The reason lavender doesn’t smell is usually because either it is not receiving enough sunlight or it is planted soil that is too fertile. Lavenders need full sun and low to medium fertility soil in order to produce the oil which is responsible for their characteristic aroma.
There are other factors that may cause the lavender stress which will prevent the lavender from producing fragrance. It should also be noted that some lavenders varieties have a stronger smell then others and the peak of a lavenders fragrance is in the growing season (spring and summer).
Keep reading to learn how to what causes lavender not to smell and how to solve the problem.
Lack of Sunlight Reduces Lavender Aroma
Lavenders are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe where it is commercially grown for its oil and aroma particularly in France, Italy and Spain. Lavender grows particularly well here because of the warm temperatures all year round and blazing sunshine.
The less sunlight lavender receives the less flowers oils and fragrance it will produce. Sunlight is the main determining factor of of oil production and therefore the strength of the smell of the lavender.
This doesn’t mean you need and Mediterranean climate to grow lavender as the English lavender species is cold hardy and can tolerate frost, snow and ice in the winter.
However all lavender should be grown in full sun if possible with a minimum of least 6 hours of sun per day during the growing season (preferably morning sun).
The lavenders oil is more concentrated in the morning so always harvest lavender early in the day.
If you’re lavender is not receiving enough sun then try transplanting it to either a sunnier location (this is best done in the spring) or cut back any trees or other overhanging vegetation that may be blocking any sunlight.
There are some best practices to be aware of when transplanting lavenders, particularly when it comes to mitigating transplant shock which I have detailed in an article.
A good solution may be to transfer your lavender into a pot if there is no more room in your garden planting areas and you can place the pot on your patio or other area around your house that receives more sun.
For more information read my article on growing lavender in pots.
Fertile Soils Prevent Lavender from Smelling
Lavenders in highly fertile soil or soil that has added fertilizer will not grow as well all or exude as much fragrance as lavenders in nutrient medium to poor soils.
This may seem counter intuitive but lavenders are native to to the Mediterranean where they grow naturally in poor sandy soils.
Lavender plants have specifically adapted to living in less fertile soils with a high mineral content (sand or gravel) and and they produce more flowers and better fragrance when they are in these conditions.
The more fertile the soil the less flowers and smell will be produced. Instead lavender it will grow leggy and untidy and even turn yellow if there is an excess of nitrogen in the soil. If this has happened to your lavender read my article for the solution.
Established lavenders do not need any additional fertilizer. To increase the fragrance of your lavender you should ensure that lavender is planted in soil that replicates their natural environment.
Avoid planting lavender in rich organic soils that have lots of fertility as this will be to the detriment of the smell of your lavender. What you should do instead is plant lavender in soil that has been amended with either sand or gravel as this will recreate lavenders preferred soil conditions.
Lavenders live the longest and produce the strongest smell when they are in soil that contains at least 30% sand or gravel. Sand or gravel also improves the soil structure so that water can infiltrate effectively. This allows the lavender roots to dry out between bouts of watering which prevents root rot.
Sand and gravel also do not contribute a significant amount of nutrients to the soil so they balance out more fertile soils so they are more suitable for lavender growing.
It is with these soil conditions that your lavender can produce the most fragrance and display a spectacular bloom in the spring and summer.
To learn more, read my article what soil do lavenders like for more information.
Lack of sunlight or overly fertile soils are the two most common reasons why lavenders do not smell as much as they should however there are some of the fact is that you should be aware of…
Lavenders prefer to live in alkaline soil but they can grow in soils of 6.5 to 7.5 pH. (This ranges from mildly acidic to slightly alkaline).
If your lavender it is planted in soil that is overly acidic (less then pH 6.5) it will not be able to produce its oil or smell to the same extent due to stress.
If the lavender in your garden is in full sun and has the correct soil conditions in terms of drainage and fertility then it it will be worth checking the pH of your soil. The easiest way to do this is with an product from Amazon which is available for a great price.
Overly acidic soils can be amended with agricultural lime or wood ash (which are both alkaline) to increase the pH to the ideal range for growing lavender which decrease the stress on the plant and improves conditions, so it can produce oil and fragrance.
Changing the pH of the soil does not happen quickly so it is a good idea to remove a lavender if it is in acidic soil and transplant to a pot with new soil until the pH of the soil in the planting area consistently measures between pH 6.5-7.5.
Problems with lavenders tend to come from over watering rather then under watering as lavenders are drought resistant plants that like to have dry roots between bouts of watering.
Too much moisture in the soil can stress the lavender and cause root rot which will prevent it from smelling or producing flowers.
Lavenders are drought tolerant plants that do not need watering frequently. Established lavenders only need watering once every two weeks in the growing season if there has been no significant rainfall and they do not need water in the winter if they are kept outside.
Read my article for more information on how often lavenders should be watered to avoid this problem.
Varieties of Lavender with a Strong Smell
If your Lavender appears to be healthy and has produced flowers but it does not exude a strong smell then it may be because of the specific lavender variety. Some lavender varieties smell much more then others.
Examples of English lavenders that exude a powerful scent are Hidcote and Munstead variety which are both grown commercially.
English lavenders are cold Hardy and can live for up to 15 years with the right care.
If you live in a warmer climate then French and Spanish lavenders also produce a good scent and are grown commercially in some regions for their oil. Examples of varieties that are grown commercially and prized for their aroma are Lavandula pedunculata and Lavandula Ballerina .
There are hundreds of lavender varieties cultivated from all species and they all exude an aroma with varying degrees of intensity, but if you want reliably strong smelling lavender I recommend the English lavender species.
- The reason lavenders do not smell is usually to do with a lack of sunlight or soil that is too fertile. The less sun a lavender receives, the less flowers and oils will be produced which ultimately limits the lavenders smell.
- Lavenders need full sun and low to medium fertility soils to produce the best fragrance.
- Lavenders that are experiencing stress due over watering or soils that are too acidic (Lavenders prefer alkaline soil) can also stop lavender from smelling.
- Some lavender varieties do not smell as strong as others. English lavenders reliably have a strong smell with Hidcote and Munstead in particular are valued for their smell and are grown commercially.
- The smell of lavender peaks in the growing season (during the spring and summer) and lavenders will smell strongest in the morning.