Lavenders are perennial sub shrubs that can live for 10 -15 years with the optimal care. In cold climates, non English lavenders will only last a year if left outside due to frost. French lavenders tend to be much more then short lived then English lavenders with 5 years considered a long life span.
Lavenders will only live for a long time if they are cared for properly. Whilst lavenders are relatively low maintenance plants, it is important to recreate some of the growing conditions for their Mediterranean range, although it should be noted that lavender do not need a Mediterranean climate to live a long time.
Keep reading for to learn how easy it is to replicate the optimal conditions for lavender growing so they can live and bloom for up to 15 years…
How to Ensure Lavenders Live Longer
Below I have listed the most important factors in sequence that influence how long lavenders will live for which will also ensure the best blooms and fragrance.
- Choose the right lavender for your climate
- Plant lavender or create the optimal soil conditions (in terms of drainage, fertility, soil pH)
- Water established lavender only in times of drought and do not feed lavenders.
- Lavenders need full sun to live longer and produce the best blooms
- Prune lavender twice per year to significantly increase longevity
Choose the Right Lavender for your Climate
This is the most important factor when choosing which lavender to grow in your garden. The English lavender species (Lavandula angustifolia) are the only lavenders that are cold hardy and will reliably tolerate frosts, snow and ice over winter.
English lavenders also cope better in windy and exposed areas, as well as being tolerant of sea side air although they are not truly salt tolerant plants.
French and Spanish species of lavenders are far more suited to Mediterranean temperatures and do not tolerate cold weather and can die in the first frost of winter. This is why lavender is often mistaken as annuals rather then perennials that can live for many years.
If you live in a cold climate that you should only grow French and Spanish varieties in pots. Lavenders of all varieties will grow very well in pots as they have favourable drainage conditions. However the main advantage of potted lavenders is that you can take them inside over winter for protection before the first frost and return them outside for spring as summer.
(For more information and best practices check out my article on growing lavenders indoors).
There is no lavender species that grows well in consistently humid climates as they are native to the hot and dry Mediterranean region of Europe. Lavenders in humid climates do not tend to live very long and are far more susceptible to fungal disease.
The Best Soil for Lavender to Live a Long Life
The right soil conditions are critical for the longevity of lavender plants.
All Lavender species are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe where they are accustomed to low fertility, sandy soils that drain very quickly and hold little moisture.
To ensure that your lavender lives as long as possible you will need to replicate the soil conditions of the lavenders home range.
Lavenders will not live long if they are planted straight into water retaining clay soils or soils that are moist and contain a lot of organic matter.
So to grow lavender successfully you need to amend the soil with course course sand or grit. Do not use fine sand as this will not retain the ideal porous structure that allows air to the roots and water to drain away very quickly.
If lavender is planted in water retaining soil it will develop the fungal disease root rot and not live for as long as they should.
Ensure that sand or grit makes up at least 30% of the potting mix when planting lavender. It is much better to have too much sand or grit rather then not enough.
Chalk soils are perfect for growing lavender as they are well draining, hold very little moisture and are alkaline rather then acidic.
Soil pH Lavenders will not live for very long in overly acidic soils. The ideal soil pH for lavender is 6.5 – 7.5, which means that lavender will tolerate some mild acidity but it notably prefers soil that is either pH neutral or somewhat alkaline.
This is reflective of the soil conditions that lavenders live in naturally around the Mediterranean coastline of Europe.
To grow lavender that live for many years it is important to ascertain the soil pH of your garden. If the soil has a pH of less then 6.5 then you will have to amend the soil with garden lime or wood ash in order to raise the pH to neutral or alkaline to suit lavender growing.
Water Infrequently and No Fertilizer for Healthy Lavender
Once you have the right conditions in place, lavenders are a very low maintenance shrub that thrives on neglect rather then care. The most common reason lavenders do not live as long as they should is because of over watering.
Lavender plants are adapted to the dry Mediterranean region of Southern Europe where it rains infrequently, particularly during the spring and summer months.
To ensure lavender live as long as possible you should try to recreate the watering conditions as much as possible. Establish lavenders will only need water if the temperature is particularly high and there hasn’t been any notably rainfall for two weeks. Even if there has been no rainfall for a two week period, lavenders are very resilient in hot weather and can tolerate drought like conditions relatively easily.
Potted lavenders will need to be watered once every two weeks as pots tend to dry out quicker but bear in mind lavenders would rather be too dry then to wet so test the soil to a fingers depth to see if it is still moist. If the soil is still relatively moist, skip watering for a few days.
Lavenders generally do not need any water at all during their winter dormancy and will easily attain enough moisture for their requirements.
Lavender that has been brought indoors for winter protection will need watering once every 4 weeks.
Lavenders need to be planted in low to medium fertility soil for maximum longevity. Naturally they are accustomed to growing in sandy or gravelly soils. Sand and gravel do not contribute much nutrients to the soil at all.
It may seem counter intuitive but lavender is actually happy in these seemingly hostile low fertility conditions. If lavender is planted into higher fertility soil with lots of organic matter or is feed regularly then it will decrease the life span of the lavender significantly.
Lavender planted in high nutrient soils will turn yellow (a sign of excessive nitrogen) and display a wilting like appearance.
(If this has happened to your lavender, read my guide for more information on how to solve this problem).
Established lavenders do not need any additional feeding thanks to the adaptation to lower fertility soil. Fertilizing lavender is likely to cause excess foliage growth, with no flowers and reduce the plants lifespan.
Sunshine for Lavender Longevity
Lavenders ideally need full sun in order to live as long as possible. If you want lavender to live up to its full potential in terms of size, aroma, oils, blooms and longevity then do not compromise on sunlight.
Lavender can live if they receive 6 hours of sun per day during the growing season, but the less sunlight they receive the less flowers they will produce.
Lavender will not live in full shade and will not survive for very long in partial shade.
Lavenders need full sun if they are going to live to their 10-15 years maximum life span.
Prune Lavenders Regularly for Longevity
Lavenders thrive on neglect in terms of watering and fertilizer but if a lavender is going to live as long as possible then ideally you should prune it twice a year with the goal of attaining a mound shape in appearance in order to resist weather damage.
It is absolutely imperative that you only prune the top third of the softer, flexible green growth and do not cut back to the brown wood at the base of the plant.
The woody base of lavender does not rejuvenate when it has been cut and it is far more susceptible to damage from moisture and the weight of snow in winter.
The wood grows through out the course of the lavenders life. Regular pruning slows down the growth of wood and extends the life of the plant, in a similar way that pollarding a tree every year will increase its lifespan.
For more information on this topic, read my article on the importance of pruning lavender to slow down the woody growth.
- English lavenders can live up to 15 years if they cared for and grow in the optimal conditions.
- French lavenders tend to only live for 5 years even with good care.
- Lavenders are at their healthiest and bloom their best when they are cultivated in a way that recreates some of their native Mediterranean conditions.
- Sandy or chalky, alkaline, low fertility soils, that drain very quickly are the lavenders preferred soil type.
- One of the most significant factors for lavender longevity is whether or not they are placed in full sun. The more sun lavenders receive the healthier they will be and the more flowers and oil they can produce.
- Lavenders thrive on neglect when it comes to watering and fertilizer. Establish lavenders will only need watering in time of drought and they do not require any feeding.