How To Easily Grow And Care For Lavender in Pots

You have gathered your wits about you and have made the firm decision to take the plunge and grow your own lavender! I totally understand the desire. Besides the gorgeous flowers, the ability to keep mosquitoes away, and the ever-growing list of benefits this beautiful plant seems to grace us with, it also smells really, really good. 

This article will be on how to grow lavender in pots, which will make for an excellent addition to your herb garden or a good first plant for you new gardeners.

Picking Your Lavender Variety

Most Popular

The easiest way to get started growing lavender is to pick a seedling up from your local nursery and transplant it into a pot (we will cover this in a later section). If you go this route, you will most likely find one of the following varieties at the nursery. 

  • Lavandula angustifolia: Common Name [English Lavender] This is one of the most popular species of lavender. Most have gorgeous blue-green or gray-green foliage and can be very cold-hardy. Many can survive temps as low as -10 °C (14 °F) which means they can stay outdoors as low as USDA zone 4 with some protection. This species is grown for its culinary use. A few common varieties/cultivars include ‘Munstead’, ‘Royal Velvet’, and ‘Hidcote’.
  • Lavandula x intermedia: Common Name [Lavandin] If you live in a cooler climate that can withstand temps as low as USDA zone 5, you are in good shape with keeping this plant. It can tolerate some humidity and dry weather. Some great varieties include ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’.
  • Lavandula dentata: Common Names [Fringed Lavender; French Lavender ] This is a wonderful species for pots and is easy to shape. If you want a plant that can look beautiful in the garden and attract pollinators, this is the species for you. Unfortunately, it cannot endure cold weather so be sure to bring it inside. Check out these varieties/cultivars: ‘Lambikins’ and ‘Ploughman’s Blue’.
  • Lavandula stoechas: Common Names [Topped Lavender, Spanish Lavender,] Another lavender that blooms bright pink and purple flowers. A great ornamental for the garden and another wonderful pollinator. This lavender enjoys warm weather over cold, so bring it inside for winter. They are hardy up to USDA zones 8-9. Some neat varieties and cultivars include ‘Blueberry Ruffles’, ‘Bandera Pink’, and ‘Anouk’.
Lavender on Cart

What’s Your Climate?

Here’s a quick way for you to match your climate to one of the lavender species listed above. Take a look below especially if you plan to keep your plant outside.

Cold or Cooler Climates: Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia

Hot and Humid Climates: Lavandula dentata and Lavandula stoechas

A mix of both: Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia – with proper pruning to get good air circulation.

Choosing a Container

A general rule of thumb is that lavender likes dry conditions. To meet these conditions look to plant your lavender in a tight space to minimize the amount of moisture in the pot. Find one a few inches larger than the diameter of the root ball. Remember you can always move your plant to a larger pot if your herb starts to outgrow its space.

Many different types of containers will work for you to grow your lavender. Just be sure that whatever pot you choose has adequate drainage. Here are a few styles:

  • Clay or Terracotta: These are a good choice because they tend to whisk away any excess moisture.
  • Wooden barrels: A great aesthetic to any garden, these can be wonderful for your herb. If you plan on harvesting lavender for culinary or medicinal use, choose one that has not been sprayed with chemicals. And, if this is a large barrel they can be very heavy and difficult to move. Place it in a location that can endure the winter. Also, a barrel made of oak can last many years as opposed to one made of pine. 
  • Plastic: These are a good economical option though I try to minimize their use. Plastic has been known to leach chemicals and the plant has the potential to soak it up, which may in turn harm you in the long run [1]. Pots made from plastic may be best used for ornamental lavender.
lavender in white pot

Best Soil For Lavender in a Pot

Lavender is a Mediterranean plant so you are going to need to replicate the soil type of the region to provide the right conditions for your plant to thrive.

This aromatic herb prefers a well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Choose ingredients that lean on the dry side like sand, perlite, or coco coir to mix in with a well-draining potting mix. 

FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil is a good base soil made with excellent ingredients for your plants that also supply enough nutrients when planting. It is already alkaline with a pH of 6.3 to 6.8 that lavender enjoys. You can try planting your herb in just the mix, but if you notice it remains too wet, repot the plant and mix in up to ⅓ sand or perlite into the potting mix to help improve drainage.

How to Grow Lavender from Seed or Cuttings

Cuttings

One of the easiest ways to grow lavender is from softwood cuttings instead of seeds. In the summer or early fall, look for a plant that is healthy and has green new growing tips. The piece you choose should be hard, but not woody like some of the older sections. 

The stems chosen should also contain three to five nodes and be free from buds and blossoms. You want a plant that will focus on developing roots, not flowers. When making the cutting disinfect your shears and clip the stem so it is 4 to 8 inches in length.

Strip the stem of its lower leaves and keep only a few at the top. Next, dip your cutting in a rooting solution (a few types include: willow tea, honey, aloe vera, and an organic rooting solution from the store) and place the cutting in a pot after making a hole with a pencil.

Do not let the remaining leaves touch the soil. Keep the cutting warm, moist but not saturated, and in indirect light. 

In 1 to 2 months, you should meet resistance as you gently pull the cutting. Resistance means you have roots! Congrats to you.

Slowly acclimate your plant to the sunlight outside (weather permitting) so it doesn’t get sunburned. When your lavender starts to outgrow its pot, get one slightly larger and follow the instructions earlier in this post for choosing a container and soil.

small lavender plants

Seeds

Do you want to know what is cool about growing lavender from seed? There are tons of varieties offered as seeds that you cannot buy as plants in a nursery. It opens up a world of lavender possibilities!

The downside is that they take a while to germinate and develop into plants. But that is a small price to pay for a unique plant.

The first step is to cold-stratify your seeds. They need to be placed in moist soil, sand, or potentially a wet paper towel in the fridge for 3-6 weeks. After stratification, sow your seeds 10-12 weeks before your last frost date.

If you do the math, you need to start this whole process at least 13 weeks before your average last frost date if not earlier for your best chance of success.

When it is time to sow your seeds, moisten a seed starting mix and sprinkle a few lavender seeds in each of the cells in your seed tray after adding the soil. Press them down gently so they have contact with the soil but remain in the light.

Lavender seeds require light to germinate

Keep the seeds moist, watering from the bottom of the tray. You may want to place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the soil to retain moisture. Position under a grow light or sunny window until seeds germinate.

It may take several weeks, but seeds will slowly germinate unevenly. Thin out your lavender plants to one per cell or pot.

The seedlings need to remain 1-2 inches under grow lights so they don’t become leggy. When the seedlings have 3-4 true leaves, it might be time to give the plant a little fertilizer in the form of compost tea or fish emulsion.

Remember, lavender doesn’t like super fertile environments so less is more. When your seedling is 2-3 inches tall, it might be time to pot your new plant up.

How to Transplant Lavender Plants

When you transplant lavender into a new pot, you are going to follow the same instructions you would when selecting a container and soil. 

The container should be slightly larger than the root ball to minimize moisture in the pot. Remember, lavender likes well-draining soil (like FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil ). Place enough soil at the bottom of your pot that your root ball lays about ½ an inch from the rim of the container. Lay your lavender in your pot and tuck it in with a little covering of soil. Water the plant and you are good to go. 

*Tip* – Dampen the soil before transplanting your herb. It is easier to mix the water in with the soil initially than to let it absorb on its own.

Transplanting Lavender in Pots

Transplanting your lavender outside is similar. Dry, sandy soil that is not fertile suits lavender just fine. If you have clay soil, you may want to amend it with a small amount of sand to reduce moisture.

Place the plant in the ground with a little bit of compost at the beginning of the season and you should be good to go.

How Much Sunlight Do They Need

Lavender requires 8 – 12 hours of full sunlight or under a led grow light if your plant is indoors. A south-facing window can also provide enough bright light to get the recommended hours of direct sunlight.

What’s wonderful about potted lavender is that if you have a lightweight container, you can move it to a sunny spot if it becomes shaded during the day.

Growing this herb in a shaded location will lead to a spindly-looking plant and few flowers. 

What to Feed Lavender Plants

It’s hard to believe that any plant thrives in poor soil, but lavender is no ordinary plant! It makes sense that it has unique preferences. Limit your fertilizer to your potted lavender to once at the beginning of the growing season and once after flowering. 

Organic matter (or compost) should be limited in potted plants because it can cause moist environments. Fish emulsion, compost tea, or a slow-release organic granular fertilizer would be best for your container lavender plant.

How Often to Water Lavender

I find following the rule of thumb when watering your herb works the best. You literally stick your thumb (or finger) in your soil and feel if it is dry. If so, it’s time to add water.

The only time this doesn’t apply is in winter. Water 2-3 times throughout the season to prevent excess soil moisture. Your plant goes dormant in the winter so it doesn’t require as much water as during the growing season.

How Long Does Lavender Take to Grow

Depending on the variety, your lavender plant may bloom in its first year but most plants reach their full maturity in 2- 5 years. Feel free to harvest the blooms in the first year, but know that your plant will flower more in the future as it matures.

pretty lavender growing

Lavender Growth Stages and Maintenance

Stage One: Seed Starting

It will take between 1 to 3 months for your lavender seed to sprout.

Stage Two: Early Growth

After your lavender has sprouted wait 8 weeks to pot your plant up to an appropriate size. See the section on choosing a pot to pick a size.

Stage Three: The First Year

In late spring or early summer, you can put your lavender plant outside when the weather is appropriate to your climate.  Wait until the fall to do your first small pruning.  You can harvest flowers in the first year.

During the winter season,  bring your plant indoors to an area that’s not too warm, but also not freezing. Again, this is when your plant will go dormant so reduce watering to only 2-3 times throughout the winter.

Stage Four: The Second Year (and beyond)

Prune your plant in the spring before it starts new growth. Notice that at the base of each branch, there is a woody stem. Cut your plant 2-3 inches above the woody part of the plant.

Cutting below this point may prevent regrowth and an untimely death to your lavender if too much has been removed.

Pruning in late summer to early fall shapes your plant for the winter and it allows you to harvest those beautiful blooms you have been waiting for. This is a light trim and your plant should have time to regrow a bit before settling into winter. 

lavender hanging to dry

Read through our lavender fall guide for more in-depth tips on prepping your lavender for winter, reducing fungal infections, and keeping an overall healthy plant.

Continue this routine throughout the life of your herb. Also, add a small amount of fertilizer and re-pot as necessary.

How to Get Lavender to Bloom (6 main tips)

  1. Prune your lavender in the spring to stimulate growth and grow fragrant flowers.
  2. Make sure your plant is getting 8 hours of sun or grow lights a day.
  3. Fertilize the appropriate amount. See the section earlier in the article for more details on feeding lavender.
  4. Choose the correct-sized container with a well-draining potting mix.
  5. Regularly deadhead any old blooms.
  6. Water infrequently. Lavender does not like too much moisture.

Uses For Lavender

Culinary Use:

Want to learn how to use lavender in the kitchen? Check out our article to learn the ins and outs of cooking with lavender.

Here are some other ways to utilize this herb:

  • Essential oils
  • Salves and balms
  • Aromatherapy
  • Candles
  • Soaps
lavender soap

Summary

I hope you enjoyed this article on everything you need to know to easily grow and care for lavender in pots!

If you are uniquely growing your lavender, let us know! We would love to hear more about it.

All the best 🙂

References

[1] Erythropel HC, Maric M, Nicell JA, Leask RL, Yargeau V. Leaching of the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) from plastic containers and the question of human exposure. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2014 Dec;98(24):9967-81. doi: 10.1007/s00253-014-6183-8. Epub 2014 Nov 7. PMID: 25376446.