Your potted lavender is likely dying for the following reasons:
- The incorrect kind of container was used to plant the lavender. In order to prevent root rot, lavender plants need to be planted in pots with drainage holes that are 16 inches across.
- The lavender’s roots decay because the soil mixture does not drain adequately. In order to balance nutrients and enhance soil drainage, lavender soil needs to be modified with sand or gravel.
- overwatering lavender plants in pots. Since they can withstand drought, established lavender only needs watering every two weeks. Too much water might kill the lavender plant by causing root rot.
- There isn’t enough light reaching the lavender. Lavenders thrive in direct sunlight and perish in shadow. Place your pot in your garden’s most sunny area.
- incorrect lavender for your region. While certain lavender species can withstand low temperatures, others will wither and die. Additionally, roots in pots are less protected from the cold and dry out more quickly in the summer.
Read on to learn the precise cause of your container or potted lavender’s demise and what you can do to fix it.
Table of Contents
1. The Wrong Pot for Growing Lavender
Lavender plants that are in pots frequently die because they are placed in the wrong pot, in my opinion.
Lavender should be grown in containers that are at least 16 inches across and have drainage holes in the bottom. If the lavender pot’s base doesn’t have drainage holes, water will just accumulate there and soak the soil.
(For further details, see Which is the ideal pot for lavenders? in my article.)
Lavenders are tolerant of dehydration and have evolved to survive in arid, sandy soil that does not retain much rainwater.
The roots will rot and the plant will die if the extra water cannot drain from the pot.
The lavender plant will likely look to be drooping and its leaf will likely start to turn brown as the first signs of stress in this condition. One of the few diseases to which lavender is particularly prone is the fungal disease root rot, which is brought on by an abundance of water.
The only way to fix this is to move the lavender right away into a fresh container with drainage holes in the bottom. After two weeks, your lavender may start to show symptoms of recovery, depending on how long the roots have been in the soggy soil.
If the lavender does start to recover, water it once every two weeks and make sure it doesn’t get any extra moisture from rain.
Sometimes I see a lavender plant in a pot or container with a drip tray underneath that is either indoors or on a patio. This will have the same effect as a pot without drainage holes at the bottom, causing the plant to decay to the point of death.
If the plant is indoors and you’re attempting to stop the water from dripping over the window sill, I’d suggest moving the pot while it’s being watered or temporarily placing a paper towel under the pot.
2. The Wrong Soil Mix for Pots
Sandy, alkaline, well-draining soil with low to medium fertility is excellent for lavender growth.
You must mix a soil mixture for your pot that accurately represents the soil conditions of lavender’s original environment if you want to make sure your lavender plants are healthy, bear lots of flowers, and have a strong aroma.
- The soil mixture’s slow drainage is by far its most prevalent issue. Fast-draining soil is necessary for lavender plants so that their roots can dry out in between waterings. Without adding sand or gravel, rich organic soil will retain too much moisture, which leads to root rot. If the plant is not transferred into well-draining soil, the foliage will turn dark and droop, and it will eventually die.
- In their native Mediterranean region, lavenders have adapted to sandy or gravelly soils with low to medium nutrition levels. The plant will produce more foliage and fewer blooms if you feed it or plant lavender in high fertility soils. The lavender foliage will turn yellow and become leggy when fertilized with nitrogen-based fertilizers.
- Although lavenders may thrive in soil with a pH anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5, they prefer a slightly alkaline soil. The lavender will probably perish or not live very long in very acidic soil (below than pH 6.5).
The advantage of growing lavender in pots over having to modify your garden soil for the plant is that you have complete control over the soil you use.
Fortunately, there is a fairly simple fix for lavender plants in pots that die from using the incorrect soil.
- Remove the lavender from the problematic soil and throw it away.
- Replant the lavender in soil that contains 70% organic compost or pre-purchased potting soil and at least 30% sand (or gravel).
- Before planting, stir in a tablespoon of agricultural lime (which can be purchased from any reputable gardening supply store), which will raise the pH of the soil from acidic to alkaline.
The addition of sand or gravel will significantly enhance the soil’s structure, allowing water to drain more efficiently and giving the roots time to dry out after watering, reducing the likelihood of root rot.
Also low in nutrients, the minerals will balance out the organic compost and reproduce the soil conditions that lavender prefers—low to medium fertility—where it thrives in nations like France, Italy, and Spain.
I have an article explaining how to establish the ideal soil conditions for growing lavenders in pots because the soil mix is one of the most crucial components to get right when it comes to producing lavenders in pots and containers.
3. Watering Potted Lavender too Frequently
During the growing season, established potted lavender plants only need to be watered once every two weeks (spring and summer).
If left outside during the winter, lavender won’t require any watering at all; however, indoor lavenders or lavenders brought indoors during the winter to avoid the cold only require watering once every 4 to 6 weeks.
(Read my article on how to care for lavender plants in pots over the winter for more information.)
Lavender in a pot or other container that receives excessive watering is likely to die from root rot. It can be confusing to water potted lavenders because the stress symptoms of an overwatered lavender may initially resemble those of an underwatered plant. Avoid making this error!
The issue will be that the lavender is overwatered if the foliage is beginning to turn brown and the stems are appearing to droop.
Lavenders are drought-resistant plants that thrive in harsh, arid environments with intense sunlight; therefore, unless the plant is kept indoors and hasn’t received water for months, it is rare that it gets underwatered.
Reduce the watering to once every two weeks and provide shelter for the lavender if it is displaying the signs of stress associated with an overwatered plant. It may then recover.
Along with making sure the lavender is planted in a container with drainage holes in the base and well-draining soil that has been improved with sand or gravel, this should be done.
The best way to water lavender in pots is to wet it first and then let it dry completely. This method results in water trickling out the bottom of the container (which is also a sign that the soil is well draining).
If there has been a lot of rain in the two weeks since you last watered, you can wait a few days before watering your outside potted lavender until the soil feels dry to the tip of your finger before you water it again.
It should be noted that watering newly planted lavender differs from watering lavender that has already grown. For information on when to water lavenders at different stages of growth, read my guide on watering lavenders in pots.
4. Not Enough SunLight
Lavenders thrive in full sun and won’t last very long in the shadow, but they do produce the most flowers and have the greatest smells when they do. Lavenders will benefit from as much sun as possible, even during their winter hibernation.
The smell will be stronger and the plant will produce more blooms as they get more sun. A location with at least 6 hours of sun each day (morning sun is best, but more is desirable) is ideal for your potted lavender.
Moving the pot as soon as possible to the sunniest part of your garden or patio can help the lavender grow better, create more flowers, and make more oil the following season. Lavenders that receive too much shade will show poor growth, have fewer flowers, and produce less oil.
5. Wrong Potted Lavender for your Climate
The most resilient cultivars of English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) include Munstead and Hidcote, which can withstand frosts and winter temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C) and are classified hardy up to USDA zone 4.
While lavender varieties from Spain and France are not cold tolerant and will perish in freezing temperatures and winter frosts.
Because French and Spanish lavenders are only hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7-9, they cannot be grown outdoors in many temperate climates in pots.
So examine the species of your lavender type to see if it is cold hardy if it appears to be in distress and the weather is chilly.
It should be noted that the effects of extreme heat and cold can be more pronounced for potted lavenders because pots leave lavender roots more exposed to the cold with less insulation and more susceptible to the drying effects of heat as the pot can heat up in blazing sunshine. For this reason, it is important to plant lavender in a pot that is 16 inches across so that it can contain more soil to protect the lavender.
English lavenders are the ideal choice if you live in a colder area that endures frosts because they produce an abundance of flowers, have the best smell, and can last up to 15 years with proper care.
The most adaptable species is English lavender, which can withstand both cold and drought-like circumstances.
If you’re ready to bring the pots inside as soon as the temperature begins to fall before winter, you can grow French and Spanish lavenders in cooler climes.
For additional information, please see my post on the precise procedures for caring for potted lavenders in winter, which covers French, Spanish, and English lavenders.
- The wrong kind of pot is frequently the cause of dying lavender plants in containers. If the container doesn’t have drainage holes at the bottom, it will overflow with water, which will cause the lavender to get root rot. The soil will get too wet for the roots of the lavender plant if drip trays are placed underneath the container to collect extra water.
- Just as crucial as choosing the appropriate kind of pot is the soil composition. Sand or gravel must be added to the potting mix to improve the soil’s ability to drain well and hold little water. Lavenders are evolved to withstand dryness and thrive on dry, sandy soils with medium to low nitrogen levels. The lavender plant will become leggy and produce fewer flowers if the soil is overly fertile and the foliage will turn yellow. For the best soil structure and level of nutrients, the soil should be around 30% sand or gravel to 70% organic soil.
- Although established lavender should only receive water once every two weeks during the growing season and not at all during the winter, potted lavender outdoors does benefit from the favorable drainage conditions provided by pots. If you water your lavender plant too often, the leaves may turn brown and the stems will appear to be drooping. The plant might recover if the watering schedule is reduced to once every two weeks.
- For the best results in terms of smells and blossoms, lavender pots and containers should be in full sun. Move your pot to the sunniest area of your garden or patio because lavenders do not thrive in the shade.
- While French and Spanish lavenders are only cold hardy in USDA zones 7-9 and will freeze to death in the winter, English lavenders are cold hardy and can withstand frosts. In order to protect French and Spanish lavender plants during the winter, bring them indoors. Alternatively, exclusively grow English lavender cultivars like Munstead and Hidcote, which are drought- and cold-tolerant and yield the best scents and show-stopping blooms.
Is it okay to have pots without drainage?
Without drainage holes, plants in containers are more likely to become overwatered. The soil at the bottom of the pot may be drenched with water even if the soil surface appears to be dry. Root rot, a hazardous condition that can quickly kill your plants, can be caused by waterlogged soil.
What can I use at the bottom of a pot for drainage?
Use a layer of plastic bottles at the bottom of large planting containers to help fill them up with soil. The tops should still be on the bottles, which should be empty but not crushed. Both water bottles and half-gallon jugs are acceptable.