The best pot size for lavender will depend on several factors. But getting it right at all stages of growth really can make a big difference.
Softwood or hardwood lavender cuttings can be placed into any small pot to root. But as soon as young plants are established they need to be moved to a larger, ideally terracotta pot, 14 inches wide or more for larger varieties like the English Lavender.
These are plastic planters, true. Indeed, given the size and especially if designed for indoor, plastic planters are safer and easy to move around. Hence, even plastic is totally fine, until you do not overwater the plants. However, if you have at home an old terracotta pot, then go for it.
Best Planter For Lavender
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A very good planter, quality price-wise and decently looking, is the Honeysuckle (blue especially is my favorite)
If you are looking for something more elegant and stylish and for indoor (be sure to be close to a large window south oriented) the one below is a very good choice. It is slightly price but for indoor probably is a good investment. This also comes with an excellent drainage system at the bottom.
Let’s understand why these sizes and why are they best for your lavender.
Why Container Size Matters for Lavender Plants
Most gardeners will not grow lavender from seed. Why? This can be tricky since the seed is slow to germinate and germination can be patchy.
The best way to start lavender is through cuttings, or a process of bending stems down to the ground to let them re-root, called ‘layering’.
Softwood or semi-ripe cuttings can be taken from existing plants in early or mid-summer. You can also take hardwood cuttings from mature plants after the main early autumn pruning.
If you are trying to establish lavender cuttings in pots, you can root these around the edges of any small pot or container. Pot size is not particularly important at this stage. Even the small pots you see at the supermarket for herbs (or even a plastic glass) will be just fine at this initial stage. Moisture is more important.
Cuttings will require moisture to root well – which is why plastic bags are usually used to cover pots. But the growing medium must not become over-saturated. Root rot is lavender’s number one enemy. This is more likely to take hold when there is too much water in pots, or where water can’t drain away effectively. This is true throughout all stages of its growth.
Of course, you can also simply buy lavender plants in a range of different sizes and stages of growth. Whether you buy ready grown plants or are potting up cuttings that have rooted, there are a few important things to think about when it comes to pot size, including:
- The size of the specimen in question.
- The variety you are growing (and eventual size expectation).
- Practicalities, including where your lavender will be located.
I suggested a 14 inches pot for your lavender. Of course, lavender as any plant does not have a “favorite size” we know that. This is a good rule of thumb in gardening that if you do not make mistakes with the type of soil and watering, will guarantee the best results most of the time.
However, if we want to be a bit geekier, I have to say that what dictates the plant growth is the root system. The larger the root system the larger volume of soil the lavender plant has available from which it can extract water and nutrients boosting even more branches and leaves.
In this case, if you want to be more specific with the planter size, you should choose a container or pot that provides around 1-2 inches of space around all sides of the roots of the specimen in question. That’s why a small lavender plant a few inches tall with a root system that is around 3-4 inches deep and wide, a 2-liter pot (with around 5-6.5 inch diameter and 5-inch depth) should be sufficient.
Lavender has a deep and expansive root system to collect the largest possible amount of water when growing among rock cracks in the hot Mediterranean weather. These are the conditions where the plant evolved. That’s why lavender grown in pots can easily over water.
This 1-inch space gives the lavender only a limited space to grow and this is good. The layer of the potting medium around the edges of the root system will also help to stop the container from drying out entirely or baking in hot weather (when the sun hits directly the planter), which will make it difficult for roots to ‘breathe’. In winter, the extra growing medium can also help to insulate plant roots and protect them from frost. This is especially important when more tender varieties are grown.
When growing lavender in pots, and trying to determine the best pot size, it is also important to think about which variety of lavender it is.
The most commonly grown types are generally divided into two groups:
- English lavender (and its hybrids, Lavandula x intermedia and Lavandula angustifolia) &
- Tender French & Spanish lavenders (Lavandula stoechas, Lavandula latifolia etc..)
English lavenders are generally hardier, important if you are growing in containers outdoors and the easiest to grow indoors. They tend to get quite large, up to 36 inches in height and width. For English lavender, 22-24 inches pot is ideal if you want to promote its full growth.
For example, ‘Munstead‘, and ‘Jean Davis’ are smaller varieties with correspondingly smaller root systems and so a smaller pot. They grow to around 18 inches tall. ‘Hidcote‘, another popular variety, grows to around 24 inches tall. While hybrids are generally taller, at around 30 inches in height.
The height of the plant will also influence the size of the root system. Taller plants tend to have more extensive root systems to support them. Hence, if you are lucky enough to have a 30-inch tall lavender plant, be generous with the pot size. 14 inches, in this case, can indeed be a bit tight.
For tall lavenders, another thing to think about is pot stability. The pots must not only be deep and wide enough but also stable enough to stay upright. This is indeed a serious problem for tall plants that tend to fall under the wind and not only spill all the soil out but break the planter (if in terracotta).
In addition to thinking about the needs of the lavender plant you are choosing, it is also a good idea to consider practicalities when choosing which pot size is best. Above a certain size, pots can become too heavy or unwieldy to move easily.
Indeed, despite a terracotta pot being ideal for a lavender plant to allow better root breathing, this is generally not the most practical option due to the weight of the planter.
If you have a large lavender plant that has become too big for its container but doesn’t want to go any bigger, you may have to consider taking cuttings from that plant and starting fresh with smaller containers. This is especially true if you are growing tender varieties that need to be moved indoors and outdoors with different seasons.
As mentioned above, lavender does best when it is given a little but not too much space to grow. Over time, smaller plants’ root systems will grow to fill the pots. Since lavender likes dry conditions, and won’t mind lower fertility, being a little squeezed within a container can be good for it.
If lavender roots start popping out of the drainage holes at the bottom of your container, or if, when you gently lift the plant out of the pot, the roots look cramped, it is time to repot. As long as it is still practicable to move it or to position it, you can keep on moving lavender to larger containers as it grows. This is best done in spring to reduce transplant shock.
Planters can be too large for a lavender plant. This is because larger volumes of soil can hold way more water than the plant can absorb, causing water logging even if the soil is just slightly moist at the touch.
How is this possible? Let’s see a simple example
Imagine you place your tiny 4 inches tall lavender in a 25 inches pot. Then, when you water it once a week. You drop half a liter of water into it. The soil might still feel just moist at a touch, however, the amount of water is way larger than what the small lavender plant with its few centimeters root system can tolerate. Indeed, the lavender is not able to absorb all that water and its roots will be constantly in contact with moist soil. This is the ideal condition for the development of root rot and death of the plants.
So rather than choosing a pot size to match the ultimate size of a lavender plant – it is best to pot up lavender plants as they grow. It might be tempting to simply transplant young plants in containers large enough to accommodate their eventual size. But this can cause problems and make it more difficult for your lavender plant to thrive.
It is also worthwhile thinking about the fact that small plants in large containers will leave bare areas around them. While soil covers can help, leaving bare areas in pots can also cause a range of problems. Water will be lost more quickly and the surface can harden off and compact. You may also be more likely to encounter weeds popping up around your plants if outdoor.
One thing to think about, however, is that lavender does not necessarily have to be grown alone. You could choose a larger pot for your lavender right away if you choose to include it in a mixed planter alongside other plants that like similar conditions.
Some examples of plants that grow well in containers with lavender include hyssop, oregano, marjoram, and thyme.
As well as thinking about the best pot size, it is also a good idea to think about the best pot material. Plastic is lightweight but can retain more moisture. Metal pots are great for heat retention – but can overheat easily.
Ceramic and terracotta pots are ideal for lavender. They allow root systems to ‘breathe’ and allow pots to dry out a little more quickly, while also helping keep plants warm in winter. So I would recommend using them if you already have them around. If not, a plastic planter will be just fine. In this case, water less frequently and wait for the soil to be dry before watering again.
Of course, good drainage is also key. Make sure that water can flow out and away at the base. And don’t let your plants sit in trays of water.
Here my two favorite plastic planters
Here the four takeaways on choosing the best planter for your lavender
- A terracotta planter of 14 inches large is a good choice for lavender in most the situations
- Plastic planter is the best compromise if a terracotta pot is no available and safety and weight are a concern
- A small pot is not a problem for very young plants
- Lavender needs a pot that is large enough to allow a little growth but not too big.
- A too-large pot compared to the plant size can easily cause root rot.
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