Will Your Lavender Die in Winter? How To Keep It Alive
Of everything that we plant in our gardens when the weather turns warm, it’s hard to know what will come up next spring. After going through the effort to grow beautiful lavender, wouldn’t you want to make sure it lasts the winter?
As a perennial, lavender will survive winter only for temperatures that do not consistently fall well below freezing. Such temperature will very likely kill most of the strains depending on the hardiness of the lavender and age.
Mild winters in the Mediterranean or similar regions can easily support a perennial lavender. In short, lavender can die in the winter if it gets too cold. But how cold?
Will Your Lavender Survive This Winter?
There are countless varieties of lavender, each originating from a different climate. In general, chances are that you are growing one of these types of lavender:
- Impress Purple lavender and Spanish: they prefer warm to hot weather and would be unlikely to survive a northern winter outside;
- English: this is the most widely winter-worthy strains;
- Lavindins (an English/Portuguese cross): this can withstand harsh winters with a thick blanket of snow.
Depending on where you live and the lavender you grow, a winter outdoors could kill your plant.
What is the Temperature Tolerance of Lavender?
First, you need to identify the type of lavender you have in case you do not know. Check this article for the best free app you can use to easily identify herbs.
Then, check the guidelines below (from this university source); for more information, search your particular strain of lavender for its zone.
- Mediterranean types are severely damaged for temperature temperatures below -12C (10F);
- English lavenders will last in -23C (-9F) but can manage slightly lower temperatures with consistent snow cover;
- Lavandins can be a hardy choice, depending on the species. Grosso lavender, in particular, can withstand harsh winter weather and temperatures as low as -9C (15F).
Hence, here the good news.
Independently from the type, it is unlikely that your home will get cold enough to kill your lavender. This is common practice in cold climates— strains of Spanish lavender are less hardy than their counterparts and are best grown in a pot if you live anywhere else than a dry, mild, and warm region like the Mediterranean.
If you keep it outside, chances are that it might not survive the winter if you live in cold climates. In this case, the lavender will behave as an annual.
What Does Lavender Look Like in Winter?
As a woody plant, lavender loses its leaves and flowers in the winter, leaving only bare and sad looking stems.
Lavender Care For Winter Survival
Making your lavender survive the winter does not need to be complicated. You just need to follow two simple rules and stick to it.
Winter Damage: Here What to Do (and Extra Tip)
If your lavender has been severely damaged by low temperature, it will turn into a mass of dead woody stems and grey/black leaves. In this case, two steps are necessary:
- Cut: the woody part of the plants with those grey leaves can be removed. Cut from the bottom just a few inches above the soil;
- Inspect: when doing one, please be careful. Very likely, you might find some “hidden” green stems that, as covered by the tallest ones, might have survived. Those should not be cut;
Layering this technique is so interesting. Essentially you cover with an inch of soil the bottom part of a lavender stem(s). To make them go to the soil if they are upright, just use a weight (a stone usually suffice or anything you have around).
Your lavender stems will soon develop roots becoming independent lavender plants! What’s the deal?
Suppose that frost damaged 90+% of a lavender plant that remained with just a handful of stems. Rather than leaving that massive dead mother plant, it is way better to turn those stems in their own lavender plant so they can be detached from the dead lavender original plant that can be so removed. This means more space in your garden from more growth!
For guidance about when to prune your lavender plant, check the excellent video below
Does Lavender Come Back?
While this may give the appearance that the plant is dead, those bare stems are “dormant”. They will produce leaves and blooming each spring again with the proper pruning and care. Indoors, lavender may retain some of its leaves but is unlikely to continue flowering or grow very much during the winter season.
Here is my advice!
Make sure to not prune your lavender during the winter. Wait for spring.
Why? Because you might cut away stems that look dead from the outside, but that is just dormant when all parts of the plant look dead, it’s too difficult to know what to cut back. Just wait.
Place Indoor During Winter
If your lavender is outside and must be moved inside during the winter, it is best to dig up lavender in the late winter season, so you will have to plan ahead if aiming to pot your plant. Select a younger, smaller lavender plant and ensure that the root ball is 12 inches deep and the pot a couple inches wider than the root ball. Water lightly immediately after transferring.
Growing Lavender in a Pot
If your winters are harsh and too cold, here are some tips on growing lavender in a pot, inside and outside. Chemical fertilizers are not advised.
Place the pot wherever it will get the most sun and warmest temperatures, with Sun being the more important aspect. Don’t water your lavender often; once a week is plenty. While lavender is unlikely to grow very much inside, it will certainly survive until conditions allow for it to be moved outdoors again. For easiest maintenance, consider using a shorter strain of lavender if growing indoors.
Winter Care for Outdoor Lavender?
Although I am focused on growing herb indoors, it might be helpful for those of you having this magnificent herb outdoors.
So, if based on the previous guideline, you know that your lavender can last the winter outdoors (no frost and just a couple of days of snow or less) hence leave it there. However, some maintenance can greatly improve their flowering the following season.
How To Protect Lavender in Winter? Here a trick
To protect your lavender, cover it with the stems of evergreen boughs before the snow falls, providing insulation and shelter from the harsh conditions. Snow cover will stunt lavender growth during the winter season due to lack of sunlight, though this is still preferable to the plant dying altogether.
If possible, the full Sun is still important in the winter, so make sure your lavender is south facing in the northern hemisphere or north-facing in the southern. For more tips on how to winterize your lavender, watch the video below.
More On Lavender Care: Extra Tips
Lavender likes the heat and plenty of space and withers in rich soil with plenty of water. In other words, a wet and sometimes cold, nutrient-rich garden will not grow lavender successfully. You’d be better off filling a pot with old, dry soil and placing it inside by a window that gives full Sun. As a lavender gardener in humid or cold regions, remember ARID:
Give your lavender lots of space by planting seeds or starter plants 2-3 feet apart.
- Rich Soil
Acidic soil kills lavender, so make sure that your soil is ‘sweet’ by checking the pH level. Lavender grows best in mildly alkaline soil, with a pH of 7.
- Insulation (or) Inside
During the coldest months, pack snow around your lavender plant for insulation or move the plant inside.
Too much water in the air or earth can drown lavender; place rocks in the bottom of your pot or in the ground below your lavender plant to assist drainage.
Will Your Lavender Survive the Summer?
While winter can be too cold for lavender, heat is rarely a problem for lavender. However, high levels of humidity during warmer months can drown your lavender, which thrives in a dry climate. Make sure to keep your potted lavender in a dry space with plenty of sunlight.
If you live in a particularly humid climate with more than 15 inches of rainfall during the summer season, invest in more hardy strains of lavender and water your lavender sparingly.
Is Your Lavender Not Flowering?
A non-flowering lavender is a problem that affects many. Many are the causes. For some of them, you can help the plant, while in other cases, you need to wait. What to do then? Check the article below for more
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