If you have struggled to grow lavender or you are a new gardener and want the best tips for success, this is for you. I have answered common questions about growing conditions, plant choices, and suggested varieties for hardiness, flowers, scent, extracting oil, and more.
Lavender is one of many Herbs to Grow Outdoors.
Growing Lavender (Lavandula)
Before we dive into the answers to frequently asked questions about lavender, it is helpful to get an overview of lavender and some common species found in our gardens.
Lavender is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae) which includes sage, hyssop, thyme, oregano, and more.
The genus Lavandula has 45 species and over 450 named varieties or cultivars that grow as annuals, short-lived perennials, or (somewhat) hardy perennials.
We call it a herb but it is really a woody herb or sub-shrub.
Just a few species are hardy: the rest are annuals. I will show you which ones are recommended.
On a funny note, if you are someone like me who does not like the scent but loves the look of the plant, there are options. Some varieties have a strong scent, many are milder and can be unnoticeable.
And be sure to browse the questions and answers (below) for a good overview of what you need to know to successfully grow lavender.
We have a problem! Depending on where you are in the world there are different common names for the same Lavandula species. This makes for some comical and confusing misunderstandings in garden forums.
But because just a few species are popular in plant nurseries (listed below), it is worthwhile to learn the botanical names to avoid problems. And Lavandula angustifolia will soon roll off your tongue.
Here are a few to know.
True or Common lavender | Hardy (ish) zones 5 to 9
This species was previously known as Lavandula officinalis and Old English Lavender.
You may know it as English lavender: it’s the only one with some agreement on the common name.
It is the most popular hardy lavender species used in North American gardens.
Regionalized Common Names
- United States – English Lavender
- United Kingdom – English Lavender
- Australia – English lavender (same term also used for L. xintermedia)
- France – La lavande (French for ‘lavender’)
Some Popular Varieties
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’
- L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’
- L. angustifolia ‘Sweet Romance’ (Proven Winners)
Lavandin | Hardy (ish) zones 5 to 9
- These are hybrids of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia.
- You may hear them called ‘lavandin’ or by their variety or cultivar name.
Some Popular Varieties
- Lavandula xintermedia ‘Grosso’ is the variety most commonly used to produce lavender essential oils, soaps, and lotions.
- L. xintermedia ‘Provence’ is a favorite for its bud scent.
- L. xintermedia ‘Edelweiss’ has white flowers.
- L. xintermedia ‘Phenomenal’ tolerates harsh winters and humidity.
Annual or Tender Hardy Zones 7 to 10
- Can withstand some brief low temperatures.
- Does better with heat and humidity than L. angustifolia.
Regionalized Common Names
- United States – Spanish or topped lavender
- United Kingdom – French lavender
- Australia – Italian lavender
Frequently Asked QuestionsNEW! Click play to listen:
1What are some top growing tips for lavender?
First, be sure you are choosing a variety suited to your growing conditions both for plant hardiness and climate. Different regions with the same garden zone designation can have different amounts of rain or humidity. Lavender is not a fan of damp feet or humid air.
Lavender likes full sun and well-draining soil. A sandy-loam is best and unlike many other plants, they do not require fertilizer.
Besides death by extreme winter exposure, over-watering will also kill lavender . Because many lavenders have silvery-gray stems or foliage and become woody, gardeners can mistake this for drying out when it is actually normal for the plant. Step away from the hose: they are drought-tolerant plants.
The best-looking lavenders are carefully trimmed in their first few years of growth to remove flower stems after blooming and maintain a nice overall shape to the plant. There is more on this below.
2What is the best lavender for my garden?
When choosing lavender there are two main things to consider: which type you want to grow (hardy or annual) and what you want to grow it for.
aDo you want a hardy or annual variety?
The two popular hardy species are L. angustifolia and L. xintermedia with lots of varieties available.
- Many are listed as hardy down to zones 5 or 6.
- The hardiness can be hit and miss: some survive without issues, others get caught in a wet, deep freeze and die.
- To prevent this, you can place a well-draining mulch them over them from fall to spring for extra insulation.
Some tender lavenders are marketed as hardy but are not that cold tolerant. Double check before buying.
In the good news department, I’ve also noticed plenty of gardeners in colder zones (3-4) having success with some zone 5-6 varieties.
This could be due to microclimates within their gardens and/or some good hardy stock and winter protection.
So, don’t assume your colder climate excludes you from growing them: it may be possible.
Lavandula stoechas and L. dentata are annual species and will not survive cold climate winters.
However, some annual species are longer living than others and may be overwintered indoors or in a garage if temperatures do not dip below 40°F (4°C).
If you are in tropical zone, look for lavenders known to thrive in hot and/or humid conditions.
bWhat do you want it for?
Ornamental landscape plant
If growing lavender for the garden, there are lots of choices:
- Flower color | Light, medium, and dark in white, pink, blue, purples
- Foliage color | Light, medium, dark in grays, silver, and greens
- Size | Flower stems from 3 to 18 inches, overall plant size from dwarf sizes up to 3 feet tall and wide
- Blooms | timing and frequency: Once, twice, three times per season; from spring to late summer
Creating and Cooking with Lavender
It’s often assumed that you can just grow lavender for a season, enjoy the flowers, and then harvest the plant for creative projects.
But there is no one-variety-suits-all-purposes lavender. Each has different qualities and it’s best to choose what you’re growing based on what you most want from the plant.
Uses include fresh cut flowers, saving buds for fragrance and oils, making beauty products (salves, balms, lotions), cleaning products, cooking, flavoring—sweet or savory, or crafting.
Related: 12 Lavender Crafts and Recipes
Also, there is not one optimal harvesting time: the best time to harvest depends on what you are growing it for and could be any time during growing season.
A good book (see Resources below) with detailed descriptions can help decide what to grow.
3Can lavender survive the winter?
Yes, if you choose a hardy variety suited to your growing zone and climate and it does not experience unusual cold or icy conditions, it should survive.
Some exceptionally cold-tolerant zone-busting varieties include Lavandula angustifolia ‘Royal Velvet’ and ‘Buena Vista’.
4Can I grow lavender in containers?
Yes, and unlike some other plants, it is recommended that you start the plant in a full-size container.
Your plant tag will tell you how large (height and width) your lavender is expected to be.
Use a sterile commercial potting mix—growers recommend ‘a coarse, porous mix’, provide full sun, and water infrequently.
Hardy lavenders in pots can be overwintered in a garage. Ideally temperatures stay between 40 and 60 °F (4 to 15 °C).
I have read that long-living annual lavenders can be transitioned to life indoors for the winter. I have not been able to find first-hand success stories for this but it’s worth a try if your plant is healthy and willing.
Also see 14 – Can I Grow Lavender Indoors?
Recommended for Containers
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Superior’
- L. angustifolia ‘Dwarf Blue’
- L. angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’
- L. angustifolia ‘Blue River’
5When does lavender bloom?
Bloom time depends on the variety and your growing conditions—particularly sun and warmth.
- Some lavender blooms once a season for 3-6 weeks.
- A few are continuous bloomers.
- Others can bloom twice and even three times if the finished flowers and stems are removed promptly.
- L angustifolia ‘Royal Purple’ (light purple flowers) and ”Folgate’ (blue flowers)
Late Summer Bloomers
- L. xintermedia ‘Fred Boutin’ or ‘Fragrant Memories’
Continuous All-Season Bloomers
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Sharon Roberts’
- L. angustifolia ‘French Fields’
- L. angustifolia ‘Buena Vista’
- L. angustifolia ‘Purple Bouquet’
6What are some blue varieties of lavender?
My favorites! Here are two blue ones:
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Betty’s Blue’ and ‘Blue Cushion’.
7Which lavenders are best for hedges?
For a nice, full hedge look for varieties that grow at least 3 feet tall and wide.
A popular choice is Lavandula xintermedia ‘Grosso’. This is a strong-scented lavender with the highest oil content of all the lavenders.
In one of the videos in the playlist (below) you can see Laura from Garden Answer plant L. Angustifolia ‘Sweet Romance’ by Proven Winners as a hedge.
Before investing in a whole bunch of plants for a hedge, I would try some out for 2-3 years to see how they do in your garden first.
8Is there a lavender that tolerates high humidity?
Yes, these three are known to be more humidity-tolerant than others:
- Lavandula xchaytorae ‘Ana Luisa’ and ‘Kathleen Elizabeth’
- L. intermedia ‘Grosso’
9My lavender is getting woody. Is something wrong?
Lavender is an odd plant: it has a woody base like a shrub and an herbaceous top. If you’re not used to this, it can look like the plant is dying or drying out when it’s really just growing normally.
As I researched this article I noticed many professional growers speak of the importance of trimming lavenders after flowering, particularly in the first 2-3 years to avoid growing a gangly, woody plant.
By this they mean using clean and disinfected snippers to remove the stems of flowers that have finished blooming without snipping down in the woody zone. The goal is to leave enough greenery to achieve a nice, rounded shape.
If your lavender is several years old and really leggy or woody without much else going on—assuming it’s not lacking sun or sitting in soggy soil—it might be worth cutting it back or hilling it (see below) in case that gives it a new life. At this point you may have nothing to lose.
10Do I need to prune my lavender?
I would not call it pruning, which we think of as branch removal, but there are instances where it is advised to deadhead (remove finished flowers and their stems) or lightly trim your lavender as described in the previous answer.
That said, some gardeners never trim their lavender and report it looks fine year after year. It’s going to depend on your specific plant. Your plant tag should have instructions.
See the videos below for footage of lavender being trimmed and/or harvested for various uses.
11How quickly does lavender grow?
In general, Lavender can double in size each year for first three years and continues growing at a slower pace until age five. They are considered full-grown after three years.
Some gardeners find their lavender lifespan tends to max out at five years, others continue growing the same plants for much longer. I would assume plant genetics and growing conditions all play a role.
12Why is my lavender turning yellow?
Two common reasons:
1) Overwatering or insufficient drainage. Does water freely flow away from the plant roots?
2) Too little or too much nitrogen. Lavender does not need fertilizer. Are you fertilizing nearby and the lavender is getting the run-off or is the soil itself is too rich?
Or, on the flip side, is the soil really low in nutrients (e.g. super sandy)?
13My lavender does not look like the picture. What is wrong with it?
Perhaps the plant was mislabelled or it was grown from seed?
There are two main ways to breed lavender plants: by seed and by cuttings.
Seeds usually create a new hybrid, different from the parent plant. It can still be a lovely, productive plant but it will not be as expected.
Cuttings are reliable because they are vegetative clones, essentially growing a new part of/from the parent.
If you are interested in growing true species, I would buy plants from a reputable lavender breeder instead of using seeds.
14Can I grow lavender indoors?
I don’t know. I’ve tried it and failed. I’ve seen others say it is possible under grow lights but I haven’t seen any first-hand success stories myself. This is why lavender is not on my list of Herbs to Grow Indoors.
I assume they can grow successfully in some greenhouse conditions.
I have overwintered a Lavandula stoechas—a long-living annual variety—in my house for the winter by cutting back on water and light letting it go nearly dormant for a few months. But that’s different than growing indoors in hopes of flower production.
If you manage to do this, let me know.
15Does lavender attract pollinators?
Lavender attracts a number of beneficial insects including ladybugs, butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and praying mantis.
16Will deer eat lavender?
By most accounts, deer and rabbit will not eat lavender unless it’s the only thing on the menu. Numerous critters do not seem to enjoy the scent.
17How do you propagate lavender?
There are a few ways to grow new lavender: from seed, plant cuttings, and layering.
We cannot divide lavender plants because they are shrubs growing from a single stem and root system unlike other non-woody plants.
As mentioned, growing from seed is okay if you don’t mind how long it takes (months) and what you get. Because lavender cross-pollinates, the seeds, if viable (and not sterile) will likely provide hybridized plants not true to the parent.
Related: Seed Starting for Beginners
So, does that matter? It’s up to you. If you still get plants you love, it’s fine.
Keep in mind that lavender seeds are short-lived, often viable for just a year. Store seeds in fridge and chill at 4°C (40°F) for four weeks before germinating. Lavender is prone to damping off disease so aim for a low-humidity growing environment to help prevent it.
The faster way to propagate lavender is to take cuttings and root them.
This can be done as softwood (semi-ripe) cuttings in early to mid-summer or hardwood cuttings in early spring or (best) in fall.
Ultimately, hardwood cuttings are slower growing than semi-ripe but more reliable in the long run in part because a period of vernalization (hardening off for at least 6 weeks in winter) toughens them up.
Layering and Hilling
Layering is a method where you keep the plant in place in the garden and pin some stems to the ground where they will gradually form roots at the contact points. You may notice that some plants like raspberries do this naturally.
If the stems do not bend right to the ground, you can also do layering with flower pots, pinning the stem to a container of moistened potting mix. Mulch the container for the winter to prevent weather damage.
It can take up to a year but when new buds appear from the target area, the stem can be clipped from the parent.
Hilling encourages lavender to spread and become bushier. Soil is mounded over the lavender so only new buds are exposed.
After a year or so new roots and shoots have established. Each set can be separated and grown as new plants or you can reduce the soil mound and grow one big plant.
These are some of my favorite books on plant propagation. They have photo tutorials for growing plants from a variety of methods. Once you know the basics, it’s super fun and addictive.
Grow Your Own Garden by Carol Klein was the first one I bought and still the one I refer to most.
18Watch Lavender TV
- The Lavender Lover’s Handbook by Sarah Berringer Bader
- Lavender: The Grower’s Guide by Virginia McNaughton
This is an older book often mentioned by growers:
- The Genus Lavandula by Susyn Andrews and Tim Upson (2004)
There are also lavender grower’s associations that offer memberships and conferences.
I hope this has given you a better understanding of lavender and the confidence to grow your own.
If you have found any errors or have tips to suggest, you are welcome to email me.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛