Whether your potted lavender survives winter depends on the species of Lavender. English Lavenders will survive winter in pots and tolerate frosts and cold weather, whereas French and Spanish lavenders will not survive outdoors over winter in climates that experience frost and will need to be brought indoors for protection.
English lavenders are cold hardy and can tolerate temperatures dropping as low as -10°C (14°F) and are consider hardy up to USDA zone 4. The variety Hidcote Superior is the most resilient to cold weather.
Keep reading for best practices and how to ensure lavenders of all species survive winter and live for up to 15 years.
Lavenders That Survive Winter Outdoors in Pots
English lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) are the only species of lavender that can survive outdoors in pots over winter in colder temperate climates with many English lavender varieties hardy to USDA Zone 4 Hidcote and Munstead lavender varieties are valued for the fragrance and ability to endure harsh weather.
English lavenders are perennial plants (as are all lavenders) that are capable of tolerating frost, snow and temperatures as low as -10 C, whereas French (Lavandula dentata) and Spanish lavenders (Lavandula stoechas) are generally not cold hardy and will not survive winter in pots in cold climates.
Read my article to choose the best type of pots and containers for growing lavender.
French and Spanish lavenders require warmer temperatures if they are to survive winter and will likely die in the first frost of winter if they are not brought indoors in the early Fall.
However they will thrive with relatively little maintenance in climates that do not experience frost and freezing winter temperatures such as those in the Mediterranean region of Europe and the warmer states in the US.
French and Spanish lavenders will typically do best in areas where average winters are relatively mild and temperatures stay above 10°C (50°F).
The advantageous aspect of growing lavender in pots is that you will be able to grow French and Spanish lavenders outdoors for most of the year and bring them indoors for winter protection if you live in a colder climates or there is an unexpected drop in temperature and a increased possibility of frost that will harm the lavender.
In areas that are too cold to support the French and Spanish lavenders in pots all year round, the lavender may be treated as an annual plant that needs to be replaced every year if they are not moved indoors.
There are several steps and best practices that you can make to ensure that your potted lavender survives winter…
Ensure Potted Lavenders Survive Winter
All Cultivars of lavender will need some care and attention over winter, so this advice applies to all lavender species. There is also some specific steps you should take to look after french and Spanish lavenders over winter if you scroll further down.
1. One of the keys to keep potted lavenders alive over winter is to plant them in a relatively big pot, even if it is a smaller variety of lavender.
The bigger the pot is, the more soil it will contain. The soil will act as insulation for the roots when the temperature decreases, protecting the roots from frost.
If your growing lavender in a colder climate the minimum size of the pot should be 16 inches across with a proportional depth. This will also ensure there is enough space for established roots at the lavenders maturity.
The smaller the pot is the more vulnerable the lavender will be to the cold.
2. Another important step is to plant the lavender into the correct soil. Lavenders need well draining soil, that does not hold onto moisture for long periods as the roots like to dry out between bouts of watering. (If you are unsure, I have an article on how often to water lavender).
Lavender is pots are particularly susceptible to root rot in the winter as the soil tends to be cold and stay wet for longer.
With the correct preparation root rot can be easily avoided. It is recommended that you plant lavender into soil or multi purpose potting mix that is amended with course sand or gravel.
The course sand or gravel will improve the soils structure so that there is good drainage in the pot and they also do not hold onto moisture in the same way that rich organic compost would.
Lavender grow naturally in the Mediterranean in gravelly, sandy soil so this is essentially mimicking their natural growing conditions.
One third (33%) sand or gravel to two thirds (66%) potting soil is a good guide to aim for when amending the soil. However too much sand and gravel is always better then not enough when it comes to potted lavenders so be generous if you are in a climate with a lot of rainfall.
This will ensure that your potted lavenders soil drains effectively and the roots stay free from root rot during winter.
3. Another important step is to scale back watering over winter. If the lavender is left outdoors in its pot then you should stop watering in the early fall and not resume watering till early spring.
Lavenders are drought resistant plants that do not need to be watered frequently even at the height of summer and excess water in water will lead to root rot. The lavender will attain enough water over winter from rainfall.
(Read my guide on watering lavenders in pots for more details).
If the lavender is not a cold hardy variety and your have brought it indoors to protect against frost, then it will need watering once every 4 to 6 weeks so the pot does not dry out completely during the winter.
Specific Steps for French and Spanish Lavender Survival
In colder climates it is necessary to bring French and Spanish lavenders indoors over winter as most varities will not tolerate frost and cold weather.
However it is still important that the lavender sees some sun, even in the darker winter months so when you bring the lavender indoors place it in the sunniest window in your house/garage/heated greenhouse or wherever you have enough space.
Lavenders are in a state of dormancy over winter, so you need to be cautious as to where you place the lavender in the home. If the lavender is in the direct path or forced air or radiators then the temperature around the lavender will fluctuate significantly through the day.
In hotter, dry rooms lavenders may need watering every 3 weeks in winter but only once every 4 to 6 weeks in rooms with more stable temperatures.
Lavenders do like to experience somewhat cooler temperatures in winter as this replicates their natural cycle, rather then overly heated rooms.
For this reason placing the lavender in a garage can be a good compromise as in a lot of climates garages generally stay above freezing so provide good protection without being too hot.
If this is not possible then place the lavender in a sunny window in the home ideally out of direct hot air currents and they lavender should be quite happy until it is ready to go back outside when the weather has warmed up again in the spring.
Always bring the lavenders indoors before the first frost and water sparingly once every four to 6 weeks. Spanish lavenders are the least cold hardy so you will need to bring them inside if the temperature goes below 10°C (50°F) for an extended period.
(For more information on how to care for both indoor and outdoor lavenders over winter take a look at my article).
- English lavenders are cold hardy and can survive winter in pots up to USDA zone 4 with the right care and preparation.
- French and Spanish lavender pots will need protection from Winter cold and should be brought indoors in the Fall before the first frost of Winter.
- The larger the pot the better. Bigger pots contain more soil which helps to insulate the lavender roots from the cold. Pots that are 16 inches across and the same proportionate depth are ideal even if it is a smaller variety of lavender.
- Soil that has been amended with sand or gravel will drain better and stop lavender in pots developing root rot over winter.
- Outdoor potted lavender does not need watering during winter as it is in a state of dormancy and will attain enough water from rainfall. Potted Lavender brought indoors for winter protection will only need to be water once every 4-6 weeks.