Is Lavender A Perennial Or Annual?

Is Lavender A Perennial Or Annual?

Lavender plants appear to differ from most plants in the garden. Not just in appearance but in their life cycle as well. This automatically prompts the question – Is lavender a perennial or annual plant? 

All lavender plants are perennial plants that last many years if looked after properly. 

To understand what exactly this means, let’s look at what perennials and annuals really are and what their differences are. 

Perennial Plants

Perennial plants are plants that survive for many years. They do not die out during winter but a certain portion of the top growth dies back. But that’s not the end of the plant!

The plant will shoot and grow back in the spring season. 

Note that the plant’s roots and the majority of the plant do stay intact. And these plants may never be bare at any time of the year.

Unlike Annuals, they never have to start again and have an established root system to support their regrowth. 

Annual Plants

All annual plants share one main similarity. Their entire life cycle lasts just a single growing season.

That includes germinating from seed to growing into a mature plant and producing seed filled-flowers. 

After the growing season is up, all parts of the plant will die, this includes leaves, stems, and roots.

Leaving only the seeds as a bridge to the next generation of the plants. Once the plant dies, it starts over from seeds.

Main Differences Between Annuals and Perennials 

Annuals and Perennials are not the same and what works for an annual will not work for a perennial.

A plant cannot be both an annual and perennial. But, an exception occurs in warmer climates, an annual plant may behave like a perennial plant. 

Some people often mistake the two or misidentify a plant. This could lead to incorrect care and the death of the particular plant.

Well, to avoid this happening let’s take a look at what are the differences between these two plant categories.

AnnualsPerennials
Entire life cycle takes place within one seasonThey persist for years
In winter these plants are more likely to completely dieThey die back and are dormant but alive in winters
Annual plant blooms are very appealing and showyPerennial plant blooms may not be the most attractive
Blooming is continuous lasting weeks to monthsBlooming is subject to timing and lasts a few weeks at most
All annual plants can usually be planted at any time of the yearFor perennials, planting must be done either in spring or fall (before first ground freezes during winter)
Distinct differences between Perennial plants and Annual plants

What Are Lavender Plants: Perennial or Annual?

So, now comes the pressing question every gardener asks. Is lavender perennial or annual?

Knowing this information is important because it provides insights into how to look after your plants.

This in turn increases the chances of your lavender plants living out their full lifespan!

Well, all lavender variants are perennial plants as they are capable of living for several years. They can even last for a decade (in the case of English lavender) if cared for properly.

English lavenders are the most hardy and can survive winters in the outdoors. They become dormant during this phase and will shoot back when spring arrives. Not all lavenders are this strong and tolerant. 

Lavender can also be called a subshrub. Subshrubs are perennials as well but special ones.

These perennials have different care and growing requirements compared to your basic perennial. We will discuss their differences and specific needs in the next section. 

Need a comparison to choose a lavender? English Lavender vs French Lavender 

Subshrubs

First time hearing about the word ‘subshrub’? We don’t blame you. This word might confuse many people and that’s why it is avoided.

But if you want to know everything about lavender before you grow it, a definition of subshrub is essential.

A subshrub can simply be defined as a bushy, low-growing plant that commonly has a woody stem and herbaceous foliage. 

The portion of the stem just above the ground is woody. It is from this woody area that shoots arise and keep the plant coming back year after year. Isn’t this a better description for lavender than that of perennial plants? 

Lavender is in this plant group because you cannot prune it the same way you would a normal perennial plant. Doing so would probably end up killing the lavender plant.

Therefore, lavender and other plants with woody stems need special pruning and care to ensure survival.  

Why Are Lavenders Mistaken As Annuals? 

Before reading this, you may have come across a place on the internet that said lavender was an annual.

Well, now that you know this is false you must be thinking why such a statement would be made. 

Failure for the plant to last a year can be put down to inadequate care and undesirable conditions. Lavender plants that don’t last a year because of poor care are the reason why people think lavenders are “annuals”!

The reason for this is probably that most people leave their lavender outdoors during winter. And as a result, the lavender dies. This means the lavender does not exceed a year of growth. 

In actual fact with the right care, lavender can last a few years at the least. Even the shortest living landers can live for 3 to 4 years. 

This exclusively applies to French and Spanish lavenders that aren’t cold hardy and cannot survive harsh winters.

If there are to be any chances of these plants surviving, you must bring them indoors.

Therefore, you must plant these lavenders in pots to be brought inside. 

This ability for lavender (specific variants) to perish in winters before having lived a year makes them mistaken as annual plants. 

Which Lavenders Last Longer?

Not all lavenders grow the same and last the same amount of time. You’re not even guaranteed that they will live past the first year!

Lavender plants have very demanding and specific care and environmental requirements. But many of them are sensitive to cold. 

In most cases failure to protect your lavender from winter cold will be fatal to the plants. This applies to French lavender and Spanish lavender which are more vulnerable than English lavender. 

English lavender and hybrid lavender plants last the longest as they can die back and shoot back for several years. French and Spanish lavender are not as fortunate and might not last a full year even!

But this doesn’t have to happen. Sheltering your lavender plants will save them before it is too late! Planting French and Spanish lavender in pots and bringing them in during winter is the best way to make them last. 

Find out here how long lavender lives.

Ways To Increase The Lifespan Of Annual Lavender

Lavender isn’t really an annual, but many refer to the less hardy variants (French and Spanish) as “annual lavender”.

Many lavender lovers ask if there is any way to save their lavender from perishing in its first year.

The truth is that there are ways to protect both hardy and non-hardy lavender variants. The ability to increase life of your lavender plants hinges on three main factors:

  1. Drainage 
  2. Protection from snow, cold, and ice
  3. Planting the right lavender based on your climate 

For Hardy Lavender Variants

The term ‘hardy lavender’ refers exclusively to English lavender and Lavandula x intermedia types. 

To make these plants live longer you don’t have to bring them indoors. But you should definitely try to cover them during cold frosty winters.

You can do so by using a covering and cutting out a hole for the plants to get sunlight.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to make holes in the cover you can get a breathable fabric. Examples are burlap, woven hemp fabric, or another garden blanket made from the appropriate textile. 

For Non-Hardy Lavender Variants

Non-hardy lavenders are the French and Spanish varieties. You probably already know the only way to make this lavender last longer than a usual annual lifespan.

Yes, you have to bring these plants inside the house for winter and then take them out in spring. 

But don’t be fooled! Even after bringing them indoors, there is work to be done to keep them alive and happy.

Keep them away from air currents and try to avoid overwatering. Indoor conditions are not sufficient to evaporate moisture faster than outdoor conditions. 

Make sure to use the right soil to prevent the rotting of roots. There should be a 30:70 or 50:50, sand to compost ratio.

Also, indoor lavender needs long hours of sunlight (or artificial growing light) to survive and thrive.

The ability to provide the desired conditions won’t just make your lavender last longer but it will also produce better flowers.  

Keep Spares!

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to make your lavender last, it still ends up dying! You may have taken all the right steps but were still dealt a hand of bad luck.

There is nothing you can do to change this but you should still look ahead to the future.

The best move you can make is to get a new lavender and try to make things work this time around.

As soon as you get a lavender plant and it attains health and maturity, you should start to propagate it to multiply the number of plants. 

Want a companion for your lavender? Read about growing Basil from cuttings.

Conclusion

Lavender plants are perennials, to be specific they are perennial subshrubs. These plants last several years (between 5 and 10 years depending on the variant).

But how long lavender lives depends on the conditions it is grown in and the care it receives. 

Lavender is mistaken as an annual when people plant non-hardy lavender (French or Spanish lavender) in cold winter climates. Of course, the plants are not equipped for winter and end up dying within a year. 

We hope you now have clarity about what lavender really is and you can provide better care to it!

FAQs

Does lavender spread?

Lavender plants spread to fill the space that a regular mature plant of its variant grows up to take. But when talking about lavender actually reproducing and multiplying, there are only two ways this can happen. Apart from these two methods, lavender plants cannot spread. 
Seeds can fall and germinate but this only happens when conditions are desirable, which is very rare!
The second method of spreading is if you purposely spread lavender plants. By propagation, you can separate the plant into several smaller plants and plant them in the garden.

What type of lavender comes back every year?

Two types of lavender come back every year, these are English lavender and Lavandula x intermedia. These become dormant or die back in winters, only to shoot back in spring.