How to Transplant Lavender Successfully (Avoid Transplant Shock)


How to transplant lavender

The best time of year to transplant a lavender is early spring as this will minimize transplant shock. You can transplant lavenders in your garden or into pots, if you amend the soil for good drainage and water consistently for the first season until the lavender becomes established.

It is however possible to transplant lavenders at anytime of year if necessary, although there may be more of a pronounced effect on the number of flowers produced that year, if it is transplanted outside of the optimal early spring window.

Transplanting during winter time is best avoided as soils are cold and tend to retain more water at this time of year, whereas lavender roots like to be kept dry.

To transplant lavenders successfully you will need to:

  • Ensure the soil drains quickly; adding sand and grit is usually necessary.
  • Check the soil pH; lavenders prefer a soil pH of 6.5-7.5.
  • Water the lavender diligently for the first year (but not too much) as the lavender becomes established in its new home.
  • Ideally add a white reflective stone mulch to increase sun exposure which will increase blooms.
  • Choose the sunniest location in the garden (more then 6 hours of direct sun).
  • Plant the lavender at least 2-3 feet away from other plants to ensure good airflow and maximum sun exposure.

Keep reading for exactly how to transplant lavender and take note of useful tips on how to minimize transplant shock as your lavender adjusts to its new home.

Choose a Sunny, Dry Location for Transplanting

Lavenders require at least 6 hours of sun per day but will produce the best results in full sun.

The less sunlight a lavender receives the less it will bloom and produce the oil that is responsible for fragrance, and it will likely end up with a leggy, untidy appearance. If the lavender is in full shade it will simply not be able to live as this is at odds with the Mediterranean conditions to which it is best suited.

Full sun also helps to keep the soil and the roots and foliage of the lavender dry so it less susceptible to fungal disease.

Transplanting to a pot will be advantageous as you can move the lavender to the most sunny location and it will be dryer then planting in the ground which will benefit the roots.

Avoid transplanting lavender into any low lying or moist areas of the garden that tend to become damp naturally or for prolonged periods after rainfall.

Raised beds, pots or planting lavender on mounds or rockeries will all provide more favourable drainage conditions for lavenders as alternatives to beds that have damp soil.

Plant lavenders 2 -3 feet apart to allow air flow through the foliage which will reduce humidity and discourage fungal disease.

Dig your Hole and Amend the Soil

The second step for a successful lavender transplant is to dig and amend the soil to improve the drainage.

Lavender grows best in sandy soil that is low in fertility and drains very quickly., which replicates the soil conditions of the lavenders native Mediterranean range.

If you transplant the lavender into rich organic soil that holds moisture or to clay soils, then the lavender will likely suffer from root rot and the soil may be too high in fertility (high fertility soils encourage foliage growth at the expense of producing blooms).

The ideal soil need to be around 30% sand (or grit) to 70% soil. The sand will ensure the soil retains a structure that allows water to drain away from the roots as efficiently as possible.

Sand and grit also do not contribute much nutrients to the soil so it will balance out rich soils, so that the lavender can produce a good bloom.

The hole you are digging or the pot you are using will need to be at least 18 inches in depth and 16 inches wide as this will accommodate the lavenders root system when it is full established.

If you are planting lavender in soil that tends to retain water (clay soils for example) then the bigger the area you can amend with sand the better, to ensure that water doesn’t simply drain away from the 18 inch amended soil area and pool or drain too slowly from the clay soil underneath.

Work the sand and grit in well with a spade or using a tiller and make sure there is a good distribution of sand throughout the soil.

In soils with some clay content then gravel is better then sand at providing the right structure for drainage.

With potted lavender you can transfer the plant into a pot with 30% sand and 70% potting mix or well draining soil. It is essential that the pot has drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape.

Check your soil pH. If your garden soil is between pH 6.5 to pH 7.5 then it is within the ideal range to grow lavender. Most garden soil is within this range as most organic matter once full decomposed will be around pH 7 (neutral).

However if you have any concerns then you can buy an inexpensive soil test kit from amazon or a garden store.

Soil tests are very easy to carry out, you can use it many times and they’re fraction of the price of several lavender plants. If your soil is too acidic (below pH 6.5) then you can add some agricultural lime or wood ash to raise the pH to the optimal level.

Lift the Lavender out of the Soil with a Fork

I always recommend using a garden fork when transplanting lavenders as they are far less likely to cut through roots as you dig unlike a spade or shovel which are much more indiscriminate.

Work your fork around the circumference of you lavender a tease it out gently, lifting it out with as much soil as possible as this will negate transplant shock (unless it is already planted in clay soil which is unsuitable).

Top Tip. Soak the soil with a watering can prior to digging as this will encourage the soil to stick together better around the roots. The more of the original soil that is held in a structure around the roots, you are able to transfer with the lavender, the less likely the plant will suffer from transplant shock.

Transplant shock is the period of adjustment that the lavender goes through when it is transplanted into its new home. Transplant shock can stunt the growth of a lavender and cause it not to bloom that year or even kill the plant. However with the correct care this is very unlikely.

Plant the lavender in the new hole and cover the roots with soil.

Firm the soil around the lavender by hand to provide the plant with some stability but do not use too much force as the roots struggle to establish in compact soils.

Top tip. A common practice implemented by commercial lavender growers is to use a white stone or gravel mulch around the base of the lavender. This will keep weeds down and help reflect sunlight back onto the plant which drives keeps the foliage dry (to reduce the chance of disease) and encourages the lavender to grow and produce spectacular blooms.

Water Lavender once per week after transplant (Let Soil Dry Between Watering)

You will need to give the lavender a good soak immediately after planting with plenty of water as it adjusts to its new home.

Lavenders are drought tolerant plants that thrive on infrequent watering and they are much more likely to suffer from over watering then a lack of water as they are adapted to the, hot, dry areas of southern Europe.

However a lavender that has just been transplanted will need more care and attention until it becomes more established in the following season.

Age of
Transplant
Lavender
Watering Instructions
Immediately after
transplanting lavender.
Water the lavender after transplanting with a generous
soak, preferably early in the morning. Always water at
the base of the plant and avoid watering foliage or woody stems.
For the first
four weeks
after
transplant.
Soak the surrounding soil every week for the first four weeks after transplanting.
After four
weeks.
Reduce watering to once every two weeks and skip
watering if there has been any significant rainfall.
Lavenders in pots. Lavenders transplanted into pots will need to be in full
sun and watered every two weeks, even if there has been
some rainfall as pots can dry out in hot weather.
Established Lavender (1 year after transplant). Established lavenders often do not need any additional water at all thanks to their exceptional tolerance to drought. Only water once every two week in exceptional hot and dry weather.

The most important rule when it comes to watering lavenders is to avoid over watering. If you water lavender too frequently it will droop in appearance and the foliage could turn brown, which is an indication of root rot. If you see these signs of stress with your lavender, read my article for the solution.

Watering transplanted lavenders in pots needs more care as pots can heat up on hot days which dries them out quickly, and the root system is generally more exposed then it would be if it was planted.

However transplanted lavenders often grow very well in pots as they provide ideal drainage conditions. See my article watering lavenders in pots for a full guide.

Always water at the base of the plant and its best practice to water in the morning as it will charge the plant with water in the coming day and watering at night generally encourages pests such as slugs which do not target lavender but may target other plants in your garden.

A year after transplanting the lavender will be established and you will only need to water in times of drought.

Additional Transplanting Tips

  • Species of English lavenders and its various hybrids are cold tolerant so you can leave them outside over winter. But if you have Spanish, French or Italian lavender species then I recommend transplanting them into a pot and taking them inside over winter before the first frosts. Place them by the window that receives the most sun in your house.
  • Avoid using organic or chemical fertilizers on your lavender as these will promote foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Lavenders thrive in low fertility, sandy soils in the Mediterranean region of Europe and rich soils high in nutrients will result in a leggy appearance or yellow foliage which is an indication of too much nitrogen in the soil for optimal lavender growing conditions.
  • The best types of mulch for transplanted lavenders are wood bark, stone or ideally white reflective stones. Avoid using moisture retaining organic matter such as leaf mould or grass clippings as these will promote the moist conditions that can bring the demise of your lavender due to root rot.

Summary of How to Transplant Lavender

  • Transplant lavenders in early spring if possible as lavenders are just emerging from their winter dormancy and will be less susceptible to transplant shock then if they were transplanted mid season.
  • Choose a sunny spot in your garden for transplanting as lavenders do best in full sun.
  • Prepare the transplant site or pot first and amend the soil with plenty of sand or gravel to improve drainage.
  • Plant the lavender and firm the ground for stability but do not compact the soil.
  • Water in immediately after planting and water once per week for the next for weeks with a good soak.
  • After four weeks, scale back the watering to once every two weeks and only water if there has been no rainfall.

If you have transplanted your lavender into a pot then check out my full guide covering everything from winter care to pruning instructions to get the best growth and bloom from potted lavenders.

If you lavender looks unwell then take a look at my article for solutions to dying lavenders.

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