Caring for Your Lavender in the Winter
By: Erin Rau
Lavender Hill Farm Director of Agriculture
So you’ve purchased a couple lavender plants and they are doing great. They’re getting plenty of sunshine and are very happy in their new home. But the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are starting to dip. How do you prepare your lavender plants for the winter months ahead?
USDA Hardiness Zone
The first thing you can do to determine how you will care for your lavender plants over the winter is to know what USDA Hardiness Zone you are located in. This is a standardized map that helps growers know what plants will thrive in what climates. This information can be found through this resource. Here in Boyne City, we are in zone 5b meaning that it is typical of the area to have a minimum average temperature of -10° to -15°F. Lavender plants are generally hardy to zones 5-9, meaning that you can grow them as perennials through the winters for years to come.
Each variety of lavender is going to have its own preferred conditions. A general rule of thumb is that English lavender, also known as Lavandula angustifolia, is more tolerant to frost and will do better throughout the winter. French lavender, or Lavandula intermedia, is less hardy and will need to be taken inside if in a pot or covered with some sort of protection as temperatures decrease. Some of our favorite lavenders that we grow and sell at the farm are below:
How We Winterize our Lavender
Here on the farm we take extra care of our French varieties as well as our young plants that age from 1-5 years old. We also try to keep an eye on any plants located in an especially rough area, such as a particularly windy ridge. Any plants that fall into these categories will be tucked in with their very own blanket for the winter. We use a white landscaping cover cloth and the help of roughly 2,000 sandbags to cover our plants. By giving the plants a layer of insulation, they will be less susceptible to their branches dying from the frost.
How You Can Winterize Your Lavender
We recommend covering your young plants and any French varieties you might have too! You can purchase the same cover cloth we use at any local gardening store if you have a long stretch of plants. If you only have a few plants and want to use a more cost effective method, use what you have at home! Covering your plants with burlap or old blankets that you don’t mind getting dirty will work perfectly fine. Just make sure to secure them with rocks or any other heavy object so that they won’t blow away. If you live in a zone that has even harsher winters than here in Boyne City, you can also add a layer of straw, mulch, or leaves under the blanket. Planting on the south side of a building is another tip for those who live in colder areas as the soil will stay 5-10 degrees warmer and will block some of the snow and wind.
When to Cover
You will want to wait until the first hard frost to winterize your lavender. If you cover your plants too early, they will be much too warm and it will confuse the plant. Lavender goes into its dormancy phase during the colder months. This means it will no longer need to be watered and it will need very little light, as it is no longer producing blooms. The cold weather is what signals the plant to become fully dormant. For this reason, make sure your plant experiences a couple chilly nights before covering. When the night time temperatures are consistently dipping into the mid twenties, it is time to cover.
Every plant that we sell at Lavender Hill Farm is a variety that we grow. If you live in a similar climate, purchased one of our transplants, and follow some of the simple tips listed in this article, you can rest assured that your plant will make it through the winter just fine! Cover your plants with what you can, discontinue watering and make sure to remove your coverings after all the danger of frost has passed.