Lavenders of all species grow very well in pots but there are a few considerations you need to be aware of when it comes to choosing the best pot for growing lavenders.
Each of these considerations can make a real difference to ensure that your lavender thrives and produces its wonderful aroma and display of flowers.
Best Pot Size for Growing Lavenders
Lavenders come in a variety of sizes with cultivars such as Hidcote Superior reaching a modest size at maturity of just 16 by 18 inches (40 to 45 cm) , whereas larger cultivars such as Vera can reach sizes of 30 to 36 inches (75 to 90 cm).
However I would recommend that you plant all lavenders in pots that are at least 12- 16 inches across with the same proportional depth regardless of the size of the lavender.
This is because the pot needs to be big enough to hold enough soil for the lavenders roots to stay insulated from the cold and so that it does not dry too quickly if there has been persistent blazing sunshine.
Lavenders of all varieties love to grow in pots because pots drain a lot quicker then most soils and lavenders need their roots to be somewhat dry most of the time to avoid root rot.
However the pot will elevate the roots (compared to lavender planted in the garden) out of the ground so that they are more exposed to extreme temperatures.
Lavenders need full sun to flower at their best but this will also increase the rate at which water evaporates from the soil, hence the importance of having a good size pot with a good capacity for soil, so that it does not dry out as quickly as a small pot would.
Soil in pots that are too small can bake hard which is not good for the lavender roots.
Similarly the soil acts as insulation for the lavender roots during the winter. The English lavender species (Lavandula angustifolia) are cold hardy and will tolerate frost but a good sized pot with plenty of soil will help protect roots from the worst of the cold.
This will increase the likelihood of lavender surviving winter and help to maintain a healthy plant that produces good blooms and fragrance (read my article for more on caring for lavenders in winter).
Do bear in mind that it is easy to transplant lavender (the best time to do this is early spring) into another pot but I recommend reading my article on how to transplant lavenders successfully for all the best practices.
Best Material for Lavender Pots
Lavenders can grow in pots made of any material, but some types of pots are more favourable for lavender growing then others.
I have seen lavenders grow well in stylish, metal, wood, plastic and terracotta style pots.
However I have found that the metal pots and containers in particular and to some extent the thinner plastic pots tend to heat up more in the sun, absorbing all the heat.
This will then heat the soil up and thus the roots. Lavenders are drought resistant plants that grow natively in the hot and dry Mediterranean region of Europe so they may tolerate growing in metal and plastic pots no problem.
However if the pot is absorbing heat all day, the soil will become dryer much quicker so you will have to be particularly diligent with watering.
Established lavenders only need watering once every two weeks (unless there has been significant rainfall) during the growing season. If you are using metal or plastic pots you may have to increase this to once every 10 days and check soil moisture regularly.
Watering lavenders can be a tricky business because they do not like lots of water but the symptoms of over watered lavender looks superficially the same as under watered lavender. For more information on how to find the right balance, check out my article on how to water lavenders in pots.
My personal favourite pots for growing lavender are the ceramic or terracotta style pots. These pots are far more hard wearing to the elements then metal or wood and resist weather better.
The ceramic or terracotta pots tend to be a lot thicker then metal and plastic pots or planters. This means they will not dry out as quick in the summer or bake hard and will resist frost a bit better in the winter.
For best results I would always recommend a a good size ceramic or terracotta pot for lavender growing but you do have to bear in mind that they will be heavier then metal or plastic pots.
The French and Spanish species of lavender are not as cold hardy as English Lavenders therefore you may have to move them indoors for protection over winter if you are in a climate the experiences winter frosts.
This can be difficult with heavy ceramic pots so perhaps a lighter more manoeuvrable pot made from plastic, would be better if you have to move pots indoors and outdoors every year.
English lavenders can be left outdoors all year as they are cold hardy and tolerate frost so you will not need to move the pots every winter.
Good Drainage in the Base of the Pot
Whatever the style or make of the pot, the most important feature is without a doubt that the pot has drainage holes in the bottom. Without drainage holes in the base, water will just collect in the bottom of the pot and the lavender will inevitable drown or develop root rot and die.
In addition to this I would emphasize that it is important that the drainage holes are kept a clear as possible. A good way to do this is to distribute a 1 inch layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot. This will ensure the structure allows excess water to flow freely out the base of the pot with out being obstructed with compacted soil.
Another precaution you may want to take is to place the pot on ornamental ‘feet’ or little stands. This will elevate the pot off the ground so water can escape does not simply pool at the bottom of the pot, ensuring your lavender roots have a chance to dry out somewhat between bouts of watering.
Avoid this mistake!
Another mistake I see when it comes to potted lavender is to choose the correct type of pot with drainage holes but to place the pot in a tray or container to catch the runaway water. Often people do this to stop watering leaking and keep their patio dry.
However lavender love a soak and dry style of watering where they receive a generous drink once every two weeks. This encourages the roots to establish and the plant will be more healthier and be even more resistant to drought.
Inevitably water will have to drain out of the base of the pot. If the water is caught in a tray then it will keep the soil consistently more moist then it should be to successfully grow lavenders.
- The best type of pot for growing lavenders is made from ceramic or terracotta and measures 16 inches across. It is essential the pot has drainage holes in the base so that the lavender roots can dry out between bouts of watering.
- A good sized pot contains plenty of soil which insulates the lavenders roots in winter and prevents the soil drying out as quickly in the blazing summer sun and heat.
- Lavenders can be grown in metal or plastic pots which are relatively light so they can be moved around much easier. Terracotta and ceramic pots offer the roots more protection from the weather and the do not dry out as quickly in the sun, although they can be much heavier.
- Avoid using trays that catch water, underneath your pot as persistently moist soil leads to root rot in lavenders.
- Ideally place a layer of gravel over the drainage holes to prevent anything (such as compacted soil) hindering the drainage of excess water.