Is Lavender a Perennial? [Growing Tips & Lifespan Info!]

is lavender a perennial

When planning out your garden, you want to have a mixture of annual and perennial plants. Annual plants are those that only grow and flower for one season, whereas perennials will continue to come back for several seasons in a row.

So, is lavender a perennial? The answer is, it depends on the growing conditions of the plant. Lavender plants will live longer in warm, full-sun environments similar to that of its native Mediterranean homeland.

In this article, we’ll discuss the right conditions in which to grow healthy and long-lasting lavender, as well as average lavender lifespans, how to prepare your lavender plant for winter, and more.

What are the Right Growing Conditions for Lavender?

There are several conditions that are simply non-negotiables if you want your garden to grow, thrive, and continue to come back year after year. Keep in mind that while your lavender plant can still survive without some of these conditions, its longevity, size and quality of bloom will be lowered.

  • Full sun: this one is pretty much mandatory. Lavender needs lots of sunlight, up to 6+ hours a day, to grow large and healthy. While some varieties are more shade-resistant than others, no lavender plant can survive in full shade and without ample sunlight, they won’t grow as big.
  • Limited water: lavender needs water to grow and thrive, but not too much! This plant is prone to root rot if given too much water, which is unfortunately easy to do. Choose well-draining soil like sandy loam and avoid watering until the soil is completely dry.
  • A bit of space: Lavender needs space not only for its roots to thrive but for air circulation between plants, which can help the soil dry faster and prevent root rot.
  • Quick-draining, low-fertility soil: the last thing you want when trying to grow lavender are soggy roots and non-draining soil. Choose a soil like sandy loam, mulch, clay pellets, or cactus soil to make sure that any excess water can easily be drained away from the plant. This goes for both potted and in-ground lavender plants!

Lavender Plant Lifespan by Climate Zone

Just like other growing conditions, the climate zone in which you live has a big impact on whether a lavender plant will thrive or under perform. By being aware of your climate zone, you can choose the right lavender variety for you and give it the best chance at many seasonal returns.

Lavender Plant Compatible Climate Zone(s) Expected Lifespan
English Lavender Zones 5-8 Up to 10-15 years with proper care
Egyptian/Italian Lavender Zones 5-9 Up to 10-15 years with proper care
French Lavender Zones 8-11 Up to 5 years, even with the best care
Spanish Lavender Zones 8-11 Up to 5 years, even with the best care
Grow Your Yard Tip
The USDA’s Zone Hardiness Map will give you a good idea of what climate zone you live in, so you can better choose the lavender plant that will grow best in your area. One reason lavender is often mistaken for an annual plant is because they’re killed off with the first frost because they were grown in the wrong climate!

How to Prepare Your Lavender Plant for Winter

Lavender is a hardy and drought-resistant plant that does well with minimal interference, but there are a few things that you can do to prepare your lavender in the winter months and encourage new growth in the spring.

  1. If you grow your lavender in the ground, give your plants a good pruning to prepare them for winter. Cut off the newer stems, but don’t cut the woody, more established parts of the plant. You want to create a mound so that snow has a harder time piling on top of your plant.
  2. If you’re growing your plant in a pot, you don’t need to water it as much as you would in the summer. In the winter, your lavender is growing less (it’s in what’s called a dormant phase) and therefore it doesn’t need as much water to keep it growing. Lavender already doesn’t need much to begin with since it’s a drought tolerant plan, so you really only need to worry about watering your plants about once a month during the winter season.
  3. If your area is hit by an unexpected bout of frost, either bring your lavender plants inside as soon as possible, or cover them with a sheet to keep the snow or frost from covering the plant or soaking into the roots.
  4. Cover the roots with mulch or sand to help protect the soil if you’re going to get a lot of snow. Your main goal is to keep the snow from soaking into the soil too much and causing root rot in your plants. Remember, lavender plants need very little water during the winter while they’re dormant!
Grow Your Yard Tip
Keep in mind the kind of lavender you have. Spanish, French (learn the difference between french and english lavender) and Italian lavender plants are not able to survive a cold winter, so you should make sure to transplant them into a pot and take them inside for the winter. Gradually acclimate them to your house by bringing them inside every day for a few hours in the weeks prior to winter.

What to Do if Your Lavender Plant Isn’t Blooming

  • Give your plant good drainage. Lavender plants do best when they’re not bogged down by too much water, so the issue isn’t just with overwatering, it’s also with having too little good drainage. Choose soils that will pull water away from your lavender plant’s roots to prevent root rot. Preferably, choose a sandy loam, which is a mixture of sand, silt and clay.
  • Cut back on fertilizer. Lavender plants don’t actually do that well in soil that is too fertile. The plant itself will grow, but you’ll find that the foliage will grow much faster and larger than the blooms will, so if you’re looking to create the best bloom possible, choose a soil with a mild fertility level.
  • Move the plant into a pot. Potted lavender has its own set of challenges, but it will be easier for you to control the plant’s environment and conditions this way. This is especially helpful if you live in a rainy climate or have a shady yard. You can move the pot to exactly where it needs to be to thrive!
  • Create a warmer environment, all year long. This means keeping your lavender in a greenhouse and away from the elements in the winter, and out in the open sun during the summer. Lavender can survive in a variety of conditions, but it will really thrive if you can recreate its Mediterranean roots.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does lavender flower all year?

It depends on the specific species or variety of lavender. Some will begin blooming as early as May, while others might not flower until July or August. With many types of lavender, a little bit of pruning and maintenance will have them blooming all summer long.

How do you cut back lavender?

Cutting back, or “deadheading” lavender is actually much simpler than it sounds. Simply take a pair of gardening shears and cut back the spikes that have finished blooming and begun to wither. This leaves more room for the new spikes to grow and produce even more blooms.

It should be done after the first wave of blooms to encourage a second wave, or at the end of the season in preparation for winter.

How long can a lavender plant live?

While most lavender plants can live at least 3-5 years, some species will go for even longer. With proper maintenance and care, you may see your lavender plant return for up to 15 blooming seasons!

This of course depends entirely on having the right growing conditions for your lavender, so do what you can to encourage new growth and properly prepare your plant for winter for maximum longevity.

Conclusion

Lavender can be a perennial plant, under the correct conditions. It’s important to foster an environment for your lavender plant that will encourage it to flourish, so it comes back stronger and healthier year after year.

While lavender is considered a relatively low-maintenance perennial, it still needs proper preparation leading up to winter so that it can thrive. This is especially true if you don’t live in the traditional environment where lavender grows.

With a little bit of maintenance and know-how, you can grow a long-lasting and happy lavender plant that returns for years to come!

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