Planting, and Care” and “Troubleshooting” tabs for more specific planting and care info. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Renee

I’m growing french lavender in a terracotta container, it big enough I think, but the leaves have been turning yellow and dying toward the lower part of the plant. Is this normal ageing and should I just take the yellow leaves off? Or should I be concerned that it isn’t getting enough nutrition or sunlight? Thanks alot for any help. I’m very attached to this plant.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Renee,

Lavender can be tough to grow, especially in humid areas. It needs good drainage and good air circulation. Be sure you’re not overwatering, and allow the soil to dry before watering again. In heat and humidity, fungus can attack the plants, turning the leaves brown. This might be what you’re seeing. Try mulching with pebbles or sprinkling sand around the base of the plant for faster evaporation at the base. If you cut the blooms, trim in a way that thins the plant a bit, leaving it open for better air circulation. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

judi sicca

just purchased an english lavender plant,since it is the end of october and in central florida would it be best to transplant into a terra cotta pot and grow it indoors on a sun porch or plant outdoors.

Mary Beth

Hi Judi,
I think your lavender would be fine outside in Central Florida, unless you’d particularly like to have it in your sun porch. They love heat and great drainage. Sometimes a great trick is to mulch with those tiny pea gravel pebbles, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Lindsey O

Put sprigs in black hot coffee for a delicious subtle note.

Elaine B. Holtz

Hi There, I grow Provance Lavender in my backyard and when I harvest it make sachets. Can you advise me the best time to cut the lavender to assure a great fragrence.
Thank you for your help.

Kelly Smith

Hi Elaine,

Lavender is such a lovely and soothing scent! Cut the blooms when the individual buds are full and brightly colored but before they open. Tie up the stems and hang upside down in a cool, dry, dark place until the buds are dried. Then strip the blooms from the stems and use in your sachets. This is the method you’d also use to make Lavender and Rosemary Bath Salts.

Happy growing,
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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