Lavender is a perennial sub shrub the does come back after Winter and lives for many years with the right care, growing in the appropriate climate and conditions. Spanish and French lavenders may not come back after Winter in cold climates as they not as cold hardy as English lavenders.
The more cold sensitive French and Spanish Lavenders are suited to climates with mild Winters and may not come back if they experience freezing temperatures.
Whereas English lavenders can tolerate snow, frost and ice and come back in the Spring.
Lavender requires an annual prune to stay healthy and may not come back if it has been pruned too harshly or not been pruned properly for many years.
All lavenders require well draining soil as they do not tolerate cold and damp soils in Winter.
Keep reading to avoid some of the common mistakes when growing lavender to ensue that your lavender comes back in the Spring…
Can Lavender Come Back After Winter? (Depends on the Climate)
Whether or not your lavender comes back after Winter mostly depends on the species of lavender and how cold the Winter is in your climate.
Lavenders are native to hot, arid regions in Southern Europe where the temperatures are mild during Winter.
Therefore certain lavenders are accustomed to mild Winters and their tender foliage can suffer in cold weather with frost, snow and ice. The lavender species that are more vulnerable to cold weather are:
- Lavandula stoechas (Common name in the USA is Spanish lavender whereas in the UK its called French Lavender) (USDA hardiness zones 7-9)
- Lavandula dentata (US common name: French Lavender, UK common name: Fringed lavender) (USDA zones 8-11)
- Lavandula latifolia (Common name: Portuguese Lavender) (USDA zones 7-10)
These species of lavenders tend to die in Winter in colder climates (such as Washington, Oregon, New York and countries such as the UK) if the lavender is not planted in a pot and placed indoors over winter to protect it from freezing temperatures.
However in warmer climates (such as California or Spain) these lavenders tolerate the Winter will come back for several years and display flowers in the Summer (up to 15 years with the right care).
There are 2 species of lavender that tolerate freezing temperatures and will come back after Winter. These are:
- English Lavender (lavandula angustifolia)
- Lavandula x intermedia
Both lavender species are generally regarded as cold hardy to zone 5 and English lavender in particular is valued for its resilience to cold weather
In cold climates I highly recommend the English lavender varieties ‘Hidcote‘ and ‘Munstead‘ as they reliably come back after Winter despite snow, frost and ice and the variety ‘Hidcote Superior’ can reportedly tolerate temperatures as low -30 °C (-20 °F).
In cold climates with English lavenders the old growth may turn a gray colour and appear dead after a harsh Winter but it will come back with new growth and stems emerging in the Spring.
Here is a really great YouTube video which shows exactly how to prune your English lavenders in cold climates:
If your lavender does not show any signs of new green growth by May then it is most likely suffered from frost damage and you have to replace the lavender with a more hardy variety that is appropriate for your climate.
With the lavender varieties that are more sensitive to the cold (such as French and Spanish lavender) I recommend that you grow these lavenders in pots or containers and move them indoors, into a garage or by a sunny window to protect them from the cold in Winter and return them outdoors in Spring after the last frost.
Damp Soils Harm Lavenders Over Winter
Another common reason for lavender not coming back over Winter is that the roots do not tolerate soils that are both cold and damp.
Whilst some lavenders will tolerate cold temperatures, damp soils will increase the risk of root rot which can kill your lavender over Winter.
Lavenders are adapted to living in dry, sandy soils, with infrequent rainfall on the Mediterranean coast. Therefore soils that retain moisture (such as clay or rich compost) are not preferred by the lavender.
To ensure lavenders come back after Winter (and for best practice) it is essential that lavenders are planted in well draining soil.
Ideally the soil should be amended with horticultural sand or grit as this helps to improve drainage and the soil profile mimics the soil conditions of the lavenders native environment where it thrives.
If your garden soil is slow draining or boggy then I recommend that you transfer your lavender to a pot as you can easily control the soil conditions in the pot or containers and pots have more favorable drainage then garden soil.
(Read my article for how to create the optimal soil mix for lavender).
This will help to ensure that the lavender survives Winter and does not suffer from root rot which is one of the most common reasons lavender does not come back.
If your lavender foliage is turning brown, black or perhaps grey then this is a sign of a fungal pathogen attacking your lavender due to damp soil.
(To learn more about how to solve this read this my article on lavender turning black).
Lavender Growing Back After Pruning
Lavenders often show new green growth by early spring which usually originates near the base of the plant which is the first sign that your lavender is coming back.
If your lavender does not have any new green growth by May then this can be because the lavender has been pruned too harsh or perhaps not been pruned for many years.
Lavenders require an annual prune to increase longevity, stimulate new flowers and slow down the woody growth at the base.
Lavenders are perennial sub shrubs which retain a woody base all year round. If you prune the lavender too harshly at the end of the Summer or in the Spring then the lavender may not come back.
This is because the woody base of the lavender does not rejuvenate and generally does not produce any new growth or stems from which the lavender can grow and display new flowers.
Do not prune lavenders down to the ground and leave at least a couple of inches of more flexible growth above the woody base of the plant. You can prune lavender successfully in the Spring or the Fall.
Watch this YouTube video for a good visual guide to pruning lavender striking the balance between a good annual prune, whilst avoiding over pruning at the base:
Plants that are pruned too harshly may not regrow and you will have to replace the lavender.
On the other side of the spectrum lavenders that have not been pruned for many years will grow woody and leggy with the lavender looking untidy rather then a nice neat mound shape.
The woody parts of the lavender do not produce much growth and the lavender will display less flowers and the aroma will not be as strong from the foliage.
Saving woody lavenders is very difficult and usually I would recommend that you either replace them or attempt to propagate any healthy growth.
- Lavender does come back after Winter if they are planted in the appropriate climate.
- French and Spanish lavenders are not cold hardy and may not come back after a cold Winter with freezing temperatures whereas English lavender can tolerate cold climates and grow again in the Spring.
- Plant lavender in well draining soil to avoid root rot over Winter and avoid pruning back to the woody base of the plant and the lavender can live for many years.