Lavender plants are prized for their excellent smell. If you’ve gone through all the trouble to grow a lavender plant and it has hardly any smell at all, you may be feeling a bit ripped off.
Growing lavender plants is simple, but they do need some knowledge. Hopefully, this article will help you get your lavender smelling great again.
Your Variety of Lavender
The first thing you should check when your lavender doesn’t have much of a smell is that you are growing a type of lavender that is supposed to have that strong lavender scent to begin with.
If you’re growing the wrong type of lavender, nothing you can do is going to make much of a difference in how strong a fragrance it will produce.
Some varieties of lavender are naturally more fragrant than others. English lavender plants, for instance, are used most commonly for lavender oils because they have a super strong fragrance.
Hidcote and munstead are both particularly nice smelling varieties.
French lavender, on the other hand, has a much milder scent. Canary island lavender is said to have next to no scent whatsoever. (It’s just grown for the blooms which – like french lavender – flower year round.)
Of the lavender x intermedia varieties, some will have very little scent, and others will have a lot of scent. Grosso, for instance, is a very fragrant variety of lavender.
If the issue is with the type of lavender plant you’re growing, there isn’t much you can do other than plant a variety of lavender that has a stronger scent.
If you’re growing a variety that’s supposed to have a strong scent that doesn’t, take a look at the items in this post and see if there are any problems you need to fix or changes you need to make to get your lavender smelling good again.
Lavender Needs Sunlight to Smell Good
One of the reasons why lavender doesn’t smell – the main reason, in fact – is because it doesn’t have enough sunlight.
Lavender needs to get enough energy from the sun to be able to produce the oils that make it smell. If it doesn’t get enough light, it doesn’t smell like lavender. You may also notice it getting leggy or not flowering as much as it should.
A good rule of thumb is to place it in an area that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. If your plant isn’t getting that much sun, you’re faced with a choice.
If you can prune plants or move objects that are shading out your plant, you may be able to increase the amount of light your plant is getting enough that it’ll start increasing its scent.
Otherwise, you may have to try digging up and moving the plant. This is something that may either work or may cause transplant shock that kills your plant. It’s definitely the more risky option.
Of course, if you’re growing lavender in a pot, you can just move it to a better area – no fuss, no muss
Make Sure Your Soil Isn’t too Fertile
Lavender is sensitive to soil conditions and lose its smell if it’s grown in soil that is too fertile. Because of this, you want to ideally grow lavender in unimproved sandy soil.
If you have clay soil or soil that is particularly rich, there are things you can do to mitigate it, which I detail in my guide on growing lavender here.
The easiest method is to make a raised bed filled with sand and plant your lavender in that.
Specifically, the issue is the amount of nitrogen in the soil. Soil with too much nitrogen (either from organic matter or from fertilizer) can cause a lavender plant not to smell as strongly.
The oil that causes it to smell is a defense mechanism caused the plant makes when it’s stressed to try to protect what limited resources it has from pests eating it. (Similar to why organically grown apples have been shown to have more antioxidants than ones heavily treated with chemical pesticides.)
If your lavender plant is grown in super fertile soil, it won’t need to work as hard to protect itself. It also won’t need to flower as much, because there won’t be as much drive to hurry up and reproduce.
To fix this you can either wait it out (if you’ve caused the issue by fertilizing your lavender plants) or ammend your soil with sand to make it less fertile.
In addition to making sure your soil isn’t too fertile, you also want to make sure your soil isn’t too moist.
Lavender naturally grows in the dry, sandy soils of the Mediterranean region. It’s not used to having soil that stays wet for long periods of time.
If you’re watering too much or have clay soil that just retains water for a long period of time, you need to take action to make sure your lavender doesn’t get root rot and die. (You’ll notice the bottom of the lavender turning brown in this case.)
I outline some things you can do to fix this issue in my article on how to fix wilting lavender.
It also has some additional issues you may want to look into to make sure your lavender is healthy.
If your lavender is fragrant on the plant but a bit bland after it’s harvested, there are two things you want to take a look at.
First, we go back to the variety of lavender. Certain lavenders aren’t commonly grown for harvesting and making oils or scented items out of because of their mild fragrance.
French lavender (L. Dentata), for instance. Very mild fragrant as well as bad taste that prevents it from being useful for cooking.
If you have a better variety, like English lavender, you want to make sure you are harvesting your lavender first thing in the morning. The concentration of oil that gives lavender its pleasant smell is greatest in the morning, and it drops throughout the day.
Therefore, harvesting in the morning will give you the best smelling lavender you’ll be able to get.
There are quite a few different things that can cause lavender to lose its scent. Too little sunlight, too fertile soil, and too much water are just a few.
If your lavender plant never had much scent to begin with, it could also be an issue of having the wrong variety of lavender.
Reading through this article and going through the process of elimination is probably the best way to figuring out how to get your lavender smelling good again. It may take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.