Lavender is a pretty tough little plant, but if you don’t care for it properly, it is still possible to kill it.
One of the signs of a distressed lavender plant is that it starts wilting or drooping.
The most common reason why a lavender plant wilts is because you are over-watering it. Lavender is native to dry, arid regions, so too much water will harm the plant, resulting in it wilting.
Other reasons why lavender might wilt is because of bad soil, you have it in a container that’s out in the sun, because of transplant shock, or because it’s too hot outside.
Let’s discuss these in a bit more detail.
Overwatering Your Lavender
As I mentioned above, lavender is a plant that’s used to growing in dry, sandy soils. If you’re constantly watering it to where the soil is always moist or wet, you’re going to cause root rot and lead to your lavender plant dying.
If you can, reduce your watering frequency down to once per week (if you just planted it and it isn’t established yet) or once every other week (if it’s a mature plant). I have more details on watering schedules in my guide on watering lavender.
If you live in an area that gets rain regularly, stop watering your plant entirely.
Lavender plants don’t need water as often as you likely think they do.
In fact, if you live in an area that gets too much rain, the type of lavender you’re growing (especially if it’s an English lavender such as hidcote or munstead) may not be suited to your environment.
In that case, there may be nothing you can do to save it. If that happens, try planting a hardier variety, such as Lavender Phenomenal.
This is an extension of the reason above. Because lavender hates having wet feet, it needs to be in a soil that has excellent drainage. Unimproved, sandy soil is ideal.
So we’re clear, by bad soil I don’t only mean clay. Soil that was made too fertile by adding too much organic matter can be just as bad. If your soil is so rich that it holds onto water and stays moist/wet for days, this can be a problem.
If you have clay soil or any other soil that tends to hold onto water for a long time, you are going to have a problem with growing lavender. The ideal solution is to either heavily ammend your soil with compost (if you have clay) or grow in a raised bed or container.
You can try making adjustments to how often you water, but if your soil is too bad you may need to dig your plant up and ammend the soil underneath it or put it in a container.
I discuss more about soil requirements and what to do if you have bad soil in my guide on how to grow lavender.
If this is the cause, you’ll start to notice root rot (mushy brown roots) if you dig around the plant some where you can look at the roots.
On particularly hot days, you may notice your lavender plant drooping. This is generally fine, as it’s your plant’s way to survive through the heat.
If it does get particularly hot where you live and hasn’t rained recently, you may want to increase how often you water to once or twice per week during the hottest days of the year – making sure the soil is completely dry before watering.
This will provide your plant a little bit extra moisture to replace what it’s losing through transpiration.
If your plant is in a container, you may want to move your container to somewhere that gets some afternoon shade. (Or at least arrange things to where the container itself is shaded from the sun.)
This will prevent the sun from baking the roots inside of the pot. (Especially if you have a black pot.)
Containers are particularly brutal on hot days, because your plant is entirely dependent on the water you give it. It can’t spread its roots out in search of water and nutrients.
If you’re growing your plant inside of a container, there are a number of things that could be causing your lavender to wilt.
The first is what I just mentioned above. If it’s wilting during hot days, it may be that the container is getting to hot and drying out. You can fix that my moving the container out of the afternoon sun or providing a little extra water.
Alternatively, you may be watering your plant too much. Containers can hold onto a lot of water, especially if your potting soil isn’t mixed correctly (2/3 potting soil, 1/3 perlite) to provide optimum drainage.
If you notice that your potting soil is staying moist too often, you may need to pull it out of the pot, clean as much of the potting soil off the roots as you can, and provide it new potting soil made from a mix of two thirds potting soil and one third perlite or coarse sand.
Otherwise, if you look at the roots and you see it’s rootbound or is too big for the container, moving up a pot size may help reduce the wilting. This goes back to not being able to hold onto enough moisture and needing more room to collect water and nutrients.
If you’ve just planted your lavender and it’s wilting, it may be that the change in conditions between the potting soil and the dirt where you’ve planted it are so different that it’s having trouble adjusting.
If this is the case, make sure you water the plant once or twice per week to help it adjust. You still want to make sure you’re letting it dry out between waterings, but keep in mind that your plant is still pretty tender and is going to need help to survive the heat and harsh conditions outside.
Providing it some shade cloth or burlap to protect it a bit from the sun may also help. Reading over my guide on how to grow lavender that I linked above should give you what you need to know to take care of your new plant.
Lavender Shab Disease
If your plant (or all your plants) wilt all at once and none of the other reasons apply, it’s time to start looking at whether your lavender has become infected with a disease.
If your plant has lavender shab disease, you’ll notice that in addition to wilting, there will be black shapes on the stems when you look at them under a magnifying glass.
You can also take a cutting into your local extension office for a positive diagnosis.
If your plant has lavender shab disease, the only thing you can do is remove and destroy it. Don’t let it near any of your other lavender plants, and examine all of your other plants for signs they might be infected as well.
This disease is evidently quite rare today, but it’s still worth being on the lookout for, and maybe planting a more disease resistant variety such as phenomenal or Royal Amethist.
There are a few different reasons why a lavender plant can wilt – and you’ll notice that none of them were “you aren’t watering enough”. If you’re watering your plant at least once every two weeks, it’s doing fine on water.
Unfortunately, new gardeners think that wilting is caused by too little watering, and they make the problem worse by giving an over-watered plant more water.
Consider whether any of the reasons above apply to you