You have been benefiting from violet lavender flowers making the garden look and smell appealing, but suddenly things change. Your plant is dying and you desperately want to save it. Your first thought is, “why is my lavender dying”?
Lavender plants could be dying for several reasons such as:
- Root rot
- Incorrect soil
- Over pruning
- Lack of sunlight
- Winter damage
Causes of Lavender Dying and tips to solve
Let us look at the reasons in detail and the ways to revive dying lavender.
1. Root Rot
Every lavender gardener’s nightmare is root rot! This condition is not just caused by overwatering.
Other conditions that could lead to root rot are high humidity, rainfall, poorly draining soils, mulch, and inadequate spacing between plants.
Lavenders originate from Mediterranean-like conditions. Lots of sunlight, poor sandy soils, and infrequent watering keep these plants happy and blooming.
If you are watering your lavender several times a week, you are probably overdoing it!
Lavender plants require watering once every two weeks in the growing season. The plants require even less watering during winter (once every 4 to 6 weeks)
Be extra careful when spotting overwatered lavender. The lavender appears brown or yellow and this is easily thought to be a sign of underwatering, which is a big mistake!
Your lavender is better off being given less water than more water. This actually suits them well because these plants are drought-hardy.
Reviving Lavender From Root Rot
- Uproot Lavender plants and remove them from the spot it is in
- Take sterile pruners and cut off any soft and discolored roots (also remove any dead stems and leaves)
- Transplant to porous soil that bears a high sand/gravel composition. Avoid using soils that are majorly composed of clay.
- When planting a row of lavender plants or even growing Lavender with roses, space them at least 2 to 3 feet apart. This prevents high humidity between plants.
- Don’t use mulch that retains water as this can affect soil moisture levels
- Stick to a once every two-week watering plan and do not exceed this.
2. Incorrect Soil
Any slight discrepancy with soil will affect the growth of your lavender plants.
But one factor that needs extra attention is the porosity of the soil. Lavender as mentioned does not like soils that are wet or accumulate water. The water should actually pass through the soil like a sieve.
What is the best draining soil that will satisfy lavender? Sandy soils with lots of gravel like the ones present in the Mediterranean. Clay soils are unacceptable and will only lead to root rot as they hold water.
Signs of poorly draining soil are similar to those caused by overwatering, wilting, drooping, and discoloration of foliage. This is not surprising since poor soil does complicate situations that involve overwatering.
Reviving Lavender From Poor Soil
- Since overwatering and poor soil drainage are a dangerous combination, scale back the watering.
- Replant the lavender in another location that has the correct soil
- Temporarily plant the lavender somewhere else while you amend the soil, then plant it back
- Transplant the lavender into a pot that has enough drainage holes and porous soil
- When it comes to amending soil to increase water drainage, soils with higher sand or gravel content should be your preference. Thankfully these types of soils are perfect since they also have a low to medium fertility.
- Lavender doesn’t do great in fertile soil, or at least it means you won’t get flowers! Avoid soils with high organic matter content.
3. Over Pruning (Incorrect Pruning That Has Left Woody Lavender)
As a rule of thumb, only ⅔ of the lavender plant should be cut while pruning.
Pruning the lavender stems is a delicate task as pruning too much or too little will not yield the desired results.
Pruning helps to improve lavender’s frost or cold hardiness. Not to mention it keeps the plant tidy and stimulates more growth and flowering after deadheading.
Make a note of the best times to prune lavender. These are twice a year, once in summer after flowers are dying and once again in spring.
Symptoms of a lavender plant needing revival due to aggressive pruning are bushy appearance, few flowers, and possible split stems.
These plants are very weak in the stem areas and are more prone to breakage.
Reviving Lavender That’s Over Pruned
- Of all the ill effects a lavender can suffer from, over-pruning is the worst and hardest to correct. There is no guarantee that you can revive an over-pruned lavender. You can try but if it does not seem to be working you have to start looking for a replacement!
- You should avoid cutting into woody growth and should only cut through green growth. Cutting the woody stems could compromise the plant’s structure and possibly its life!
- Take care to prune your lavender only in the season it is supposed to receive pruning. Try to ensure pruning is done in the morning so that oils are released and the lavender fragrance becomes stronger.
- Not much you can do to save your lavender now except wait and see if lavender shoots back in the growing seasons.
4. Lavender With Yellow Foliage (Excessive Fertilizer/Compost)
Lavenders are not greedy plants, if anything they are the opposite!
These plants do their best in soils that have a medium to low fertility rating. It means that your lavender requires very little nutrients to grow and flower.
By now it should make sense that excessive nutrients can cause ill effects on your lavender. Compost soils will make your lavender grow excessively but without flowering!
But if your soil has too much fertilizer, lavender turning yellow will be a sure sign of ailment due to too many nutrients.
This happens because the fertilizer in the soil contains too much Nitrogen.
Reviving Lavender That Has Yellow Foliage
- If you are feeding your outdoor lavender, stop it straight away!
- You can only provide small amounts of water-soluble fertilizer to indoor plants. This is only permissible because they have little chance of sourcing all their nutrient requirements from one pot of soil.
- If feeding has been going on for a long time it is quite likely that the soil is saturated with excess nutrients. You can perform a soil test with a readymade test kit to confirm this theory. As long as large amounts of Nitrogen and other nutrients are present, your lavender will not flower.
- So, you must amend the soil. You have to find a way to dilute the soil and lower the nutrient levels. That’s because you can’t replace all of the soil and be sure that the nutrient levels will drop.
- Instead, what you can do is add more sand or gravel to the soil. This will make the soil more similar to its native soil as well as increase its drainage properties. Thereby this action works to benefit the lavender in two ways.
- How much sand should you add to the soil? To make suitable soil for lavender, you should add around 30% sand and 70% soil to create a good lavender soil mix.
- Add soil with this proportion to a depth of 18 inches because the lavender roots will easily reach this deep.
5. Lack of Sunlight
Being grown in the Mediterranean, and other parts of Europe guarantees at least 6 hours of sunlight or ideally more. Anything much less than 6 hours will start to affect your lavender plants.
Sunlight has a direct influence on the production of flowers, oils, and aroma. So lavender plants that receive poor sunlight will show stunted growth, discolored leaves, and reduced aroma.
The plants could possibly die if they are not provided with adequate hours of sunlight.
Another reason why sunlight is important is it evaporates excess moisture which otherwise could compromise the plant.
Reviving Lavender Grown In Shade
- You may plant your lavender in an area only to find plants and buildings blocking the sun after a few years. Solving this will require you to cut down or remove the plants blocking the sunlight.
- Perhaps a transplant is the best way to ensure your lavender ends up in the sunniest spot in the garden. Make sure this location receives a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day to stimulate the growth of the newly planted lavender.
- Space your lavender at least 2 to 3 feet apart to ensure the sun completely envelopes each plant.
- To provide sun to indoor plants you can use an artificial source of light like a lamp.
Although lavender does tend to ward off some insects it is not immune to its own set of pests.
Avoiding pests before they infest your lavender is the ideal goal since they can do harm when they infest the plants.
There are a few insects that infest lavender plants, they are Spittlebugs, Aphids, and Whiteflies
A foamy white substance covering lavender stems is a sure sign of pest infestation, particularly the one resulting from Spittlebugs. These insects also go by the name frog-hopper bug.
While this infestation might not kill the entire plant, entire branches can die.
Reviving Lavender From Spittlebug Infestation
Normally spraying plants with a pressurized stream of water removes the foam as well as the insects. But, this technique is not very effective in cases of severe infestation.
In dire situations when this approach is not working, you may have to turn to commercial pesticides.
One of the worst insects to get rid of is Aphids and unfortunately, they affect lavender plants.
These insects drink sap and the effects may only show if the infestation contains an enormous number of aphids.
But their sap-sucking is not what worries lavender gardeners, it is their ability to act as vehicles for disease.
Aphids can transmit the Alfalfa Mosaic Virus. This disease displays as twisted leaves that bear yellow spots. This disease is contagious, which is why it is so feared!
Reviving Lavender From Aphids
Placing Neem oil or horticultural oil on stems makes them too slippery for aphids to grab hold of. Thereby preventing or dispersing aphid infestations with little fuss.
Another option to prevent aphids is to harbor their natural predators (lady beetles, green and brown lace wigs, hoverflies, etc.)
Using pesticides would also affect beneficial insects that eat aphids and stimulate pollination.
Whiteflies are another pest that is commonly found to hamper lavender plants.
Like aphids, they drink the sap of the lavender from the bottom portion of the leaves. This affects the plants by distorting their appearance and risking the plant livelihood.
After feeding, whiteflies leave a substance on the plant that can initiate mold infections. Lavenders do not fare well against such infections and prevention is definitely better than cure in this case.
Reviving Lavender From Whitefly Infestation
The usual technique of a stream of water will work to disperse the infestation, but pesticides won’t work.
For this pest, preventing an infestation is the best plan of action. You can do this by placing aluminum foil, lights, or other bright objects around the lavender plants,
This deters them since they are not so fond of light.
7. Reviving Lavender After Winter
Most plants become dormant during the winter months and then shoot back to life in spring.
With lavender, only English lavender is cold hardy and can survive winter. It does so by becoming dormant, ceasing all growth.
But all other types of lavender cannot survive winter unless they are grown in pots and taken indoors. They can be taken back outside when temperatures increase and seasons change.
Reviving a lavender after winter is sometimes a waiting process. You cannot do much apart from waiting to see if it grows shoots in spring!
Your lavender plants could be dying for a range of reasons. Finding the reasons and making efforts to correct the problem is crucial to bringing back your lavender.
The most common solutions for lavender dying are:
- Scaling back watering
- Amending soil
- Correcting pruning habits
- Preventing or controlling pest infestations
- Providing enough hours of sunlight
- Bringing lavender indoors during winter
Which solution you choose is based on the problem you face. Sometimes a number of changes (solutions) are required to save your lavender!
Lavender is known to come back to life after winter even though it looks dead. But this especially applies to English lavender which survives winter by becoming dormant. Other lavender variants will most probably not come back to life after winter.
Lavender can become limp because it is dry or because it is waterlogged. Since lavender is very sensitive to overwatering, probably the latter would be the reason.