How to winterize lavender

Learn how to winterize lavender shrubs and protect them from the harsh winter weather with these expert tips

winterize lavender under snow
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Winterizing lavender will help it survive the cold temperatures and harsh conditions that can hit even the mildest of zones. It's not complicated to overwinter lavender, but do so correctly and you will find you have a healthier plant come spring and summer.

If you grow lavender, you might already know that it isn't one of the best winter flowers to plant, but they can prove invaluable in the winter garden

'Lavender is a drought-tolerant plant that can survive most winters without too much fuss. However, in areas with severe winter weather, it is best to take some precautions to ensure your lavender plants survive the cold months,' advises Brody Hall, Certified Horticulturist and co-founder at The Indoor Nursery (opens in new tab).

How to winterize lavender

These steps will help you to winterize lavender regardless of the variety.

1. Ensure good drainage

This should be checked before the winter sets in. 

'Lavenders originate from the Mediterranean so dislike being wet and waterlogged,' explains Morris Hankinson, director of plant specialists Hopes Grove Nurseries (opens in new tab)

If lavenders end up being waterlogged they will either rot or if that water freezes, will succumb to frost damage. 'If the soil is heavy when you are planting them – add some horticultural sharp sand or grit, or even plant them on little raised "cushions" of soil so water can run off from the center of the plants.'

2. Prune

'Consider pruning your lavender plants in fall, if you live in a colder climate. This will help them conserve energy and survive the winter. Prune them back by about one-third after they finish blooming. However, if you live in an area with milder winters, wait until after winter to prune your plants,' advises Lindsey Hyland, founder of UrbanOrganic Yield (opens in new tab).

3. Stop watering

'Rain should replace regular watering. Lavender prefers drier soil, so trust that Mother Nature will do the job for the next few months, especially while this plant is in a period of dormancy,' advises Jen McDonald, a certified organic garden specialist and co-founder of Garden Girls (opens in new tab).

4. Mulch well

'Mulch them with a few inches of organic matter, like straw, pine needles, or leaves,' advises Lindsey Hyland. These mulches will insulate the roots but won't hold water in the same way as heavier mulches such as manure. 

5. Move potted lavenders

'Keeping container lavender outdoors in heavy rains can make their roots susceptible to rot and decay, which will eventually kill the plant. A garage, shed or greenhouse is a perfect winter location for container growing lavender,' explains Jamie Rae from Green Cottage Gardens (opens in new tab).

How do you winter a potted lavender plant?

Knowing how to winterize lavender when it's part of your container gardening ideas is easier than you might think. You may ask if you can grow lavender indoors at this time of year.

'If you have a potted lavender plant outside and live somewhere that gets below 40℉ in the winter and above 65℉ in the summer, you might want to move that plant indoors,' says Jamie Rae.

Regardless of whether inside or outside, 'make sure your lavender gets plenty of sunlight during the winter, even if it means moving them inside near a window. And don't forget to water them! Lavender needs about 1 inch of water per week during the winter, whether it's rain or snowfall,' adds Lindsey Hyland.

lavender planted in a terracotta pot in a garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

When should I winterize lavender?

As a staple of Mediterranean garden ideas, lavender isn't made for our cold climates, so don't wait too late to winterize lavender. You can start to winterize lavender as soon as the leaves have started falling off the trees. Pruning should be done in early to mid-fall, and ensuring the plant has good drainage can be done at any time of the year. Mulching should be done in advance of the first frost, as should the movement of potted lavenders. 

frost on old lavender flowers in winter

(Image credit: Alamy)

Can I leave lavender in the ground over winter?

Yes, you can leave lavender in the ground over winter. 'Lavenders cope well with drought conditions and, in winter, wet soil rather than frost is more likely to kill half-hardy and frost-hardy lavenders,' says garden expert Leigh Clapp

However, if you live in a place with extreme winters, then you may be better off growing your lavender in pots where it can be moved inside during the height of frosts. If you want to lift your lavender, it is important that you know when to transplant lavender to reduce the risks of damaging the plant in the process.

'Lavender planted in the ground generally does better than plants planted in pots. However, if you live in a cold climate, it's important to move potted lavender indoors during the winter. You can also protect outdoor lavender plants by mulching them with straw or hay,' says Lindsey Hyland.

How to prune lavender – Ashdown Forest

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Should lavender be cut back before winter?

Whether you cut back lavender before or after winter depends on where you live. If you live somewhere with extreme winters, then harvesting lavender by a third can help to reduce the strain on the plant and help it survive the coldest weather.

If you live somewhere with milder climates, then it is best to hold off pruning until spring.

Holly Reaney
Content Editor and Sub-editor

Having graduated with a first class degree in English Literature four years ago, Holly started her career as a features writer and sub-editor at Period Living magazine, Homes & Gardens' sister title. Working on Period Living brought with it insight into the complexities of owning and caring for period homes, from interior decorating through to choosing the right windows and the challenges of extending. This has led to a passion for traditional interiors, particularly the country-look. Writing for the Homes & Gardens website as a content editor, alongside regular features for Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors magazines, has enabled her to broaden her writing to incorporate her interests in gardening, wildlife and nature.