Lavenders of all varieties can thrive in pots as long as you replicate some of the conditions of their native Mediterranean habitat. Potted lavenders need to be in full sun, well drained, low to medium fertility sandy soil and live in a pot with several drainage holes in the base so the soil doesn’t become waterlogged.
As long as you adhere to a few conditions then potted lavenders are a very low maintenance, high reward plant that will produce its distinctive aroma and beautiful flowers for several years.
Growing lavenders in pots is great solution if you garden has unfavourable conditions for lavenders (such as clay soil, acidic soil or persistent dampness) as you can easily recreate or amend the conditions to suit lavenders.
With potted lavenders you have complete control over their location and soil medium, so you can move them or adjust if necessary to get the best out of the lavender.
In fact the conditions are often more favourable in pots then planted in the ground because pots provide better drainage and good air circulation to keep down fungal disease.
Keep reading for all you need to know about the optimal potting mix, winter care, best pot size, pruning, how to water and why you should not add fertilizer to potted lavenders.
Soil for Potted Lavenders
The soil need to be well drained, relatively low in fertility and be in a pH range of 6.7 to 7.5. Ideally your pot should be filled with 30% sand or grit and 70% compost to provide the optimal porous structure and to reduce fertility.
Good Soil Drainage is Essential
Lavenders thrive in sandy or even rocky soils in their native Mediterranean range, which provides excellent drainage.
Lavenders love quick draining soil as it keeps there roots dry between periods of watering and rainfall. Dry lavender roots are essential as the are particularly susceptible to root rot when exposed to moist soil.
This means you will have to amend the soil for your pot with either sand, grit or perlite when preparing to plant lavenders. The proportions should be roughly 30% sand or grit and 70% potting soil and mix it in evenly (any type of sand or grit will be suitable).
The sand or grit will provide the right, porous soil texture that lavenders need in order to keep their roots happy and ultimately to produce their best blooms in the summer.
Compost alone will retain too much moisture around the roots and will cause your lavender to droop as a sign of stress (If your lavender has a drooping or wilting appearance, take a look at my article for the solution).
Soil pH for Potted Lavenders
Lavenders require a soil pH of between 6.5 to 7.5 which means they can live in soil from slight acidity to modest alkalinity. Most potting mixes are around pH neutral (pH 7) and therefore suitable for growing lavenders, however it is worth checking the manufacturers guidelines.
This means you should avoid using ericaceous potting mix or feed which is fairly acidic at around pH 5.5.
If you have slightly acidic compost or potting mix (below pH 6.5) then you can amend it easily by adding some garden lime (available on amazon for a reasonable price) which will have clear instructions on how much to add or you can add a sprinkling of wood ash, both of which will raise the soil pH more towards alkalinity and therefore at a pH level suitable for lavenders.
Soil Fertility (Why you Shouldn’t Add Fertilizer to Potted Lavenders)
With lavenders it’s always important to do your best at recreating their natural Mediterranean soil conditions if you want to get the best blooms and distinctive aromas.
The soil in their native range is sandy and has low to medium fertility. Lavenders actually like a low fertility soil and will produce more flowers under these conditions.
If you soil is too rich in nutrients or you have added fertilizers then this will stimulate plenty of foliage growth and far fewer flowers which is contrary to the goal of all lavender growers!
Adding fertilizer will make the lavender leggy, potential burn the roots and will even produce growth that is low in oils (which are responsible for the aroma) so should be avoided.
The Sand and grit mix you need to add to the soil is low in nutrients so it should balance out potting mixes that are formulated to be fertile and therefore the addition of sand is not just good for drainage but also for providing the right level of fertility for optimal flowering and fragrance.
Watering Potted Lavenders
Lavenders are a naturally drought resistant plant, that thrive without regular watering.
However, as a rule, potted lavenders will need more water then lavenders that are in the ground as there potted root system will be naturally more exposed to sunlight and heat.
The pots can heat up in the sun which will have a drying affect on the soil, and therefore potted lavenders warrant a bit more care and attention when it comes to watering.
This can actually be an advantageous if you are in a climate with significant rainfall as the potted lavenders are far less likely to sit in moist soil for long periods which would harm the roots.
Potted lavenders will need watering once every week in the first two years, during the growing season. Once the lavender is established you can reduce this to one watering every two weeks.
Use enough water so that there is a some water coming out of the drainage holes which indicates that the soil has had a good soak and their is good soil drainage.
If it has been a week of significant rainfall (more then 1 inch) with lots of overcast days then you can skip watering for another week and wait until the soil is dry.
Don’t make this mistake. With Lavenders, over watering is always more of a problem then under watering. Rather confusingly, the symptoms of over watering are drooping foliage and a browning or yellowing of the leaves.
A lot people see these symptoms, assume the soil is dry and exacerbate the problem with more water.
Keep to the recommended water schedule and you will have no problems (assuming you have planted the lavenders in sandy soil). If you do start to see signs of stress such as a drooping appearance, the skip watering until the soil has had a chance to dry out.
Check out my article on how to water lavenders in pots for a full guide.
Hours of Sun for Potted Lavenders
All lavender varieties do grow and flower best when in full sun, all day during the spring and summer.
Lavenders will still produce blooms with 6 or more hours of sun per day but there is a correlation between the amount of sun they receive and the number of flowers lavender produce, so always place potted lavenders in the sunniest part of your garden.
There is no lavender species that grows well or produces flowers in the shade. Lavenders thrive in full sun all day in hot countries like Spain, Italy and France but grow happily outside in colder climates (particularly varieties of English lavenders) as long as they have full sun.
Choosing the Right Pot for Lavenders
The ideal pot size for lavenders should have a width of 16 inches and a depth of at least 12 inches. This will be large enough to accommodate your lavender at full maturity.
It is imperative that the pot contains several drainage holes in the base to allow water to escape freely. I always recommend that you add a 1 inch layer of gravel or stones over the drainage holes to ensure that they do not become blocked by compacted soil in the bottom.
Potted lavenders should never have a drip tray underneath the pot as this will collect water. Lavender roots do not tolerate prolonged exposure to water and will begin to rot quite quickly, so always make sure that your water drains away freely.
Any type of material is suitable for lavenders, whether your pot is metal, wooden, terracotta or plastic.
Thin metallic or plastic pots will heat up quicker then thicker terracotta or wooden pots in the sun which will increase soil evaporation and thus require consistent watering (once every 2 weeks).
Winter Care for Lavenders in Pots
Winter can be somewhat problematic for lavenders in pots depending on the climate you live in. If you live in a region that experiences frequent winter frosts then the English lavenders (and their various hybrids) will be your best option as they are easily the most frost tolerant lavenders.
The Spanish, Italian and French lavender species do not tolerate heavy frosts. So if you live in a cooler climate you will have to take these lavenders inside over winter, ideally into a green house or indoors by a window.
Place the lavenders back outside as soon as the weather starts to heat up again in the following spring.
Lavenders do no require much water over the winter but a modest amount, once per month will sustain them sufficiently without harming the roots.
If you are keeping you English potted lavender outdoors then they will usually attain enough water to sustain them comfortably with additional watering.
How Far to Space Potted Lavenders
Lavenders are hardy and relatively disease resistance plants, but they will benefit from some air circulation which will reduce the chance of fungal infection. Place them in an area of your garden that will receive the occasional gentle breeze around the foliage.
This means locating them 2-3 feet away from other plants or areas of higher humidity. Lavenders can tolerate some wind and sea air but prefer not to be in overly exposed windy locations, so a natural wind break or shelter such as trees or a wall will be appreciated under these conditions.
Pruning Potted Lavenders
Lavenders only produce flowers on new growth, so pruning should be done after flowering in late summer every year and once more in the early spring. Pruning will help maintain the shape of your lavender and stop it form splitting and becoming woody.
Pruning lavenders is the same whether they are in the ground or in pots. How to prune lavenders is always best explained with a visual guide, this YouTube video will show you what you need to do…
- Lavenders of all varieties grow well in pots
- Water newly planted lavenders once per week and established lavenders twice per week.
- Prune lavenders every year to encourage more flowers.
- Plant lavenders in a pot with several drainage holes in the base to prevent water from collecting.
- The soil should be 70% potting mix amended with 30% sand or grit for good drainage.
- Do not add fertilizer to lavenders as it will produce leggy growth with less flowers.
- Position them in a sunny location.
- The soil pH must be between 6.5 (slightly acidic) to 7.5 slightly alkaline.
- Space Lavenders 2-3 feet apart for good airflow to prevent fungal disease.
- A 1 inch Layer of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot will prevent compacted soil from reducing drainage.