We know a thing or two about challenging weather and growing lavender during the winter here in Appalachia. Lavender is a wonderful, sun-soaked plant that you want to keep with you all year round, but it wasn’t quite built for Northern temperature drops. If you’re a home lavender grower, there is still time to prepare your lavender for the winter weather!
Know Your Type
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Eastern Asia. Large lavender fields don’t exist in many locations, especially in the United States, because it loves warm, temperate weather and sunshine. It’s gorgeous, has a wonderful taste and smell, and attracts many pollinators that love to find it in your garden! Growing lavender and preparing it for the winter depends on what kind you have and where you are located.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most common species of lavender. English lavender gets its name not from its origin, but from its popularity with English royalty. It is hardy in zones 5 and warmer which translates to being able to withstand temperatures down to -20OF (you can find your location’s hardiness zone here).
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and French lavender (Lavandula dentata) on the other hand require even warmer weather and are only hardy when kept outdoors in zones 8 and warmer. This means it can only withstand temperatures of 10OF or higher. This type of lavender is also native to Mediterranean countries, including, of course, France and Spain.
Once you know your area’s hardiness zone, you’re ready to make a game plan. English lavender in zones 5 and higher should hold up in the outdoors with just a thin layer of hay on top. French lavender can typically survive the winter if planted in zones 8 and up, making sure to tend to them if your winter weather is particularly mild. If you choose to keep them outdoors, be wary of water logging! Too much water will destroy the roots, so make sure they are planted in an area with plenty of drainage for all that dew and snow. Also, keep in mind that during this time your plants will mostly go dormant and won’t produce much. But fear not, they just need a little more sunshine and they should be good as new in the Springtime.
If you’re not in the “safe zone”, growing lavender plants can still be done if you bring them inside. Try following these tips:
- Pruning: Once your flower buds begin to fade, remove your lavender’s flower stalks as close to the leaves as possible so its energy isn’t consumed by the flowers. You can cut your plant back to about ⅓ of its size safely a few weeks before the first frost.
- Potting: If you’re putting more than one plant in a container, make sure they have at least 2 to 3-inches of space in between them to allow for air circulation. They tend to like soil with plenty of drainage and a slightly alkaline pH in a large pot for them to spread their roots. Layer the pot with .5-1 inch of gravel for even better drainage to avoid root-rot.
- Lighting: Happy, healthy lavender plants still need lots of sun even in the winter. So long as a strong draft doesn’t blow through, you can place your plant near a windowsill that receives at least 3-4 hours of sun or use a grow-light to keep them happy through the winter. Be sure to rotate your plant every few days or so to spread the love!
- Temperature: You’ll want to keep your lavender at at least 60OF when they venture indoors. Try to avoid areas with fluctuating temperatures like near drafty windows or next to heaters.
- Watering: Be careful not to overwater your plant during the winter. Only water when the top two inches of soil are completely dried out.
- Fertilizing: Even though it’s hard to see your plants lacking their happy purple color, don’t give them any “treats” (aka fertilizer) until the spring to avoid overfeeding. Lavender plants hoard water and they hoard nutrients — it’s one of the biggest reasons why home gardeners often fail with their lavender.
This year’s harvest is coming to an end, but we have plenty of time to overwinter our plants for next season!
Satiate your Lavender Cravings
Luckily, we had a wonderful season growing lavender at our West Virginian farm. As the season comes to an end, we’re harvesting the last of our plants and using them to create new products that will last us all winter long. Together with a local apiary, we’re also harvesting the last goldenrod honey of the season and infusing it with our Appalachian-grown lavender for a honey that will literally never go out of season. We also have pure lavender essential oils and other lavender infused products we make using our organic, non-gmo, sustainably grown lavender plants!
Want to know what we have going on this winter in Appalachia? Head over to our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and or Youtube accounts to follow along and get to know everyone on the team, including the bees!