Lavender: how did they do?

I've already looked at the bamboos and cactus to see how they fared after the tough winter, and today it's time to look at another group of plants that I have a small collection of: lavender.

It seems that I lose at least one lavender every winter regardless of its severity, as the combination of cold wetness and heavy soil is usually too much for at least one of the plants. This year it's about the same... but let's take a closer look.


I have three 'Munstead' lavenders (which I grew from seed about a decade ago!) in small planter boxes along the south wall of the house. I suspect that the boxes give them the drainage they really want because they've been as reliable as any plant I grow.

This year there is a bit of dieback, but that's to be expected:

I'll clean it up now that I know which parts are still alive.

The second of the three plants is a little bit worse:

(Yes, that's my cape honeysuckle next to it!) It's still alive and worth keeping though.

The third one...

...did not survive the winter and I pulled it out already. It wasn't in great shape going into fall, and this plant probably died of old age. I need to refresh the soil in there anyway. Not sure what I'll plant there, as I want something that's bigger and taller than the Munstead. A bigger lavender? Not sure yet.

Also in this same part of the garden is a lavender that I can no longer identify:

It's about half dead after the winter, with plenty of new growth...

...but plenty of parts that need to be pruned out too:

This plant is going to be too large if all of the new growth happens on the outer edges. Does anybody know if I can prune it back and if it will start growing from the older, woodier parts of the plant? I remember reading years ago that lavender pruning can be tricky.

I also have a Spanish lavender that I grew from seed last year and overwintered in the garage (as it's not cold-hardy enough for our typical winters):

I had a few more but this was the only one that survived. I had a lot of losses in the garage this winter, primarily due to lack of watering I think. I'm looking forward to seeing this one bloom though!

On to what was for the past couple of years the king of lavenders in my garden:

This was a 'Grosso' lavender at the end of my "prairie" bed. It was almost six feet wide!

I've waited and waited for signs of new growth, but it's pretty clear that this one is not coming back. I checked quite thoroughly too.

So out it comes.

So woody! I think this plant is about five years old, maybe six. 

Ah, there is a bit of life left in it, but not enough to salvage. Sorry!

Hey, I had forgotten that there was a rock under here! It was overgrown a few years back.

So the huge 'Grosso' is gone. It did so well for so many years, I think I may replace it with another. Since I'm down to only three live in-ground lavenders now, I almost must. There's room for something else here too I think though... yay, more planting space!

Do you grow lavender in a cold climate garden? How does it behave for you?

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sandy lawrence –   – (May 13, 2014 at 10:50 AM)  

Just read yesterday on The Outlaw Gardener - - to prune lavender annually if you want to avoid woody and straggly growth.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 13, 2014 at 12:15 PM)  

One thing I've learned about lavender: It is surprisingly short-lived. I find myself replacing plants that are only five or six years old. Usually they don't die all at once, but in pieces.

As for pruning, I've seen new growth from dead-looking woody branches but more often than not, if it looks dead, it's dead. Try not to let the plant get too woody in the first place; maybe that will prolong its life. That's certainly my strategy with new plants now.

Ally  – (May 13, 2014 at 12:28 PM)  

I grow lavender in zone 8 which is a relatively warm climate. You'd think it would be easy breezy to grow, but I don't have a great track record. I manage to keep a plant for a few years, but it never looks quite as good as the first year it's installed. I love it, so I'll keep at it. Do you have any special tips?

Sarah  – (May 13, 2014 at 5:08 PM)  

I like to divide my lavender every few years. That way you never get that huge woody growth AND you can get rid of the hole in the middle that you see with lavender as it grows outward (like your unidentified variety). As long as your division has a good clump of roots it'll be fine. Replant each division to make a larger clump, relocate them to another place in the garden or give 'em away. I must admit that I'd have potted up that scrap of Grosso :)

FYI... Lavendula Angustifolia "Jean Davis" looks really pretty when paired with 'Munstead'. Same growth size/requirements but pink flowers instead of purple!

Lisa  – (May 13, 2014 at 9:09 PM)  

I have the same spotty lavender history - love it too much to pass it up, but I can 't seem to find a spot that it will come back reliably. Five years would be a miracle in my garden... generally I get two or three years and then nothing.

Alan  – (May 13, 2014 at 9:21 PM)  

Wow, I was thinking that today's post would be sort of a "throwaway", one of those posts that is mainly to help me remember when "the big Grosso died". Lots of comments though -- thank you! Glad to hear that I'm not the only one with Lavender troubles every year.

I guess the key really is to prune every year. I'm determined now to get a couple of replacement lavenders and practice this!

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