Lavender- Propagation and Common Problems

Lavender is a standard favorite for everyone’s home because of its soothing fragrance and the homeopathic medicinal elements it has. It is a resilient shrub that is not dependent on fertilizers, but lavender needs correct soil preparation and pruning at least twice a year to thrive. Lavender is a hassle-free plant that can resist drought and cold weather, which makes it an ideal plant for any gardener.

Knowing this, you will wonder if propagating a lavender patch in your backyard is possible.  Like any shrub, it has its common problems, but with the right approach and handling, some solutions can be applied for a healthy lavender plant. Read on to find out how to propagate lavender, the common problems that come with growing it, and some solutions.

Propagating Lavender

lavender flowers

Propagating your own lavender can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to increase the number of plants in your garden or indoor space. Here are some easy steps on how you can effectively propagate lavender from existing shrubs.

1. Prepare the Soil

Your lavender cuttings will thrive in a soil mixture that you make instead of just using garden soil. Remember that the cuttings are trying to develop roots and will need the right consistency with proper drainage. Bear in mind you aim for a pH level of 6.7-7.3 reading for ideal water conditions. You can use half and half mixture placed in a pot or tray and gently push the mix down to remove large air pockets:

  • Sand, Peat Moss, Perlite, and Vermiculture will improve the drainage
  • Coconut coir or peat moss allows water retention for rooting.

2.  Get a Lavender Cutting

Get a four-inch long cutting from the base of the plant. Choose a stem without a flower to ensure all the plant’s energies are concentrated on rooting. Both hardwood and softwood will work, but softwood has a higher success rate and can root faster. Take out the lower leaves in the bottom half but leave the top half for photosynthesis. 

3.  Plant the Lavender Cutting

Use a skewer to make a small hole in the soil mixture for you to stick the cutting into the soil. You can place several cuttings together and transplant the others once the roots have grown. But you’ll have to be careful the roots don’t tangle or snag. Plant the new cutting on your prepared soil mixture.

4.  Makeshift Greenhouse

Give your moistened soil a good water down before starting the process of planting. You want to avoid humidity that will cause the cuttings to dry out. Use a few skewers to outline the edge of the pot.

Wrap the pot in a plastic or sandwich bag with the skewers holding up the cover so it doesn’t touch the cutting. Place the covered pot in a warm spot creating a high humidity temperature to stimulate growth. Check for dry soil every few days and re-water the pot.

5.  Spacing the Lavender Plant

Lavender shrubs tend to expand when fully grown, so it’s advisable to space each plant 12-18 inches apart. This allows plenty of sunlight to go through as well as good circulation. You are helping its roots to spread freely for better nourishment and stability. 

Common Problems & Solutions

culinary lavender

Although lavender is a popular and versatile plant, it can be susceptible to a few common problems. This aromatic herb can go through different issues that gardeners need to diagnose and cure. Here are some of the most common issues that gardeners may face when growing lavender, as well as some possible solutions:

1. Woody Lavender Plant

A lavender plant that looks like a mini trunk instead of a fragrant foliage can only mean it has gotten woody. You will notice the hard and brown plant growth with ugly-looking stems. This just means that your lavender has not been pruned as necessary. The branches splay out and grow spindly, causing congestion to the whole plant. 

Solution: You can revitalize a woody lavender plant by cutting it into the wood near the base crown. Be careful not to prune vast portions of the woody lavender core. You can remove only one-third of the untended section once each year. Doing partial and slow pruning will restore the herbaceous growth of lavender.

2. Unruly Lavender Growth

A healthy lavender has the appearance of a beautiful flower patch that you will get to see in photos. When your lavender doesn’t resemble an elegant, mounded shrub, you have a herb that’s gotten out of hand. You may be hesitant to prune for fear of damaging the plant or reducing the flower bloom, but this is the reason the shrub is growing too much.

Solution: You need to prune the lavender shrub with a heavy hand until you achieve the classic gumdrop shape. Light pruning will cause spindly or ugly shrubs that will grow too much, so do not fear the needed trimming. Cut and prune twice every year starting with the Spring season when the first flowers grow. Repeat during the fall season when flowers start to fade.

3.  Lack of Fragrance

Lavender is known to have a fragrant decadent aroma. When you notice that your flowers lack the scent you are familiar with, your plant lacks the elements to produce its essential oils. A lack of sunlight or possibly overly fertile soil may be the culprit. It’s also possible that the variety you planted is less fragrant than the usual type.

Solution: Look at the position of your shrub and ensure it gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight without any tree or shrub shading it. Anything less will compromise the plant’s energy to produce its essential oils. If your soil is over-fertilized, mix in pea gravel or peat moss to reduce the nutrients. If you need to transplant, be careful not to disturb the root zone of the lavender.

4.  Dead Lavender Patches

Take a good look at your lavender plant and see if there are patches that look yellow, brown, or gray. This is a telltale sign of crown rot, wherein the concentration near the old growth shows the plant is trying to survive with the new growth. Its energies are channeled to the area where there is more airflow and drainage.

Solution: Trying to prune the dead and rotten areas to improve the airflow might work, but if the base is rotten, you need to remove the plant altogether to prevent infection. The combination of rainfall and humidity can cause sogginess and using overhead irrigation with soaker hoses or drop lines may help. You can also surround the soil with sand or light-colored gravel to keep it dry.

5.  Weak Stems

beautiful lavender

Lavender hardly demands extra rich soil and has the opposite effect when it is over-fertilized. It is a shrub that works better without nitrogen and low fertility. The shrubs tend to thicken and become unruly, putting too much weight on the stems. This causes weak or limp stems that prevent the growth of more lavender plants or flowers.

Solution: Study carefully the position of your plant and try diluting the fertilized area. You can gently dig around the plant with an 8-12” from the base. Mix in pea gravel, peat moss, or sand to lessen the fertilizer concentration. But if you want to eliminate any doubt, you can transplant your lavender shrub to another area and ensure the right soil preparation to avoid shocking the plant.  

6. Poor Growth or Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves on lavender plants can be caused by various factors. Overwatering is one of the most common causes, as lavender prefers well-draining soil and can develop yellow leaves if the soil is too wet.

Underwatering can also lead to yellowing leaves, as can nutrient deficiencies or root rot caused by fungal or bacterial diseases. Environmental factors, such as excessive heat or cold, can also cause yellowing leaves. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for proper treatment and care of the lavender plant.

7. Root Rot

Lavender plants can develop root rot due to several reasons. Overwatering is a common cause, as it leads to waterlogged soil, which deprives the roots of oxygen and encourages the growth of harmful fungi. Poor drainage, heavy clay soil, or planting in a low-lying area that collects water can also cause root rot.

Additionally, some soil-borne pathogens, such as Phytophthora, can infect the roots and cause root rot. To prevent root rot, it’s essential to ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering and use well-draining soil.

Solution: To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering and ensure that your lavender is planted in well-draining soil.

8. Fungal diseases

Lavender plants can be susceptible to several fungal diseases. One of the most common is powdery mildew, which causes a white, powdery coating on the leaves and can lead to leaf drop and stunted growth. Another fungal disease that affects lavender is grey mold (Botrytis cinerea), which causes brown spots on the leaves and can lead to the death of the plant.

Fusarium wilt is another fungal disease that can infect lavender plants, causing yellowing leaves, wilting, and plant death. Proper cultural practices, including good air circulation and avoiding overwatering, can help prevent these fungal diseases.

Solution: To prevent fungal diseases, ensure that your lavender is planted in a location with good air circulation and avoid overcrowding.

9. Pests

Lavender plants can be vulnerable to various pests, including aphids, spider mites, and thrips. These pests feed on the sap and tissues of the plants, causing damage to the leaves and flowers. Additionally, whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale insects can also infest lavender plants.

These pests are attracted to the plant’s aromatic oils and can lead to yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and reduced flowering. Proper cultural practices, including regular inspection and removal of infested plant material, can help prevent and control pest infestations on lavender plants.

Solution: To control pests, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil, or attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs or lacewings to your garden.

10. Winter damage

lavender growing

Lavender plants are typically hardy and can tolerate cold temperatures and frost. However, in areas with prolonged freezing temperatures and wet conditions, lavender can suffer winter damage. Wet soil combined with freezing temperatures can cause the roots to freeze and damage the plant.

Additionally, heavy snow and ice can weigh down the branches and break them. To prevent winter damage, it’s essential to plant lavender in well-draining soil and prune the plant in late summer or early fall to remove any dead or damaged branches.

Solution: To protect your lavender from winter damage, ensure that it is planted in a location with good drainage and sheltered from cold winds. You may also consider covering your lavender with a layer of mulch or a frost blanket during the winter months.

By being aware of these common problems and taking proactive steps to prevent or address them, you can help ensure that your lavender plants grow and thrive.

FAQs about Lavender

1. Where does lavender grow best?

Lavender grows best in well-draining soil, full sun, and mild to warm climates with low humidity.

2. What does lavender do to the brain?

Lavender has a calming effect on the brain and can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve sleep quality.

3. Can I leave lavender in the ground over winter?

Whether you can leave lavender in the ground over winter depends on your location and the severity of winter conditions.

4. Should lavender be cut back in the fall?

It is generally recommended to prune lavender in the fall to remove any dead or damaged branches and promote better growth.

5. What happens if you don’t prune lavender?

If you don’t prune lavender, it can become woody, leggy, and less productive, with fewer blooms and an unattractive appearance.

Wrapping Up

It’s true that overall, your experience with a lavender plant will be pleasant and stress-free. It is a plant that can be left along with minimum attention from you as it doesn’t take too much effort to propagate and grow lavender plants.

Take note of the common problems and follow the steps listed which are easy solutions to keeping your lavender healthy. Have a go at propagating your own lavender and enjoy a beautiful visual of lush lavender shrubs with aromatic fragrance that the plant brings into its surroundings.