Why is My Lavender Plant Wilting? (How to Solve it)


Lavender wilting

With the right conditions, lavenders are hardy, low-maintenance plants that reliably flower for years and produce a strong fragrance.

However, certain factors can cause a lavender to wilt.

Lavender plants wilting when they are first planted can be a sign of stress because of the contrast between growing conditions in a garden center and the conditions of your garden. Other causes of lavender wilting are over-watering, transplant shock, pots that are too small, and nutrient rich soil or fertilizer.

Lavender often wilts after planting as it can take some time to acclimatize to its new environment and the lavender usually recovers if you follow the best care practices.

Establish lavenders can also wilt for a few reasons.

Keep reading for more information on why your lavender is wilting and how to solve the problem…

1. Lavender Wilting After Planting or Transplanting

Lavenders can wilt after planting as a sign of stress in response to a change in conditions.

Lavenders are hardy plants (particularly English lavenders) and can live in hot or cold climates.

Lavenders will adapt to their surroundings and when the conditions change dramatically (such as temperature) it can result in shock and a period of adjustment for the plant which may cause the plant to wilt temporarily.

When you first plant the lavender, it will have to acclimatize to the specific conditions of your garden which are in contrast to the garden center, shop, or greenhouse where they were previous to planting.

This contrast can be because of differing temperatures, levels of humidity, soil type, frequency of watering, etc.

The lavender and in particular the root system will have to adjust to their new home and try to adapt to the new soil conditions with the availability of water, nutrients, and the rate of drainage.

If are following all the best care practices for growing lavender then you should have nothing to worry about if the lavender has wilted, and it will return to normal as it adjusts to its new environment which may take a week or so.

(To learn more read my article for exactly how to transplant lavender and avoid transplant shock).

For a guide to caring for lavender and all the best practices, read my article on Lavender ‘Hidcote‘ and Lavender ‘Grosso‘.

Watering Lavender after Planting to Prevent Wilting

Lavenders are drought-resistant plants, thanks to their adaptations to the Mediterranean climate where they originate, but they do require more water when they have been transplanted, however too much water can also cause problems and the lavender can wilt as a result.

Watering can be quite tricky to get right as it can also depend on the time of year and the specific weather conditions of the climate.

Wilting lavender after planting or transplanting could be due to:

  • Overwatering (Lavenders require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering)
  • As a Sign of stress because of conditions that are too hot (preferably plant lavender in Spring or the Fall rather than Summer)

The best time to plant or transplant lavender is in the Spring or Fall rather than Summer.

Early Spring is the best time to plant for two reasons:

  1. The cooler temperatures in the Spring give the lavender roots a chance to adjust to the new soils so that they can draw up water when required, without having to contend with blazing sunshine and high temperatures during this vulnerable stage. If the temperatures are too high the lavender can wilt.
  2. Planting in the Spring gives the lavender time to acclimatize to its new surroundings so the lavender can prepare for the flowers to be displayed in the Summer. Planting in Summer can be too hot and cause flowers to wilt.

Planting in lavender in Summer successfully is still possible but it requires more care and attention, particularly in terms of watering.

The lavender requires enough water to help the roots establish after planting but not too much so that the soil is consistently damp.

This balance of watering and drying out will vary according to climate and depend on the weather conditions but if there are unrelenting high temperatures and blazing sunshine without any overcast days and your lavender is beginning to wilt then water once every three days for the first couple of weeks (as long as the soil is well draining) and then water once per week for the first month to give the roots a chance to establish so they can adjust to drawing up water from the soil and prevent the lavender from wilting.

(To learn more about watering read my article on solutions for why newly planted lavender is wilting).

There is also the problem of overwatering. Overwatering lavender so that the soil is consistently damp will result in root rot, quite quickly as lavenders require the soil to be somewhat dry between watering.

Always water with a generous soak to encourage the roots to establish.

2. Over Watering Lavender Causing Wilting

One of the most common reasons for lavenders to have a wilting appearance is because of overwatering.

When established after planting, lavenders thrive on neglect and prefer dry, well-draining, sandy soil with infrequent watering.

Watering too frequently will cause the soil to be too damp which promotes the conditions for fungal disease and root rot.

Rather counter-intuitively, lavenders will wilt and often the foliage will turn brown as a sign of overwatering. This is often mistaken for a sign that the plant requires more water and the problem is then compounded.

  • In temperate climates with overcast days and somewhat frequent rainfall, established lavenders often do not require any water unless there are exceptional circumstances of drought.
  • In hot climates (such as southern California or Spain), lavenders only require watering once every two weeks if there has been no significant rainfall. Potted lavenders may require more consistent watering of every 2 weeks regardless of rainfall because pots have favorable drainage conditions.

If you are watering lavender more frequently than once every two weeks and your plant is wilting you will need to scale back the watering and the plant should recover once the soil dries out. (Read my article for the best, well-draining soil mix for lavenders).

If the leaves have turned brown or black then this is a sign of fungal infection which is usually because of damp soil. For the solution read my article on how to solve lavender that is turning black.

3. Wilting Temporarily due to Heat

Another cause of lavender wilting is an adaptation to days that are particularly hot. This is often the case when the previous spell of weather has been comparatively mild followed by a day with excessively high temperatures.

If the lavender looks normal by the evening in cooler temperatures then this type of wilting is nothing to worry about as the lavender is not stressed as such but rather it is a normal reaction to excessively hot days.

This does not mean that the lavender necessarily requires more water as it is a temporary reaction to the heat rather than to drought.

Lavenders thrive in sandy soils, with high temperatures in full sun and with infrequent rainfall in the countries of Southern Europe with a Mediterranean climate so they can tolerate heat and drought.

Due to their adaptation to these dry and harsh conditions, there are common problems with overwatering lavender rather than underwatering so do not be tempted to water the lavender more frequently as lavender does not like damp soil.

The lavender will recover after hot days and look comparatively normal when the temperature cools later in the day, without any ill effect.

(Read my guide to watering lavender in hot weather).

4. Lavender Wilting in a Pot

All of the reasons for lavender wilting can apply to lavender whether it’s planted in garden boarders or in pots or containers, however, there are some specific reasons why a lavender may be wilting in a pot rather than planted in garden soil.

The first reason is the size of the pot.

lavender in a pot

Ideally, lavenders should be planted into a pot that is between 12-16 inches across.

A pot this size will ensure the lavender has enough room for the roots system to establish so it can access the water and nutrients it requires whilst having the capacity for enough soil to insulate the roots in Winter.

Lavenders grow best in full sun and if the pot is too small then the soil will dry out much quicker on hot days in the blazing sunshine.

Lavenders are drought resistant and do prefer dryer conditions but a small pot will leave the roots pot bound and the soil can dry at such a quick rate that the lavender will not be able to draw up water after rainfall or watering.

If the potting soil is dry and hot it will increase soil evaporation to the point that the lavender can wilt as a sign of stress.

Watering more frequently is not the solution as the lavender roots will still likely be pot-bound in the small pot. Therefore you should transfer or transplant the lavender to a larger pot with a sandy soil mix.

This will ensure the roots have enough space so that they can establish and draw up water when required without the soil drying at an artificially rapid pace.

The type of pot can also affect how quickly the soil dries which could cause the lavender to wilt.

Pots that are made of metal or plastic conduct heat more effectively than pots made from clay, terracotta, or ceramic materials.

On blazing hot days with high temperatures, this can increase the rate at which the moisture in the soil evaporates and increase the soil temperature to a level that plants can struggle and wilt as a result.

Plant or transfer the lavender to the right type of pot and the lavender should recover. Read my article, choosing the right pot for lavenders.

5. Nutrient Rich Soils causing Lavender to Wilt

A wilting or drooping appearance of a lavender can be a result of the soil type.

Lavenders prefer a soil that is low to medium in nutrients rather than a rich soil.

This is because lavenders are adapted to living in sandy or stony soils in their native range and actually grow best in terms of foliage and flowers when in poor soils.

Overly fertile soils will result in leggy growth that may appear to be wilting occasionally with leaves that turn yellow.

Typically there will be a lot of foliage growth and fewer blooms with rich soil.

This also applies to the use of fertilizer or soil amendments that are high in nitrogen such as manure.

If you have used additional fertilizer or have planted lavender in nutrient dense soil and the plant is wilting then you should amend the soil with horticultural sand or grit.

To give you an idea of how much sand is required, if you are planting in pots or containers, around 1 third of the volume should be sand and 2 thirds potting soil or compost.

Horticultural sand
Horticultural sand is the best soil amendment for growing lavender.

Adding the sand helps to replicate the lavender’s preferred soil conditions and sand does not retain or contribute much nutrients to the soil so it can balance out overly nutrient rich soils so that they are more appropriate for growing lavender.

The sand or grit also increased drainage which stops the lavender from wilting as a result of damp soils.

Avoid feeding or planting your lavender in rich soil and there will be more flowers, healthier growth, stronger fragrance, and more importantly the plant will recover from a wilting appearance.

Conclusion

  • Lavenders can wilt as a result of a contrast in conditions, because of over-watering, pots that are too small, as an adaptation to hot weather and nutrient rich soil.
  • Lavenders can take time to adjust to their new conditions and often wilt temporarily as a sign of stress but soon recover as they become established.
  • Plant lavender in a good size pot to ensure they do not become root bound and so there is enough soil for the roots to access enough nutrients and water.
  • Lavender does not require frequent watering and can wilt as a sign of stress due to overwatering. Ensure that lavenders are planted in well-draining soil mix and water only once every two weeks as lavenders are drought resistant and heat tolerant.

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