Anyone out there with lavender experience? Help!

RaistlynAugust 31, 2011

Hi all,

I planted some lavender this summer without doing enough research, in normal potting soil. My gardener laughed at me. Surprisingly, quite a number of seeds germinated, but they have been growing very very slowly. A few however, have started to grow some proper leaves.

Now,I know they wont survive if I dont transplant them into new pots with proper medium. What can I use that would be suitable for lavender? My garden is filled with red gravel. Can I use that with a small amount of soil? How often should I water them? I have pretty much left them alone with one watering once a week only.

Any advice would be very much appreciated!

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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

I've been growing lavender for 20 years but I'm not going to say I'm an expert. I can only tell you what I've experienced. I've only had two plants die in all that time. And that was because they didn't get good drainage. I planted one close to a downspout and that killed it over winter. When I replanted I put the new one about 3 feet further away and no problem. I have regular old clay soil and they do great. I try to mix in some gravel initially but sometimes I don't. After that I don't amend the soil at all. They aren't plants that like to be moved so consider where you finally plant them. I don't typically cut them back until after the last frost in spring. And I give them one last haircut in early August.

Use a loose and coarse potting mix. I never had luck growing them from seed. They take forever to get any size. I buy my plants. You can find smaller plants that don't cost that much. The most important thing I'd say is to be sure you don't overwater and your pots have excellent drainage. Water only when the soil is dry to the touch and let all the water run out the bottom.

(I have to ask - why did your gardener laugh at you? If he or she are worth whatever you pay them, they'd be giving you advice on how to do this.)

I've attached a good link that should be helpful for growing lavendar. They address the seedling and soil issue quite well. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Mountain Valley Growers - Growing Lavendar

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 4:52PM
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I winter sowed lavender seeds this year and have two gallon-size pots of healthy plants that are 6" tall. They get the same amount of water as all the other perennials I grew via WS and that's whatever Mother Nature dishes out. This year that's been pretty frequent so I've only had to bottom water the pots once or twice. I use professional growers mix in my winter sowing containers, same as for all seed types. The lavender seeds get no special treatment and seem to do well being grown this way.

I've never grown lavender before--this is my first attempt--and I know to find just the right spot before planting them out. At least with winter sowing, if they don't make it I'm only out the seeds and not purchased plants. In my experience, perennials grown from seed via WS are a lot tougher and healthier than nursery-grown plants.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 5:13PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

IME, lavender should be treated the same as any other plant. Good potting soil, decent drainage, watering when necessary. Grown from seed, it does develop an enormous root system in comparison to what you see on top, so make sure tiny seedlings aren't stunted from being rootbound.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 5:24PM
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Thanks everyone!

I lived in Provence for a bit and lavenders are very special to me. I know lavender plants are easily available, but growing them from seed seemed more 'authentic'. My gardener just commented that I was very ambitious when he saw my lavender seedlings.

That is the issue: I am afraid that I had planted my seedlings in too shallow soil (not to mention wrong type) and if i dont transplant them soon, they will be stunted - they are growing soooo slowly! But I am not sure if they are too young still to be transplanted - the biggest ones are only 1.5 inches tall! Will transplanting at this size kill them? Also, is gravel mixed with soil ok?

I know adult plants do fine over winter, but do seedlings need to be brought indoors from the cold? I live in Switzerland so we do get cold winters - but rarely ever extreme.

All your help very appreciated!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 5:38PM
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If I could afford a gardener, I'd just tell him to plant my lavender.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 6:58PM
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Wow Switzerland, the land of snow and skiing. Do you know when your frost date is? Its not so much the cold that will be a problem and but moisture. Lavender don't like to be wet for long periods of time. May ask what type of lavender are you growing?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 9:58PM
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I'm pretty much at the very northern edge of lavender cultivation. I've killed more lavender than I've succeeded with. The only plants I've not killed had excellent winter drainage. One was in a plastic pot that I lay on its side when temperature decreased in fall, and I left it in a spot where it wouldn't suffer freeze thaw cycles since it was fully buried in snow from December until April.

I also have a plant in full sun on a slope in my native soil (fine sandy loam that drains well) that has done well in winter and this year I planted some others in the same area. All the lavender that I've planted in my usual garden soil with more organic matter has died in early spring from flooding during mud season, the time when the subsoil is frozen and so all the melting snow pools on and in the first several inches of soil.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 10:43PM
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This is embarrassing but i dont really know what kind of lavender they are... I lost the seed packet soon after sowing. I remember they are the ones with bigger flowers that are also a deeper purple in shade. Not the ones I see in Provence.

Temperatures where I am don't fall below zero till late November usually. It does snow a fair bit which I think = moisture = not good for lavenders, right? Should I bring them indoors then for winter? I have huge windows so they can still get the sunlight as much as before.

Think i will transplant them in mid Autumn when they are a wee bit larger. Seems to me from everyone's advice is to make sure i have good drainage and dont allow it to freeze and thaw.

I have an olive plant as well that I might leave outdoors for winter. That one is well established so might have more defences against the cold and moisture!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 8:33AM
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Normal house temperatures will probably be worse for your lavender than your outside temperatures. Propagating and growing lavender does not require anything special. Just because a plant will tolerate a hot dry summer in poor soil is no indication that it will not do just as well in good rich soil, with summer water. All lavender requires soil that drains well and your variety will not make a difference. For a potting mix that will continue to drain well for more than one season you should only consider a bark based mix. Peat based soils will break down and compact, affecting drainage. Al

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 9:16AM
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I can't tell from your post if they already in the ground or just in pots. In my area, its too late to transplant lavender they need a good rooting system to survive our cold winters. Its the freeze/thaw that can sometimes be a problem but snow is a great insulator. How many plants to you have maybe you can experiment. I grow plants that would never survive the winter but the ones I like or are very expensive, I store in my nonheated garage.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 2:13AM
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They are still in a long planter. The most advanced of them are about 3 inches tall, the rest, still barely an inch! I wonder if I am stunting them or if its normal... I have about 4 strong looking ones, and the rest, about 8 of them, less so. I dont have much room to experiment with!

If I cannot bring them in, can I put a hay mulch around the seedlings for winter? Thanks! :)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 3:57AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The seedlings do grow quite slowly.

Now I am worried that these aren't lavender angustifolia, the English lavender that we all grow because it is hardy, but lavandula stoechas, or another type that are only grown in places that rarely freeze in the winter.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 11:09AM
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Without knowing what kind they are I can't tell if they will survive the winter. Honestly, I don't think they will survive with just hay. You best bet this late in the season to repot them and in bring them inside when it starts to get freezing cold.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 9:50PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

We don't know where you are in Switzerland, particularly your elevation, or the type of lavender you have, so it's hard to help. But in most of the more densely populated parts of Switzerland ie not up in the Alps, Lavendula angustifolia should be fine outdoors all year round providing it has good drainage. There is even a small lavender industry in Switzerland. L stoechas is more tender but might be ok in the warmer areas if very well drained and in a sheltered position. I wouldn't rate the chances of either inside the house but if you have a cool greenhouse they'd
be ok.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 9:35AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if you have a gardener.. one would presume you have a garden.. i dont understand why you are messing with pots ...

they do not like to be transplanted, as per above .. so you should hesitate to put them in the ground.. or repot them .... how are you going to change the potting media .. if the plant doesnt like its roots disturbed ????

it is also noted.. that winter drainage is the prime need ... and that is very hard to predict if the pot is filled with a high peat potting media .... but you cant change the media.. since that is a transplant ...

i suggest.. you try again next spring.. IN THE GROUND ... regardless of what you do now with the pots ...

you have proved it can be done.. you have added to your knowledge curve.. so dont worry too much about whether or not you get them to winter over ...

good luck


    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:01AM
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I am in Geneva and right by the lake.. it is not the most extreme part of Switzerland by far.

The reason why i plant everything in pots, is because I have a garden with no soil and pretty much nothing grows. Unfortunately, the garden came this way and we are renting. There is red gravel instead of normal soil. This medium might be ok for lavender though but I had not thought about that before. Pretty much nothing grows in the gravel, not even the weeds.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:50AM
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Hi! If anyone is still going to read this...

I just found out that my lavender is actually lavender multifida or Spanish Eyes! Apparently it is quite a hardy thing and can take humidity (probably explains why its still alive) well.

I will probably take the entire pot indoors for the winter from December to February, as its still a young thing.

My question is: Many plants go dormant in winter, which helps them to rest and reboot for spring. If I bring my lavender inside, will it mess up its system cos it cannot hibernate? My house is almost like a greenhouse because I have large glass walls instead of concrete walls, and the indoors plants get a good amount of sunlight.

Any other information and advice pertaining to growing this type of lavender very much appreciated!! The leaves are starting to smell good already!

Thanks very much to anyone still reading this thread.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 7:19AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

If they are hardy in the area I would plant them outside and mulch around the plants. Even hardy small plants survive the winter here. Think of all the self sown columbine and other plants that sprout in the fall.

I have grown lavender inside under lights during the winter and planted them outside when spring came. They grew well both inside and out. Didn't need to go dormant.

Sorry, no help on the Spanish lavender which is not hardy in Z4. It is sold and treated as an annual here.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 2:47AM
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