Want to master growing lavender in pots? Lavender is an extremely versatile herb. It is grown both in northern Africa and in the Mediterranean mountains. While there are hundreds of varieties of lavender out there, they all come with many uses and benefits including the fact that they’re fragrant, aesthetically pleasing and fairly easy to grow and care for.
Likely the most common lavender type is an English lavender called Lavandula Angustifolia, also known as true or common lavender. Tender French and Spanish lavenders are also popular varieties.
Of course, lavender is perhaps most well known for its gorgeous purple color and fresh, floral scent. However, the popular herb carries many culinary uses and medicinal benefits.
Lavender can be used sparingly in exquisite culinary dishes including a variety of baked goods such as scones, cakes and cookies. Lavender can also be used in cocktails, teas or lemonades as it provides an interesting, sophisticated flavor.
Traditionally, lavender has been used medicinally in aromatherapy as its scent is said to promote health and overall well-being. Lavender has been known to treat issues including anxiety, insomnia, headaches, nausea, acne and more.
Keep reading to discover some care tips and more uses for lavender!
Potted lavender plants can be grown from either seeds or from cuttings. If using seeds, plant them on top of a sandy soil potting mix. Lavender plants do especially well with chalky or alkaline soils, which have a pH level of 7 or above. The soil should contain a good amount of calcium, sodium and magnesium. This Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro soil mix would be a perfect soil for growing lavender.
Cuttings can be taken from lavender plants right where the leaves join the stem. Cuttings should also be placed in warm, sandy soil in your pot.
Whichever way you choose to start growing lavender, you’re going to want to make sure to choose the right soil and container. Once established, lavender is easy to maintain, but it needs a good container, soil and proper growing conditions in order to thrive.
Lavender by Ewen Roberts / CC BY 2.0 More compact versions of lavender do very well in containers.
Which Is The Best Lavender For You?
When considering which type of lavender is right for your garden, you’ll first need to pay close attention to your own climate. Next, you’ll check in with the four main types, to determine which will give you the outcome that matters most to you.
Most Popular Lavender Types:
You can divide your lavender plants into four main groups, and the groups depend on the plant’s hardiness and growing zones. The main categories are:
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Zones 5 – 8: In the early part of the season, this plant produces tight, small flower clusters. The flowers shine against a pretty blue-green foliage, and it’s a hardy lavender that does very well for gardeners in northern planting zones. It’ll overwinter without a problem to zone five. If you garden in colder zones with this lavender, you’ll have to have a slightly warmer microclimate in your garden bed to ensure the plant survives. It’s the first choice for culinary gardeners, and it’s typically very fragrant when it blooms.
- French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) Zones 5 – 10: This type of lavender works well in slightly more mild climates without harsh winters. These are largely ornamental plants that have toothed, needle-like leaves. The leaves are where they get their names from. You’ll get a very light fragrance with this flower, and it’s much lighter than the English versions. They do best in rock gardens or very fast-draining containers, and they can look gorgeous if you have them line your entry paths or walkways. Plant them in gritty soil with full sun for the best growth.
- Lavandin Hybrids (Lavandula x intermedia) Zones 5-10: Lavandins are hybrids of English lavender, and they bloom much later in the year than other lavender species. Also, they have a very high essential oil content. You’ll get a very strong fragrance with a very quick growth habit if you plant them, and they produce very large leaves in a greyish-green hue. These can be some of the most popular lavender cultivares available, especially Grosso, Phenomenal, and Provence.
- Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) Zones 7 – 10: You’ll get larger, pine-cone shaped petals at the top of the flowers, and this plant produces bigger flowers with silvery leaves. The flowers are very pretty and eye-catching when they bloom, and you’ll get a refreshing eucalyptus fragrance with it. This plant can tolerate more humidity than most other lavender cultivars. It works well as a focal point in smaller gardens or courtyards, and they take well to growing in containers and getting highly stylized trims.
The Best Lavender Types for Different Climates
Not all types of lavender thrive in each climate, and there are cultivars that do much better in hot and dry climates than they do in wet or humid climates. Matching the types of lavender that do best in your specific climate ensures that you’ll have an easier time when it comes to keeping your plant alive and thriving.
Hot and Dry Climates – Southwest, West Coast, California
Conditions in hot, dry climates are perfect for lavender if you’re trying to grow it with very few problems, but there are some cultivars, like hybrids, that will do much better than other types of lavender. If you have extremely sandy or clay-based soil, you’ll have to amend it with compost, consider adding gravel to the hole before you plant it if you plant it in the ground, and don’t add mulch.
This advice works on all regions for lavender. This plant is native to the Mediterranean, but they need consistent moisture levels for a few years until they establish their root system. Once they’re established, you’ll only have to water occasionally. The best lavender cultivars for this area include but are not limited to:
- Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender (Zones 7 to 9): Rugged and heat tolerant, this lavender has a taller, compact growth habit to it. It works as a pretty hedge plant that gets up to four feet tall and wide, so space it accordingly.
- Munstead Lavender (Zones 5 to 9): You’ll get fragrant, abundant flower spikes with a very compact growth habit with Munstead Lavender. It gets up to two feet tall and wide, and it is perfect for planting on dry, hot slopes.
- RIverina Thomas French Lavender (Zones 5 to 9): This type of lavender will give you up to five times the aromatic oil as the parent types will, and it gets up to three feet wide and tall per plant. It’s a newer triploid that offers very large flowers.
Hot, Humid Climates – Mid-Atlantic, Upper and Lower South
When you live in humid, hot places, try French or Spanish lavender. Both cultivars seem to be much more tolerant of these steamy climates. You should take extra precautions to ensure your plants are positioned in a place where they will get excellent air circulation. This will help reduce the diseases these plants can have, and the diseases can impact the plant’s overall flowering and health. The best cultivars to grow include:
- Provence French Lavender (Zones 5 to 9): You’ll get fragrant, abundant, flower spikes in a pretty purple coloring with greyish-green foliage with this plant. They’re great additions to a butterfly garden because they attract pollinators, and they can grow up to two feet wide and tall.
- Silver Anouk Spanish Lavender (Zones 6 to 10): If you want a spring bloomer that features winged, tall flower spikes, this is the cultivar for you. They withstand the summer drought and heat, and they get up to two feet tall and wide at full maturity.
- With Love Lavender (Zones 6 to 10): Unlike traditional purple flower spikes, you’ll get pink flowers that produce very long wings. It has a long bloom season with excellent heat tolerance, and it gets up to two feet tall and wide. So, it has a more compact growth habit.
Wet, Cool Climates – Coastal California, Pacific Northwest
If you live in a place where you have a strong summer marine influence, disease can be a large problem for some lavender species. Spanish and English lavenders do well in this climate, and proper soil preparation will help them flourish. They all do very well in containers, and you want to look at:
- Ghostly Princess Spanish Lavender (Zones 8 to 10): You’ll get a very compact growth habit with this lavender cultivar, and it produces a crown of pink, lavender flower spikes that shimmer. It’ll grow up to 30-inches tall and wide at full maturity.
- Thumbelina Leigh English Lavender (Zones 5 to 9): This plant will produce flowers up to three times every year if you cut it back by half after it flowers each time. It’s a compact selection that grows up to one foot tall and wide.
- Winter Bee Spanish Lavender (Zones 7 to 9): Fragrant, rich, purple flowers dot this lavender cultivar. It thrives in humid, hot, and cold, wet weather. So, you have some flexibility when it comes to planting it. It’ll get two feet tall and wide.
Cold Climates – Northeast, Upper Midwest, Interior West
Colder climates come with a large array of challenges for growing your lavender plants, even if they’re in containers. You get humid summers, cold winters, and heavy or rich soils a good portion of the time. However, you can still grow lavender in containers, and English lavenders or hybrids do very well. You want to pick varieties that do well in cold climates, and there are some plants available that do well in temperatures as low as -10°F. You should amend any soil you use with gravel and sand and prune them every spring. Hardy varieties include:
- Aromatico Blue Imp. Lavender (Zones 5 to 9): Fragrant, deep purple flowers bloom very early on this cultivar, and it offers very pretty silvery-green foliage to make them stand out even more. This makes an excellent hedge as it gets up to an impressive 20-feet tall.
- Hidcote Giant Lavender (Zones 5 to 8): This is a hybrid with English parentage, and you can see it in the pretty tall flower spikes it produces. It also has excellent heat tolerance, and it’ll get up to three feet tall at maturity.
- Phenomenal Lavender (Zones 5 to 8): Unlike a lot of lavender plants, this one doesn’t die back in the winter because it’s very cold-hardy. It’s also notable for its disease resistance, and it has an impressive humidity and heat tolerance. It’ll get up to three-feet tall.
Lavender by Muhammad Ali / CC BY 2.0 The better you match your lavender to your climate, the easier time you’ll have getting it to grow.
Choosing A Container
While lavender can be grown outdoors in a garden or placed in a landscape, it does really well as a potted plant. The plants can grow to be anywhere between 12 to 18 inches in height with the right soil.
You can definitely grow lavender in containers. Here is an unflowered lavender plant in a small container potting. To grow, lavender plants require full sun and should reach maturity within 90-200 days.
It’s important to choose the right container when planting your lavender. You’re going to want a container that provides good drainage. Lavender needs to be watered regularly, but do not saturate it and make sure to let it dry out between waterings.
If you plan to keep your lavender indoors, make sure to keep a saucer under your container.
You’ll want to make sure your plants gets eight hours of full sunlight each day which can be tricky, depending on your location and what the weather is like. The plants love to be warm and it thrives in the right conditions.
Because these plants love heat, it will not survive a cold winter outdoors. The good thing about keeping your lavender in a pot is that you can easily move it to more favorable conditions. If you keep your lavender outdoors during warm months, you can move it indoors when temperatures drop.
Since the plant requires at least eight hours of sunlight, keeping it in a container indoors will also allow you to move it around until you find a spot that receives enough sunlight.
Even if you have a hard time making sure your plants receive 8 hours of sunlight indoors each day, you can still achieve it though a grow light. This LED grow light is perfect for indoor plant use. LEDs produce low levels of heat and use less energy than other light sources. This model comes with timer setting options and has an adjustable design.
How to Harvest and Store Lavender
If you want to harvest lavender, May, June, and July are the prime months to do so. If you’re a gardener who wants to encourage strong growth next year, you’ll need to harvest stems from this year’s blooms. By the time the third or fourth year rolls around, the lavender plant will reach full maturity and bring you hundreds of blooms per plant. Properly cared for, your lavender will last up to 10 years.
The best time for you to set up your lavender harvest is in the morning when the sunlight is less intense and the plant is dry. These conditions work to preserve the essential oils in the flowers. To harvest lavender, you’ll need a few things, including:
- Coat hanger
- Large flat sheet
- Lavender to harvest
- Rubber bands
Start by cutting a bundle from your lavender plant. You can just grab it and cut it without worrying about being gentle with it. Move along the plant and be sure to leave a few inches of green growth along your plant. Leaving a little bit is good for it. You don’t want to go all of the way down to the woody portion of the plant’s stem because this will stunt the plant’s growth.
Once you have enough lavender to fill your hand, you can wrap a rubber band around the bottom of your bundle. You can cut the bundle off however you like. Some people prefer to make them straight and perfect while others have ragged cuts. Either works fine.
Open a smaller paperclip and turn it into a hook to hang your lavender bundle on your hanger. Put your bundle upside down in a dark, dry place. The dark and dry conditions will help your lavender plants keep their pretty purple coloring, and drying it upside down will help the blossoms keep a consistent shape.
Give your bundle of lavender a week or so to dry until there is no moisture left in the stems in the center of your bundle. It’s critical that you dry the lavender correctly. You want to do it in small batches instead of large ones to decrease the risk of mold formation and encourage evaporation.
The ideal size for your lavender bunch when you want to dry it is how much lavender you can fit when you make a circle with your thumb and pointer finger. You should be able to connect the tips of your fingers with the lavender between them. Make sure you have good ventilation in your drying area.
Now, you have to decide what you want to do with your dried lavender harvest.
Benefits of Drying Lavender
There is much that can be done with dried lavender. Dried lavender should keep its heavenly scent for several months. You can store it in ziplock bags or airtight containers.
Lavender can be dried and used as home decor. It would make a lovely additive to a vase or laid across a dainty doily.
Dried lavender can be put in small sachets, such as these Lozom Sachet Bags and put under a pillow as the scent is said to help people relax and sleep better. In fact, lavender essential oils are very popular because of their calming scent which helps many people relax and fall asleep easier. You can even make your own lavender oil using this guide.
Dried Lavender by Niall Kennedy / CC BY-NC 2.0 Lavender can be harvested, dried and stored in an airtight container. There are many uses for dried lavender including decorative, medicinal and culinary.
Planting, Pruning and Watering Tips for Lavender
Each lavender variety requires you to put it in a well-drained soil, especially when the winter months roll around. To ensure that your lavender gets good drainage, you should mix some gravel or sand into the soil before you plant it. You can plant your lavender in containers, raised beds, or on slopes. Instead of applying an organic mulch that retains moisture, consider adding stone or rock, especially if you live in a very humid climate.
Once you establish your lavender plant in your container, it’s a very low-maintenance plant that requires minimal pruning or watering. If the stem gets woody as the plant starts to mature, you want to prune it back slightly to about half of the plant’s height in the early spring months to promote new, fresh growth and lots of flowers. If you don’t prune your plants, they have the tendency to sprawl out and leave a hole in the middle. During the summer, you can clip any faded blooms to encourage them to bloom again.
To help your lavender plants flourish all year round, you can do the following:
- Check and Monitor the Soil’s pH Levels – If the soil in your container is too acidic, the lavender will die. They’ll look great for a few years before they start to randomly die off. If the roots end up in native soil that isn’t amended, the trouble will start. You can get a soil test kit to monitor it, or you can send a soil sample to most universities and they’ll check it for cheap. Amending the soil with lime will help make it less acidic.
- Don’t Overwater the Plants – You do want to give your lavender plants a nice, long soak to promote strong root growth when you first plant it. After that, refrain from watering a lot. Frequent and short watering cycles will result in unhealthy roots at a minimum and root rot at the other end of the spectrum.
Uses for Lavender:
There are arguably dozens of uses for lavender because it’s a wildly popular plant. It’s easy to grow and you can dry it to store it for months. The most popular uses for lavender, both fresh and dried, include:
1. Bath Salts
You can use your lavender in calming and soothing bath salts to help relieve stress, tension, and insomnia. If you want to make 12-ounces of rosemary and lavender bath salts, you can mix the following in a non-reactive glass jar or bowl:
- ½ cup Dead Sea salt
- ½ cup Epsom salt
- ½ cup oatmeal (powdered via blender)
- 1 Tablespoon dried lavender buds
- 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil
Put all of the listed ingredients in a non-reactive bowl or glass jar and mix it very well. Transfer your mixture into a mason jar with a secure lid and give it a few days to rest. This will allow the essential oil to be incorporated through the mixture. You can add a handful of the bath salts into your warm bath water.
2. Antiseptic Spritzer
Lavender also has antibacterial properties to it. This makes it a nice option for an antiseptic spritzer, and it’s relatively easy to make. You’ll need:
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons of lavender-infused witch hazel
- 5 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil
- 8 ounce spray bottle
All you have to do is get your spray bottle and add in your water, lavender-infused oil, and essential oil. Screw the cover on and give it a good shake. Spray it on your counters, fabric, or wherever you’d like to use it around your house.
3. Sleep Aid
Lavender was once recommended for people who have sleep disorders or insomnia. People used to stuff their pillows with lavender flowers to help them fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and get better rest. For a sleep aid, you’ll need:
- Dried sprigs of lavender
- Mesh satchel
You’ll put the dried lavender sprigs into the mesh satchel and put it under your pillow. You can add a few drops of essential oil too, but be careful not to spill it on your bedding because it can stain or be extremely strong. A little bit goes a long way.
Lavender is Possibly Effective for Certain Health Issues
- Anxiety – There is some research that shows taking a specific type of food-grade lavender essential oil by mouth can improve your anxiety symptoms. Additionally, there is research to support that lavender oil massage or aromatherapy could potentially help lower anxiety levels.
- Depression – Research shows that lavender could possibly help alleviate the symptoms of depression. It is not as effective as prescription medications, but it’s something to think about if you’re looking for natural remedies. Never take anything without consulting your doctor first.
- Menstrual Cramps – Lavender oil massages could help reduce the pain associated with menstrual cramps. Inhaling lavender essential oil for the first three days of your menstrual cycle could reduce backache and stomach pain.
- Post-Surgical Pain – There is some research that shows inhaling lavender essential oil while getting pain killers by IV after surgery can help reduce pain levels.
Special Precautions and Warnings for Using Lavender
- Children – Applying lavender oil products to your skin is possibly unsafe for younger children under three. Lavender oil could have hormone effects that could disrupt normal hormone levels in a young boy’s body. Avoid using it on children until they begin puberty.
- Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding – There isn’t enough reliable evidence to support that lavender is safe to use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid using it during this time. .
- Surgery – Research shows that lavender could slow down your central nervous system. If you use lavender in combination with anesthesia, it could slow down your central nervous system too much. You should stop using lavender two weeks before any surgical procedures.
Growing Lavender in Pots – Frequently Asked Questions
It’s common to have questions about lavender when you first start to grow it, and we rounded up the most frequently asked ones below. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) laid out ready to dry in the solar drier by Melanie Shaw / CC BY-ND 2.0
1. How well does lavender grow in pots?
You should start with large pots because lavender can get as large as a small shrub. Getting 12 to 16-inch containers is a safe bet. Fill the bottom with up to two inches of gravel to encourage very quick drainage. Add in a tablespoon of lime to your potting mix after you fill the container to control the acidity level.
2. What is the average lifespan of potted lavender?
The lavender plant is a perennial, and it can survive up to 15 years in containers or home gardens. How long your lavender lasts depends on how well you care for it. Soil amendments, soil preparation, pruning, drainage, and winter protection with proper harvesting can result in lavender that lives longer.
3. Does lavender grow better in the ground or in containers?
Lavender needs good drainage and full sun to do well. It is more likely to fail to thrive or die due to excess moisture than it is from the winter cold. Putting your lavender in your container is a good way to provide drainage, but it’s more vulnerable to colder temperatures in a container than it is in the ground.
Growing lavender in pots isn’t a difficult task if you correct the soil and set up a quick drainage system. We’ve outlined how to grow it, the best types of lavender based on your location, what you can do with your lavender, and growing tips. You can use it to help your lavender thrive in virtually any climate.