Lavender is an excellent, low maintenance plant that is extremely hard to kill if it has the right conditions.
If it has the wrong conditions, however, you’ll come out one day and find your lavender is turning brown and sometimes wilting.
What can you do about it, though?
The most common reason why lavender wilts is because it’s receiving too much water. It naturally lives in dry, arid soils, so if the soil its in stays wet for too long, it will start to rot and die.
Let’s cover everything you need to know about why your lavender is turning brown and what you can do to fix it.
Problem: Entire Plant Turning Brown
If entire sections of your plant are wilting and turning brown (flower, stems, leaves, etc), the most likely issue is root rot. This is a fungus that eats away at your plant’s roots and kills your plants.
Root rot is able to occur mainly when your plant sits in soil that is too wet for extended periods of time. As I mentioned above, lavender is used to growing in very dry, sandy soils and making due with only a little water.
There are a number of reasons why root rot can happen. Let’s talk about them:
- Overwatering – The easiest cause of root rot to fix is overwatering. An established lavender plant only needs to be watered once every 2 weeks (depending on what stage of its lifecycle it’s in), so if you’re watering it more than that, you should back off how much you’re watering your lavender and let your soil completely dry out in between waterings.
- Bad Soil – If you’ve planted your lavender either in clay soil or in soil that is so heavily ammended with organic matter that it stays moist for an extended period of time after being watered, you’re stacking the deck against your lavender plant.
- Growing In a Pot – If you’re growing your lavender in a pot, the wrong type of soil will hold onto water instead of allowing drainage. This is similar to the point above, but it’s a little worse since your plant is entirely contained in a pot and drainage can be very limited.
What Can You Do?
If you’re over-watering your lavender, the solution is easy – back off on watering. Wait for the soil to dry completely, then only water every 2 weeks.
If your plant is in bad soil, it can be very difficult to save. Unless you’re growing it on a slope where the water is easily able to drain off, the best thing you can do is build a raised bed that’s at least 3’x3′ and 1′ tall and plant your lavender in the raised bed.
Even if you ammend your clay soil, you’re creating a bowl for your plant to live in due to the soil below what you’ve ammended still not draining well.
As to whether you can save your plant or not:
- If your plant is just starting to wilt and turn brown, you may be able to save it using the steps I’ve outlined above.
- If you’re plant is heavily wilting and a significant portion of it is turning brown, you may have to remove the plant completely and replace it. Any healthy stems can be cut and used to propagate new lavender plants.
Everything you need to know about soil preparation, site selection, propagation, and choosing a better type of lavender for your local conditions can be found in my guide on how to grow lavender.
Problem: Flowers Turning Brown
If just your flowers are turning brown but the rest of your lavender still looks healthy, you can breathe a small sigh of relief. This is not nearly as bad as the root rot issue I discussed above.
There are 2 main reasons for this:
- Late Frost – If you had a late frost recently, it may have killed your flowers (which are more easily damaged by cold than the leaves are). This shouldn’t cause lasting damage to the plant, and it should recover quite quickly.
- Flowers Dying Naturally – Lavender typically only blooms for a few weeks, then as the flowers become polinated they’ll turn brown, dry out, and become seed heads. This is a natural part of the bloom cycle.
What Can You Do?
The solution to both of these issues is to dead-head your flowers. Whether they were killed off by frost or died off naturally, getting out your pruning shears and removing the flower stems will make your plant look better and may help it re-bloom once it realizes that it wasn’t able to successfully produce seeds.
There are 2 main reasons why lavender turns brown.
Root rot due to excessive water retention will cause the entire plant to start wilting and turning brown. This issue is a lot easier to fix if you’re growing it in a pot where you can pull it out, trim off bad roots, and completely replace the soil.
In the ground, this can be a lot harder to fix, and if it’s too far gone it may be impossible to save the plant.
If just the flowers are turning brown, on the other hand, this is a much less serious issue and you may just need to chop the dead flowers off and wait for it to start flowering again.
Good luck with saving your lavender.