Lavenders are known for their resilience and ability to thrive in Mediterranean climates. These hardy plants require full sun, well-drained sandy soil, and low to medium fertility. While lavenders can be easy to grow, they can also face challenges that lead to their decline. In this article, we will explore the most common reasons why lavenders struggle and provide effective solutions to revive your lavender plant.
- Over Watering Lavenders (Drooping Appearance with Brown Foliage)
- The Soil Drains Too Slowly (Too much Moisture Around the Roots)
- Not Enough Sunlight
- Wrong Soil Acidity (pH 6.5-7.5 is optimal)
- Wrong Lavender for Your Climate
- The Climate may be Too Humid for Lavenders
- Aggressive Pruning into Woody Growth
- Foliage Turning Yellow (Excess of Nitrogen in the Soil)
Over Watering Lavenders (Drooping Appearance with Brown Foliage)
One of the most common reasons why lavenders struggle is over watering. Lavenders are natives of the Mediterranean region, where they are accustomed to scorching dry summers. These plants are exceptionally tolerant to drought and require little water to thrive and produce flowers.
If lavenders receive excessive water, they can develop root rot, resulting in drooping or wilting appearance and browning foliage. It is often mistaken as under watering, leading to increased watering and worsening the root rot.
To revive an over watered lavender, it is essential to stop watering the plant for at least three weeks. Protecting the lavender from rainfall during this period can help the soil drain and the roots to dry out. Pruning any affected foliage just below the brown areas is necessary. After three weeks without water, the lavender should show signs of recovery, and you can resume a normal watering schedule.
The Soil Drains Too Slowly (Too much Moisture Around the Roots)
Lavenders prefer sandy soil with excellent drainage. Soil that drains too slowly can lead to excessive moisture around the roots, causing stress and similar symptoms to over watering.
To improve soil drainage, you can either transfer the lavender into a pot with superior drainage or temporarily remove the lavender from the ground, amend the soil with sand or grit, and replant it. Adding sand or grit to the soil promotes good drainage and replicates the lower fertility of native Mediterranean soils.
It is crucial to provide lavenders with at least 30% sand or grit to 70% soil in most climates. If the soil is still slow-draining, you can create raised beds, plant lavenders in pots, or mound the earth to encourage quicker drainage. Within three weeks, the lavender’s roots should dry out properly and show signs of improvement.
Not Enough Sunlight
While lavenders thrive in full sun in the Mediterranean, you can still grow them in areas without a Mediterranean climate. However, it is essential to ensure that they are placed in the sunniest location of your garden.
Lavenders require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day during the spring and summer months to grow successfully. Insufficient sunlight can result in poor growth, lack of color in the leaves, and diminished fragrance.
If your lavender displays these signs, moving the plant to a sunnier location is necessary. Transplanting lavenders to a pot or finding an area of your garden with more than six hours of sun per day can help them thrive. Transplanting is best done in late winter or early spring to minimize transplant shock.
Wrong Soil Acidity (pH 6.5-7.5 is optimal)
Lavenders can tolerate both mildly acidic and alkaline soils. However, soil that is too acidic (below pH 6.5) can hinder lavender’s growth and potential to produce blooms, healthy foliage, and fragrance.
To determine your soil’s pH level, you can use an inexpensive soil test kit. If your soil is too acidic for lavender, you can transfer the plant to a pot with new soil or amend the soil with lime or wood ash. Raising the pH towards neutral or alkaline levels can improve lavender’s health and vitality.
Transferring lavender to a pot with well-draining soil or adding lime to the ground are effective solutions. Lime should be added by digging or tilling it into the soil at a depth of around 18 inches. Adjusting the soil pH may require patience and frequent retesting to achieve the desired results.
Wrong Lavender for Your Climate
Lavenders originating from Mediterranean regions, such as Spanish, French, and Italian varieties, are less tolerant of cold weather and frequent frosts. English lavender cultivars, on the other hand, are hardier and can withstand colder climates.
If you are growing lavenders in cold climates, it is advisable to choose English lavender species. However, if you already have southern European varieties in a cooler climate, you can transfer them to pots or protect them from frosts during winter.
Propagating lavender is also an option if you experience regular frost damage. By following these strategies, you can ensure the survival of your lavender plants in colder climates.
The Climate may be Too Humid for Lavenders
Humid climates with slow evaporation rates can pose challenges for lavenders. Soil that remains too moist can lead to root rot or fungal diseases. The signs of stress in humid climates resemble those of over watering or slow-draining soil, including drooping appearance and browning foliage.
To help lavenders cope with humidity, it is essential to space the plants at least three feet away from other vegetation or corners of your garden. The more exposed the location and the better the airflow, the better it is for lavenders. Planting lavenders in pots and placing them in the most exposed or windy areas can also help.
Additionally, using white stones or gravel as mulch around the lavender can reflect sunlight and decrease humidity. These adjustments can create a micro-climate that promotes better growth and decreased moisture retention around the plants.
Aggressive Pruning into Woody Growth
Pruning lavenders is essential for their proper growth, but it is crucial to follow the golden rule of pruning: only cut back into green foliage and avoid cutting into the woody growth. Cutting into the woody growth can lead to splitting and poor plant shape or even shock.
Pruning should take place in late summer when new leaves start to grow at the base. Lavenders respond well to pruning because they produce flowers on new growth. You can prune up to a third of the growth, shaping the lavender to retain rounded form and prevent splitting.
Foliage Turning Yellow (Excess of Nitrogen in the Soil)
If your lavender’s foliage turns yellow and appears leggy, it indicates an excess of nitrogen in the soil. While nitrogen is essential for plant growth, lavenders prefer medium to low fertility conditions. Soil that is naturally rich or has added organic or chemical fertilizers can result in leggy growth with fewer flowers and diminished fragrance.
To address excessive nitrogen, cease applying fertilizer immediately if you have used any. If the soil is naturally high in nutrients, consider transferring the lavender to a pot with potting soil and sand or amending the soil with sand and grit.
Adding sand or grit to the soil can recreate the lower fertility conditions of lavenders’ native environment. Aim for around 50% sand or grit mixed with soil at a depth of 18 inches. Lavenders can recover and produce abundant blooms with these adjustments.
By following these strategies and recreating some of the conditions of lavenders’ preferred habitat, you can revive struggling lavenders and enjoy their beautiful blooms and captivating fragrance in your garden. Act quickly, as most lavender plants can be saved with appropriate care related to soil drainage, watering, sunlight, soil pH, and fertilizer usage. Remember, lavenders are hardy plants that can rebound with the right interventions.