English lavenders are well suited to growing in pots because English lavenders are both cold hardy and drought tolerant (more so then other lavender species) which is important lavenders roots in pots are more exposed to the cold in winter and hot dry weather in summer then if they were planted in the ground.
Pots and containers also provides increased drainage, and better air flow which recreates lavenders preferred growing conditions. As English lavender is cold hardy (up to zone 4) and can tolerate frosts, you can leave the pot outside through the winter, unlike other species of lavender which need winter protection.
Keep reading for more on why English lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) are best for pots and the correct soil mix, how to water, prune, and care for potted English lavenders…
Why English Lavenders are the Best Lavenders for Pots
All lavender species grow very well in pots as you can amend the soil so that it is more favourable for factors such as drainage, soil pH and low to medium fertility which are all characteristics favoured by English lavenders.
However the main distinguishing factor that makes English lavender more suitable for pots then other lavender species is that they are by far the most cold hardy of all the lavenders.
This is important as whilst pots do have a lot of advantages for growing lavender, the root system will be above ground rather then being more insulated as they would be in garden soil so the lavender is more exposed to colder temperatures.
French and Spanish species of lavender are not cold hardy and need to be in a warmer climate that does not go below freezing during winter.
The English lavender species however can take cold winters in its stride being hardy up to USDA zone 4 and will tolerate frosts and snow and come back the following year unaffected by the extra exposure of their root systems being above ground in pots.
Whilst pots can expose lavenders to cooler temperatures, they also can be prone to drying very quickly as the blazing sunshine that lavenders grow best in, can heat the actual pot and further increase evaporation from the soil far quicker then if they were planted in the garden.
Fortunately English lavender is both cold hardy and drought resistant (thanks to its Mediterranean heritage) so this versatile species can cope with both extremes that can happen with pots, although more care should be taken when watering lavenders in pots (read more about this below).
English lavenders also produce a wonderful scent (which is why they are grown commercially) and display beautiful blooms.
Popular English lavender varieties include; Hidcote, Munstead, Pink Purfume, Alba and Jean Davis although it should be noted that all English lavenders are suitable for growing in pots.
How to Grow English lavenders in pots
Which Type of Pot is Best?
English Lavenders are not too fussy when it comes to they type of pot they are in, but what is important is to have drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, otherwise water collects in the bottom and the roots develop root rot.
With English lavenders, good drainage is especially important so it is always a good idea lay 1 inch of gravel or ‘crocs’ over the drainage holes to make sure that they do not become blocked from compacted soil or other materials.
In terms of size, the pot size can correspond with the size of the lavender at maturity. However in hot climates I would plant lavender in a pot no smaller then 12-16 inches across even if the lavender is a smaller verity as small pots can dry out very quickly and also provide less insulation for the root system in the cold, so with a bigger pot there is more resilience to extreme bouts of weather.
Bear in mind that you can easily repot lavender (this is best done in the spring) if they lavender grows too big for the pot although I would recommend you read my guide to transplanting lavenders before you do so to minimize any transplant shock.
Soil Mix for Potted English Lavenders
English lavenders grow best and produce the most flowers when they are in a low to medium fertility soil that is very well draining.
Lavenders roots do not like to be in rich compost that holds to much water so it is always best practice to amend the compost with sand or gravel before planting.
English lavenders grow very well in with around 30% course sand or gravel to 70% garden or multi purpose store bought compost.
The sand and gravel provide the optimal porous structure for water to drain through the pot and out of the bottom. These materials will also counter balance the fertility of the compost (remember lavenders need to be in lower fertility soils in order to flower).
It may sound surprising that a plant actually wants low fertility, quick draining soil mix but this is the conditions that lavender thrive in their native Mediterranean range. (Despite the name ‘English’ all lavenders originally come from Southern Europe).
The of compost and minerals (sand or gravel) will provide the correct balance of nutrients for lavenders to produce spectacular oil, fragrance and blooms. English Lavenders do not need feeding as this will stimulate foliage growth at the expense of flowers and your lavender will end up leggy and misshapen.
Watering English Lavenders in Pots
English Lavenders are drought resistant plants. Lavenders in general are far more tolerant of under watering then over watering which often results in root rot.
If an English lavender is over watered it will often have a drooping appearance and the foliage will turn a brown or yellow colour which may superficially look like an under watered plant so be warned! (Read my article on how to fix drooping lavender if you have this problem)
|Watering potted English Lavender||How Often to water|
|Established English Lavender||Give Lavender a good soak once every two weeks. If there has been rainfall and the soil is still moist then you can skip watering for a few days and wait until the soil has dried. If there has been persistent intense heat and sunshine you may need to water once every 10 days.|
|Newly planted||In the first 10 days after planting water every 3 days and then scale back watering to once a week for the first three months. Water once every 10-14 days for the first year.|
|During Winter||Lavenders are in a state of dormancy over winter and will attain sufficient moisture from the weather if left outside (English Lavenders can tolerate cold weather). If they are brought inside then the will require watering once every 4-6 weeks during winter so that they do not dry out completely.|
How Much Water to Use
English lavenders thrive on a soak and dry method of watering, in which they receive a generous drink once every two weeks and the soil is allowed to dry out between each watering.
Water generously till there is a trickle of water out the bottom of the pot as this will encourage the roots to grow deep and establish which will further increase its resilience to drought.
A trickle of water out the bottom of the pot will also indicate that there is good soil drainage which is essential for potted English lavenders.
Problems related to over watering lavender do not come from the quantity of water but from the frequency of watering so be strict with you once per week watering schedule.
As long as you have amended the soil with sand or gravel then as long as the soil gets a good soak, the precise quantity of water does not matter.
For a more on when to water lavender read my article which explains in detail how often you should water lavender in different conditions.
All lavender species do best in full sun and will not grow very well, if at all in the shade. The less sun a lavender plant receives the less it will bloom.
Make you place your potted lavender in a position that receives at least 6 hours of sun (preferably morning sun) per day during the growing season.
This will ensure that you lavender plant will remain healthy, produce flowers and increase the plants oil production, which is ultimately responsible for the unique aroma.
Pruning Potted English Lavender to ensure Winter Survival
English lavenders can live up to 15 years with the right care. One of the most important best practices for increase the life span of English lavenders (or any lavender species) is to prune the lavender at least once if not twice a year.
Pruning will help to prevent lavender from becoming leggy, stimulate flower growth and maintain a nice compact shape that slows woody growth from the base and effectively resists winter weather.
The first prune should be in the early spring when the first green leaves are emerging from the base of the lavender.
Prune the top third of the green growth of the lavender into a nice rounded mound shape. It is essential that you only cut into the newer more flexible growth and not into the inflexible, woody base as the wood has a tendency to break off and not rejuvenate, which will leave you lavender misshapen.
If you have problems with woody lavender, read my article to see what you can do.
You can do this with a sharp pair of sterile pruners or shears.
I recommend that you watch this video for a clear visual guide on exactly how to prune lavender in the spring:
The second prune is much lighter and is simply to cut back and tidy the flower stems so that the plant maintains its rounded appearance. I personally like to save the cuttings for decorative homemade potpourri!
The rounded appearance will help the lavender deflect snow and prevent ice from getting into the shrubs woody base as easily.
This is essential to do for English Lavender as the English species and some of the hybrids are the only lavender varieties that are cold hardy and will bloom year after year despite cold winter temperatures.
I wrote an article on how to prepare lavenders for Winter as there are a few best practices that lavender grows will need to follow to ensure lavenders survive and bloom well the following Spring.
- English lavenders are the best lavenders for growing in pots as they are both drought resistant and cold hardy, so the plant can tolerate the greater range of temperatures and conditions as the roots are less well insulated in pots.
- Pots also provide favourable drainage, air flow and you can amend the soil easily to suit the preferences of English lavender.
- The pot must have drainage holes in the bottom as lavender does not tolerate wet soil.
- Established potted lavenders will need watering once every two weeks in the growing season. Newly planted lavender needs to be watered more regularly for the first year and English lavenders left outdoors will attain enough moisture from the weather as lavenders will be in a state of dormancy.
- English lavenders are cold hardy and therefore do not need protection for the weather in winter in most temperate climates, however it important that they are pruned regularly to prevent them from becoming woody, stimulate blooms and to ensure the lavender maintains a nice, rounded shape that effectively resists winter weather.