Why is My Lavender Plant Dying? How Can I Fix it?
Lavender is a very popular plant and it has many uses. It can be used in cooking, essential oils, and some people just like it for the amazing smell it produces. But what happens when you grow a lavender plant, and it starts dying for what appears to be no reason? In this article, amateur gardener Jason White examines the most common reasons your lavender plant may not be doing so well.
Lavender plants are a superstar in the garden. They’re grown to be a visual delight, provide gorgeous fragrance, and can be used in many remedies and recipes. Lavender also produces beautiful-looking flowers, that are commonly cut for floral arrangements. Regardless of why you grow them, it’s not hard for them to grow their way into your heart as one of your favorite plants. However, things can go wrong with the health of every plant, and lavender is no exception.
It can be disconcerting to see your once-healthy plant start deteriorating. Especially because most lavender varieties are quite hardy. If you are worried about the health of your lavender plant, it’s important to identify the problem as soon as possible, so you can solve it as soon as possible, too. This can take a bit of trial and error, especially if not done with proper research.
In this article, you’ll find the most common reasons lavender may die if not remedied. We’ll walk you through the different symptoms of each problem, and show you the best fixes for them. Taking these tips into consideration, you can ensure the health of your plant for years to come. Let’s take a closer look.
One of the most common mistakes when growing lavender is improper watering. Clearly it is important that your plant gets enough water, as drying it out is never a good thing. However, you should also understand that too much water can also spell trouble for your plant. Both underwatering and overwatering a plant can be disastrous for its health. This is because water is the vehicle that transports nutrients from the soil into the plant. Not enough water, and this is impossible. Too much water, and the plant suffocates and drowns.
To make matters worse, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you are underwatering or overwatering your plant– at least at first glance. The symptoms are similar for both cases, with drooping present, as well as yellowing leaves. However, upon closer inspection, severely underwatered plants will have dry, crispy leaves.
To be able to tell with better precision, you should touch your lavender’s soil. This test should be done before you are set to water your plant. Insert a finger into the soil, going a few inches deep. If the soil is very obviously dry, then your plant is in need of a good, deep drink of water. If the soil is still very moist, or even wet when you test it, then you should hold off on watering for a while. The ideal conditions for watering are “just-dry” soil, specifically having the top inch of soil be dry.
Lavender handles underwatering better than overwatering. In fact, when well-established lavender plants are actually drought-tolerant and are perfect for desert climates. It’s easier to bring an underwatered lavender plant back to health than if it has been overwatered; this is because overwatering can cause root rot, which can spell death for the plant very quickly if the situation is not handled well. You can identify root rot by checking for it.
How to Fix:
Dig up the plant and check for the color and smell of the roots. Healthy roots will be a pale, whitish-yellow color, and will not have any smell besides that of earth. Diseased roots will be dark, moist, and have a foul odor. If your lavender plant’s roots have become diseased, you can attempt to save it by pruning the sick parts off, and then repotting it in soil that has good drainage. It is still likely for the plant to die if you do not act fast!
Like most flowering plants, lavender will thrive best when given plenty of sunlight. It’s ideal for them to get at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. However, this can be reduced if you live somewhere that is very warm. A lavender plant’s health may begin to fail if it is not given enough sun, or is exposed to extreme heat. Young lavender plants in particular will need extra protection before they grow into their sun-loving selves.
While it is a lot easier for a lavender plant to get less sun than it needs, you should still watch out for the symptoms of too much sun. In case you see the foliage getting brown and crispy, it’s a good idea to move it to an area of the garden that gets less sun, and give it a good drink of water afterward.
However, it is far more likely that your plant isn’t getting enough sun. This is particularly dangerous because sunlight is the primary driver of photosynthesis– the process by which your plant makes its food. Not enough sunlight will mean not enough nutrients, which will definitely lead to poor health in your plant.
How to Fix:
The key is to ensure that your lavender is getting the correct amount of sun. It’s also important that the temperature not be too harsh. Lavender is tolerant of both drought and cold, but it’s not wise to expose it to extreme temperatures. Well-established lavender can handle temperatures of as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, young plants will need protection from the cold, as they can’t tolerate less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lavender grows best in USDA zones 5 through 10. If you live somewhere warmer or colder than this, be sure to give your plant the appropriate care necessary for them to stay healthy even when temperatures aren’t ideal.
Poor Soil Conditions
Another reason lavender may be in poor health is the soil conditions it lives in. The most important thing is that your lavender has well-draining soil. Lavender does not like its roots being wet. Soil with poor drainage will retain too much water and can kill your plant. For best results, aerate your soil properly, and mix in gravel when possible.
Good drainage also means that your plant’s roots have room to grow. This is especially true for lavender plants grown in containers. A container that is too small and does not have enough drainage can cause compacted roots. This will prevent plant from uptaking the nutrients it needs.
If you suspect this is the problem, repot your plant in an appropriately-sized container, and size up whenever necessary. Use a potting mix or soil that has sand or gravel mixed in for best drainage. You can also opt to prune the roots lightly. Remember that root damage can also result from being too harsh with tools, so use them carefully.
Something else to consider regarding your plant’s soil quality is the pH. Bear in mind that lavender grows best in soils that are moderately alkaline, somewhere between 6 to 8 on the pH scale. Anything lower than 5 pH will make the soil too acidic, and can thus kill your plant.
How to Fix:
To check soil pH, you can purchase a testing kit, available at most gardening supply stores. If the soil is too acidic, you can add liming agents, such as agricultural limestone. Simply spread the substance and work it carefully into the soil.
On the off chance that your soil is too alkaline, you can bring down the pH a bit by adding some organic matter, like peat moss or dried leaves. Go lightly on this because it’s important to strike a balance. On the bright side, added organic compounds can boost the nutrients of your plant’s soil. Which brings us to our next point…
It’s also a possibility that your lavender’s health is failing because of improper fertilizing. It could be that you aren’t feeding it enough, but it’s more likely that they are getting too much fertilizer. Go easy on the plant food, because lavender plants are light feeders. Adding too much fertilizer can burn the plant, which renders it weaker to the elements. This is mostly true for outdoor plants; lavender grown indoors will need more frequent feeding.
If you are still worried about nutrient deficiency, you can usually see this in the leaves of your plant. Plants suffering from nutrient deficiency will have yellowing leaves with green veins. You’ll notice the yellowing starting at the top of the plant, as well. Test for soil nutrients by using a test kit. Amend the deficiency with the appropriate fertilizer.
Finding a good balanced fertilizer will help your lavender’s health. It’s wise for it to be a water-soluble plant food, for ease of application and better absorption. You can apply this once a month during the growing period, with no need for fertilizing once your plant rests in the winter.
How to Fix:
Take care to follow packaging instructions carefully. If you know a more experienced gardener who cares for lavender plants, it may be a good idea to confer with them for advice regarding specific fertilizers. Too little fertilizer will not produce any real effect, which will render your time, effort, and resources wasted.
Too much fertilizer will end up harming your plant, thus causing the same thing, plus the detriment to your lavender’s health. If your lavender is suffering from a lack of, or too much fertilizer, giving them the right amount should restore it back to good condition.
While being fairly hardy, your lavender plant can still be susceptible to disease. Viral and fungal infections can take root on your plant and cause it to fall ill. Let’s take a look at fungal disease first.
Fungal disease can affect lavender if the conditions are right. Fungus loves growing in moist, warm conditions. One certain fungus that plagues lavender is the lavender septoria leaf spot. This is caused by the Septoria lavandula fungus. You can identify this by seeing discolored splotches across your plant’s leaves, eventually growing together to form clusters of round masses.
As this problem is detrimental to your plant’s health, it’s important to take care of it as soon as possible. The fungus comes from the soil, so the bottom parts of your plant will get affected first. It’s important to keep the ground free of weeds and debris, and to dispose of these properly. Prune the plant at the bottom when you can, as this will help with ventilation. It’s also essential that you space lavender far enough apart, so that the infection does not spread. Soil with good drainage is essential, too, because fungus thrives in wet soil.
As for viral infections, one common problem for lavender plants is the alfalfa mosaic virus. This causes yellow spots to grow on the underside of your plant’s foliage, and will stunt growth and flower production. You may also see leaves twisting; this is caused by the virus.
This virus does not spell the death of the plant. However, since it does stunt growth along with being highly contagious, you should dispose of all affected plants to prevent the spread to other things growing in your garden. While this is disheartening, it’s better to rid your garden of one sick plant instead of many.
How to Fix:
The key to preventing this virus is to get rid of the aphids that spread it. You can use an insecticidal soap spray every 2 to 3 days for a few weeks. Repeat the process until the pests are gone. Remember to always clean your tools thoroughly when using them on plants with any kind of infection. Being careful with your tools will help your other plants stay safe from disease.
Lavender plants are often resistant to insects, but there are still a few that can endanger your plant’s health. As previously mentioned, aphids not only spread mosaic viruses, but can also harm your plant by draining it of its sap, which is the plant’s lifeblood. This can cause the plant to droop and wilt, and potentially die out.
Another pest that can damage your plant is the whitefly. This is another sap-draining insect that gathers on the underside of the lavender plant’s leaves. They also leave behind a sticky coating on the leaves, though this may have a wax-like texture, too. This can result in a mold infection, which could jeopardize your plant’s health even more.
How to Fix:
When trying to get rid of pests, you should probably leave the commercial pesticides as a last resort. It’s best to start with gentler methods. You can opt to dab at the bugs with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol, and repeat this a few times a week until you see results. You could also try washing the plant with a strong blast of water. This can get rid of any bugs stuck on the plant; simply repeat for the best results.
You can also try a neem oil spray, which will be much gentler than a systemic pesticide. As an organic option, it’s a lot better for your plants, and does not kill any beneficial insects like bees and other pollinators. As previously mentioned, you can also try a spray of insecticidal soap.
One of the last reasons your lavender’s health may be failing is seen especially in new plants. Acclimation can really be a big reason your plant may not be feeling too well, though this is simply fixed. If a plant is newly brought home from the nursery it has come from, it’s natural for it to be uncomfortable as it arrives in a new environment.
Having spent its whole life thus far in a warm, safe greenhouse, it’s bound to be a bit shocked to be transported and brought to somewhere else. As such, it will display symptoms that are cause for concern, like discoloration, leaves dropping, flowers dying, lack of flowering, and wilting. While this is a dramatic display, if acclimation is really all the issue is, then you just need to give it extra care.
How to Fix:
Pay close attention to your plant’s needs and attend to them as much as is necessary. This should help your plant get back into good health. You’ll have the gorgeous, fragrant flowers as an incentive. You can ensure your plant’s health well into the future by giving it the TLC it deserves. As long as its needs are met, it should get used to your home and/or garden, and will be back in high spirits in no time.
Natural Life Cycle
The final reason your lavender plant may look like it is dying is due to simple natural process. Your plant’s natural life cycle as a perennial will have it go into dormancy when the weather gets very cold, around the wintertime.
You will begin to see the plant drop its leaves and flowers once the temperatures drop. If it is that time of year and you’re certain there is no other reason for this happening, then it’s simply time to let your plant rest for the winter. There is no cause for alarm.
How to Fix:
Lavender plants grown outdoors will not need frost protection. For the most part, they will be just fine being covered by the snow. This will actually take care of their water needs through the winter. You can count on them coming back in the springtime, ready to greet you with new growth that will eventually turn into gorgeous flowers.
We hope that this article has helped you with your concerns about your lavender plant’s health. While it can be alarming to see your beloved plant failing instead of thriving, the key is to give it the care it needs to nurse it back to health. Narrowing down the symptoms to the precise problem your plant is having can really make a difference in how you handle its treatment, so be sure to stay vigilant!
With the tips we’ve provided, we hope that you continue to enjoy the utility, fragrance, and beauty of your lavender plant for years to come. If we’ve helped solve your problem, or if you have further questions, please feel free to let us know in the comments section down below!