Lavender Problem

willows88December 9, 2013

Hi, I'm writing with a question about a lavender plant that is being grown indoors. I've had it for about a month, since the middle of October, A few days after it arrived, it started with new growth (the leaves it had until then were silver, the new growth was fresh and green).

A couple of days ago, the growth fell over, some of the leaves have dried up and darkened in color. I haven't transplanted it yet, I've given it water about every 2-3 days, letting the soil dry up first but not for very long. It gets full sun, in front of the balcony door, but as it's now December, it isn't much. It got colder in the room because the radiator there isn't working, but nowhere near freezing since it's still inside the house..

I'm including some pictures to try to give a better idea of what might be happening with it. Any help is greatly appreciated! :)
Also, I put it in this forum since it's being kept as a house plant, but if it'd be better suited in a different forum, please let me know.

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1 of 2 more photos.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 8:38AM
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Last picture.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 8:39AM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

I suspect the roots have rotted. You'll know for certain when you take it out of its container.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 12:54AM
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Thanks for the response; I'll check tonight when I get home. It was doing fine for about a month, but then there was considerably less sun and maybe it subsequently needed less water. I still watered only when the soil was really dry, but the days in between waterings did increase, so I don't know...
Thanks again for the help! :)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 10:19AM
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Lavender likes a lot of sun and very, very dry conditions, so I think it is likely that it rotted from too much water.

However, I think that lavender would be a difficult plant to grow indoors for most people. I'm not sure that there is much you could have done to keep it alive.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 11:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your plant doesn't want to be indoors. It wants to be outdoors where it's cold, so it can snooze away the winter just as Mother Nature designed it to. Going against nature's plan is an uphill battle you're not likely to win w/o a very good understanding of what is physiologically appropriate and what is verboten.

Best would be to bury it, container and all, in a bed or garden and mulch it well. You could also over-winter in an attached, unheated garage. Prevent the soil from drying completely by tossing a shovel of snow on the plant every month or so as required.


    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 5:17PM
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As said above, lavender (and rosemary for that matter), make terrible indoor plants--too HOT in winter. Outdoors, both are carefree, easy,and THRIVE on neglect, drought, high heat, and poor soils. (Not sure of lavender's hardiness though in zones lower than 7--which is about the limit for rosemary). Both these plants are quite rugged but hate being pampered. Think, though love!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:38PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - Rosemary isn't the problem that lavender is. In a soil that isn't water-retentive, rosemary will do just fine indoors over winter. The most significant issues with rosemary are keeping them free of a soggy root environment and spider mites.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 2:03PM
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Thanks for the input, everyone. I pulled the plant out of the pot to verify the state of the roots, and they indeed appear to have rotted, as they've turned a darker brown color.

At the same time, however, it appears to still be alive as the soil is drying up much quicker than it otherwise would if it wasn't living.

So, it seems the problem is that it should have went outside when I got it to hibernate for the winter. How cold would be too cold? In January, for example, it averages âÂÂ5 ðC / 23 ðF here, but of course it gets below freezing a lot as well.

Unfortunately we do not have a garden, but plenty of balcony space and I can transplant it into a bigger container before setting it outside, in the hope that it is still alive. Should I attempt to scrape away an amount of the roots on the side that've rotted before doing so, or won't it matter?

Thanks again for all the input, I really hope it won't be too late to save it (it was a lovely birthday present :) ), and it was really beautiful before this happened.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 5:30AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If all you have is balcony space, you can put it in a dark box that won't deteriorate with the weather. A Styrofoam cooler with an open top would be ideal. Put the plant in the cooler, and position it so the open top is against a heated wall. Shim it so the opening is fairly snug to the wall, but not air tight. It does no good to try to keep plants warm by building any sort of shelter unless you have designed it to utilize/trap heat from an extraneous source. For example, if a freezer was 0* f, and you put a cup of water in a cooler and placed the cooler in the freezer, the water in the cup would soon reach 0* ..... not as quickly as it would if it wasn't in the cooler, but the end result would be the same. You're not particularly concerned with keeping the soil from freezing, that's ok; but you ARE concerned with keeping the soil temperature from dropping to a 'killing low'.

If you had a garage, you could use a cardboard box in zone 4 or 5 to keep most zone 8 plants alive all winter, simply by overturning the box and covering the plant so the box traps geo-heat coming through the floor. In your case, with the foam cooler or similar, you would be trapping extraneous heat coming through the outside wall.

At this point, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to go to any heroic effort to salvage the plant, but you might wish to consider the box thing I mentioned - which doesn't take a lot of effort.

Best luck, and Merry Christmas!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 5:59PM
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I'm no expert, but I do have a little experience with growing spanish lavender in containers for a year and a half (it looks like you have spanish lavender to me, but i could be wrong) and they're meant to be grown in zones 8 and up, I believe. ...but I grow it here in zone six. When it gets cold here in the fall and winter, I just put the pot up against my apartment building, and it does just fine for grew back beautifully for me last spring and summer. I did stop watering and just let it use whatever water it got from the rain and snow. And I also don't have a roof/cover above it, but the wall (facing east) was enough protection for it. But I would imagine yours might need more protection outside this winter because it isn't use to the coldness, and just throwing it outside right now would shock and kill it without good insulation protecting it, atleast that's what I think would happen.

And like others said, it doesn't need to be watered too often...actually even in the middle of summer in high heat, it can go further without water then other plants without showing effects. So in the winter it needs no water from me at all...

Good luck with saving your plant. Hopefully it isn't too late.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 4:35AM
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