July 7, 2024 lavender care secrets

Lavender Care: Secrets to Keeping Your Plants Healthy

Keeping your lavender healthy and thriving requires a bit more know how than just planting and hoping for the best.

In this extensive guide I’ll give you some useful tips and information for nurturing your lavender plants so they thrive and continue to bring beauty to your garden year after year.

Varieties of Lavender

Not all lavenders are created equal and the variety you choose or have can significantly impact on its care and your success:

  • English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Known for its sweet fragrance, this type is highly tolerant of the cold which makes it good for cooler climates.
  • French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) This variety boasts distinctive petals on top of each flower spike and prefers milder climates.
  • Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): Recognizable by its unique “rabbit ear” petals. It’s a real showstopper in the garden.
  • Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) A hybrid between English and spike lavender. It offers a more robust fragrance and larger blooms, perfect for making essential oils.

Choosing the right type based on your climate and the specific qualities you want from your lavender is the first step success.

Preparing the Soil

Lavender loves well drained soil. Think Mediterranean: sandy, slightly alkaline, and not too rich. Here’s how to get your soil ready:

  • Drainage: If your soil is heavy try adding sand or gravel to improve drainage.
  • pH Level: Aim for a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. You can add lime to raise the pH if needed.
  • Soil Composition: Mix in some organic matter but don’t overdo it. Lavender doesn’t need overly rich soil.

Planting Lavender: Location, Timing, and Technique

Where and how you plant lavender can make a world of difference. Here’s how to get it right:

Choosing the Right Spot

Lavender thrives in full sun and well drained soil. Pick a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.

If your soil retains water or feels heavy then try raising your beds or adding gravel to improve drainage.

Planting Time

The best time to plant lavender is early spring or late fall. This timing allows the plants to establish themselves during milder weather and avoid the stress of peak summer heat or winter cold.

Planting Technique

Space plants about 18 to 24 inches apart so they get enough airflow, which is crucial for preventing moisture related diseases. Dig a hole just deep enough to accommodate the root ball, set the plant in gently and cover with soil. Avoid burying the plant too deep to prevent stem rot.

tending to lavender

Nurturing Your Lavender: Water, Mulch, and Fertilization

Lavender is fairly low maintenance once established. But getting the fundamentals of watering, mulching and fertilizing right is key for healthy and vibrant plants. And we all know that proper care doesn’t end simply after planting. So follow these tips to keep your lavender in top condition:


Lavender is drought-tolerant once established. But young plants need consistent watering.

During the first growing season water your plants deeply but infrequently – about once a week (more during extended dry spells). Once mature lavender typically requires water only during prolonged droughts.

  • New Plants: Water regularly during the first growing season. Aim for about once a week or when the top inch of soil feels dry.
  • Established Plants: Reduce watering. Lavender prefers dry conditions so water only during prolonged dry spells.
  • Overwatering: Avoid it at all costs. Too much water can lead to root rot which is a common killer of lavender plants.

Early Care

In the first growing season your lavender plants will need more attention. Water them once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions – more frequently during hot, dry periods and less so if you’re experiencing a lot of rain. The soil should dry out between waterings to prevent moisture related issues.

caring for a lavender plant

Mature Plant Care

Once your lavender is established it requires much less water. They thrive in dry conditions. During the peak of summer deep watering every two to three weeks may be sufficient unless there are extreme drought conditions. Always check the top few inches of soil; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.


Mulch helps retain soil moisture and keeps roots cool. Use organic materials like chopped leaves or bark. However be sure to keep mulch away from the plant’s base to prevent excess moisture and potential fungal issues.

Choosing the Right Mulch

I would look for organic mulches such as fine bark or gravel. These materials allow for excellent drainage while still providing the benefits of mulching. Gravel, in particular, reflects heat up to the plant which copies the lavender’s native Mediterranean environment.

Application Tips

Apply mulch around the base of your plants leaving a small gap around the stems to prevent moisture buildup directly against the plant as this could cause rot. A layer about two inches thick is ideal. Refresh the mulch annually to maintain its benefits and keep your garden looking neat.


Lavender generally does not require heavy fertilization, nor does it require a lot of supplemental nutrients if planted in well draining soil with moderate fertility. Over-fertilizing can lead to excess foliage with poor flowering. If your soil is particularly poor then consider a light application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring.

When to Fertilize

The best time to fertilize lavender is in the early spring as the plants start to show new growth. This gives them a boost at the beginning of the growing season. Avoid fertilizing late in the year as this can lead to tender new growth that will suffer in winter.

Choosing Fertilizers

If you decide to fertilize, choose a balanced, organic fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (look for a NPK ratio like 10-10-10). Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions but at half the recommended strength. This is sufficient to give your plants a boost without overwhelming them.

Alternative Nutrition Options

Composting is another excellent way to enrich the soil around your lavender. Compost provides a slow release of nutrients which is ideal for lavender. It also improves soil structure, enhancing drainage and aeration. A thin layer of compost applied in the spring can be all the fertilization your lavender needs.

looking after a lavender bush


Pruning is essential for maintaining a healthy lavender plant:

When to Prune

The best time to prune lavender is after it has flowered, typically late summer. This timing helps prepare the plant for winter and encourages robust growth in spring.

  • Spring: Trim back about one third of the plant to encourage bushy growth.
  • Summer: After flowering cut back the spent blooms and tidy up the plant.
  • How to Prune

    Use clean, sharp shears and cut back about a third of the plant’s current year’s growth. This helps maintain the plant’s shape and promotes dense, bushy growth.

    1. Use sharp, clean shears to make clean cuts.
    2. Avoid cutting into the woody part of the plant. Stick to the green, leafy sections.
    3. Shape the plant into a mounded form to prevent it from becoming leggy.

    caring for lavender in a pot

    Troubleshooting Common Problems

    Even with perfect care, issues can arise. Here’s how to tackle common problems:

    Pest Intrusions

    Aphids and whiteflies can target lavender. Combat these pests by using a gentle insecticidal soap or neem oil, applying it in the early morning or late evening to avoid sunburn on your plants.


    Root rot and fungal diseases are common if lavender is overwatered or planted in poorly draining soil. Make sure your lavender had good drainage and airflow, and cut back any affected areas quickly to prevent spread.

    Environmental Challenges

    Frost can damage young lavender plants. If a sudden cold snap is forecast cover your plants with a breathable fabric overnight to protect them.

    Harvesting Lavender

    One of the joys of growing lavender is harvesting its fragrant blooms. Here’s how to do it right:

    When to Harvest

    The best time to harvest lavender is when the buds are just opening but before they are fully open. This is when the oils are most concentrated.

    How to Harvest

    1. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut the stems.
    2. Cut above the leaves, leaving a few inches of stem.
    3. Gather the cut stems into small bunches and hang them upside down in a dark, dry place to dry.

    Lavender Care Year-Round

    Keeping your lavender healthy throughout the year involves some seasonal care. Here’s what to do in each season:


    • Prune back about one-third of the plant to encourage new growth.
    • Apply a light layer of compost or a balanced fertilizer.
    • Check for any signs of pests or disease and treat accordingly.


    • Water regularly but sparingly, especially during dry spells.
    • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms.
    • Harvest lavender when the buds are just opening.


    • Reduce watering as the weather cools.
    • Prune lightly to tidy up the plants.
    • Check for any signs of root rot or fungal infections.


    • In colder climates, protect your lavender with a layer of mulch.
    • If you’re in a very cold region, consider growing lavender in pots that can be moved indoors.
    • Avoid heavy pruning during this time.

    Using Lavender

    Lavender is incredibly versatile. And once it’s thriving it’s not just a garden showpiece. These are some popular ways to use your harvested lavender:

    • Culinary: Add dried buds to baked goods, teas or even as a seasoning for meats. You can even make lavender lemonade.
    • Aromatherapy: Use the dried flowers in sachets, potpourri or make your own lavender essential oil.
    • Crafts: Create beautiful wreaths, bouquets, or lavender wands.

    By following these detailed steps and understanding the unique needs of your lavender plants, you’ll enjoy a lush, vibrant garden that’s both a visual and sensory delight.

    lavender care secrets

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