Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to Plant/Transplant Lavender in a Wet Climate ~ Fall Gardening Tasks #1

The weather is just miserable outside so far this week... very wet, gloomy and 45 degrees F (7 C). The plants love it of course, especially after a few weeks of dry weather. At least something is enjoying it!

Lavandula angustifolia over lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis).

I thought I might take advantage of my time indoors to start a series of posts on all of the tasks that need to be done this fall. And I feel a little better remembering that I did do one already: transplanting my lavender.
Driveway Garden: the mature lavender to the left, new one going to the right
In the Driveway Garden, I have been doing some re-working, including: Routing out the bishop's weed (Aegopodium podagraria L. ) that has popped up everywhere, adding some late-summer interest (read more here), and working on adding a little more continuity.

One of my best ideas is to move the lavender getting squashed by our old rose bush,  allowing it some room and echoing the mature one across the sidewalk... Which brings me to sharing how I have successfully learned to grow lavender in our wet, freezing Pennsylvania climate.
The squashed lavender
Lavendula is a Mediterranean plant, liking the extremely well-drained sandy soil of a hillside in full sun. And I will never forget Joe Reardon-Smith's comment on lavenders needing only a few small pellets of goat fertilization once a year. Rather a memorable way to put it.

So let's get to the planting. Our main goal is adding drainage.
The new hole
Always dig your hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide around. I like to loosen the sides of the hole with my japanese garden knife (my favorite garden tool by far!).
Gravel and sand for the lavender's planting hole.
Before putting in the lavender, add a one-inch layer of sand and gravel to the bottom of the hole. This will raise the plant's crown above ground level by an inch, and help keep water moving under its root ball.
Gravel and sand in the hole.
Toss in the gravel and sand, and you may even want to do a couple of layers as you adjust the height of the root ball later on. (I pulled out my lavender and added more gravel and sand after this first layer to raise the height.)
Digging out the Lavender angustifolia for transplanting.
When lifting a mature perennial or shrub, always dig as straight down as possible from the outer foliage circle around the plant. The feeder roots that are found just under the surface, under the leaf spread, are very important. Do not just cut it out of the ground two inches from its stem, for example.

I usually cut in several spots around a plant before lifting it out of its hole. It may work to use your shovel, but some root balls hold together better if you get in there with your hands (gloves please!).
Plant the crown of the lavender plant on a slight mound.
Once you have your lavender in the new hole, check the height. It needs to have its crown above the surface enough not to sit in water, but not so extreme that it will be exposed to freezing temperatures during winter. Mound the soil up to cover it, and press a 10-inch round trench one-inch deep around the plant.
Leaning tower of lavendula.
One more issue with my less-than-perfect lavender plant is the fact that it is leaning over. I remedy this by pulling the stems back and adding a small stake to the inside of the plant. This helps open up the center and encourage new growth in parts that were previously over-crowded.
Transplanted Lavender angustifolia, upright.
I hope this method proves successful for all of you longing after waving wands of lavender in your full sun gardens. They can really take the heat, so think about putting them near walkways or driveways where they will thrive when other flowers fail.
Driveway Garden in June 2010

Lavandula angustifolia with a mini lily in June 2011.
Happy fall planting!

Task #2... thinning the seedlings coming up.


  1. Very helpful--maybe I can actually grow lavender in PA.

  2. I have lavender to plant out but, fortunately, it is small so there won't be so much work . . . the the advice about growing conditions is relevant though.

    I'm puzzled about the gloves. Why is it important to wear gloves when handling lavender?

  3. Julie this is a great post. I learned these lessons the hard way once I killed a lot of lavender. I still push the envelope with them and some make it and some don't. I absolutely love the driveway garden. Just gorgeous...

  4. Glad this is a helpful post!

    Esther: That was my attempt at humor :) I was thinking of plunging my arms deep into the dirt to pull out a root ball. Rather messy business!

    Some additional planting lavender thoughts: Remember of course to check your plant hardiness zones. Lavandula angustifolia zones are 5-8, which means it should be ok above -20 F in my PA garden. Other types of lavender vary.

  5. Thank you so much! I've been dreaming of a lavender-lined walkway, but with my clay soil, I didn't think I had a chance. I'll give this a try!

  6. Ah, the weather in Pennsylvania is identical to ours in Aberdeen at the moment. I just love Lavender, the information you give is so helpful. For years I struggled to get Lavender through the Winter in our garden, drainage problem of course. I ended up planting them in a raised border hard up against the dyke where it remains very dry, amazing success at last. Don't you cut them back after flowering to prevent getting that woody look? Alistair

  7. Alistair: So glad you enjoyed it! And Yes, I do cut them back in the spring to 6-8 inches from ground level. This particular lavender as looks so sorry on account of the rose bush using it as a foot stool. So rude. It is breathing much freer in its new locale.

  8. I hope you don't mind that I put this on my board on Pinterest for use later once spring comes (Please let me know if that is a problem. Very nice blog and helpful post!! Thank you! :)

    1. Please do! I love Pinterest too. (See my follow button at the bottom of my blog.) And I have quite a few pin boards you might also enjoy, including "Garden maintenance".
      Have a great night!


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