When to plant lavender – for wonderful scent and color

Discover when to plant lavender to enjoy the sight and fragrance of this glorious wildlife-friendly Mediterranean herb

When to plant lavender – lavender 'Hidcote'
(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

Agreed that a yard can never have enough, but wondering when to plant lavender?

Throughout summer, this ancient herb is a mass of blue-purple blooms. It hums with contented bees and flutters with butterflies, and the reviving aroma of the flowers and foliage scents the air. Then, during the cold months, this useful evergreen shrub provides structure and silver-green color. 

Knowing how to grow and care for lavender is key, of course, but to benefit from all its assets this summer it’s also vital to plant lavender at the right time, and our guide has the essentials. 

bee on lavender

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When to plant lavender

The answer to when to plant lavender is that potted lavender plants can be planted in mid to late spring or early fall. Cuttings can be taken in spring, late summer, or fall. And lavender can be sown from seed between February and April

With the right conditions it’s well worthwhile. ‘If you have a sheltered area with really sharp drainage, lavender adds the magic of fragrance to the garden,’ says Maryland-based landscape architect and designer Kirsten Coffen. ‘It has a long bloom time, bees adore it, and of course the dried flowers are wonderful for aromatherapy.’ 

Lavender can be part of your flower bed ideas, planted amongst roses, perennials, and other shrubs; it is superb trained into a low hedge; and it’s easy to grow in pots and window boxes. 

When to plant lavender in borders

Planning to put it into borders but wondering when to plant lavender in these? ‘April is the best time to plant lavender,’ says Simon Charlesworth, director of Downderry lavender nursery in Kent, UK. ‘Lavenders may sulk if planted too early when the weather is wet. They prefer to go in and then get away immediately.’

Hailing from the Mediterranean, lavender likes sun and drainage and loathes too much cold and moisture. 

‘You can plant in March, if the weather is mild,’ says Simon. ‘May is good, too. Later in the year, you can plant in September while the soil is still warm and maybe early October, depending on the weather.’ 

Plant in very well-drained neutral to alkaline soil and don’t add fertilizer because these shrubs – which grow wild in the stony, open ground of the Mediterranean maquis – dislike rich soil. 

In cool, temperate climates (such as the northern US and the UK), planting in spring is best and a position in full sun is vital. But in very hot regions, lavender is better planted in the fall and can be placed in a site that is shaded in the latter half of the day. 

When to plant lavender in pots

As for when to plant lavender in containers? ‘April is the best time for planting in pots so they don’t dry out too quickly before rooting out and they’ll also establish well before flowering,’ says Simon. 

Choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes because lavender loathes being too wet. Plant in a mix of peat-free compost and grit and place in full sun. 

‘‘Purity’ and ‘Purple Treasure’ reach 15in (40cm) and grow well in pots,’ says Simon Charlesworth. ‘Unless it’s a big container, in which case ‘Edelweiss’ (which is white) would look great.’

Pennsylvania-based landscape designer Nathan Tuno of Roots Landscape Inc recommends ‘Meerlo’ and Walberton’s Silver Edge, which are both variegated. ’I’ve had much success in my own city container garden with the variegated forms. Be sure to add proper drainage and maybe even some sand to your lavender soil mixture as they do not like wet feet and thrive in the heat.’

When to sow lavender

Lavender is not the easiest plant to grow from seed, but if you like a challenge and want to grow a large amount of lavender (for example, to create a lavender hedge to edge a path or driveway), then it’s worth a go. 

Sow in late winter or early spring. Use coir Jiffy pellets or something similar to make planting out quick and easy; alternatively, sow in module trays filled with compost that have been watered. Sow and lightly cover with compost or perlite. Place a propagator cover or plastic bag over the tray and put in a cold place (such as a fridge or cool garage) for three to four weeks. Then place them in a greenhouse or on a bright windowsill. 

When to plant lavender cuttings

Taking cuttings is an easy way to make new lavender plants. ‘Take softwood cuttings from non-flowering stems in spring,’ advises herb supplier Jekka McVicar. ‘Take semi-hardwood cuttings in summer or early fall from the strong new growth.’

Take the cuttings with sharp secateurs and plunge them into pots of grit and compost. Semi-hardwood cuttings can be overwintered in a greenhouse or cold frame or on a bright windowsill. 

When  to plant a lavender hedge

Plant a lavender hedge in mid to late spring or early fall. ‘April is best, but September is also good, so they can root out before autumn,’ says Simon Charlesworth. ‘Generally avoid the high summer months: June, July and August, and avoid November through February.’ 

For a substantial hedge, reaching 2ft (60cm), he recommends ‘Folgate’ (purple) or ‘Arctic Snow’ (white), and for a low hedge, ‘Purple Treasure’ and ‘Purity’ only grow to 15in (40cm). Cut the hedge twice a year to keep it healthy and handsome: lightly trim in April and then cut harder (but never into the woody stems) right after flowering in August or September. 

What time of year is best to plant lavender?

The best time of year to plant lavender is mid to late spring or early fall if it’s potted lavender plants you’re planning on putting in. If you like the idea of sowing lavender from seed, this should be done between February and April. Be aware that growing lavender from seed is not as easy.

What month does lavender grow?

Lavender flowers in late spring and summer and blooms for a long time, also rewarding the effort of planting with fragrance and bringing bees and butterflies to the backyard.

Hazel Sillver

After experience in the fashion industry, Hazel became a beauty and wellbeing journalist, and worked for The Ecologist as Green Living Editor. During a period of injury, she studied horticulture and garden design, and went on to work as a gardener and write about gardening for national newspapers, including The Guardian. Today, she enjoys regularly contributing to print and online magazines, including Amateur Gardening and Homes & Gardens.