Grow Lavender in Acid or Clay Soil
Lavender Bloooms in the Garden
I love lavender—the delicate foliage, the long, thin stems topped with blue or purple flowers, the way the blooms appear as a mist of blue when viewed from a distance, the lazy loitering of honey bees among the blooms—I love it all. The fresh, clean scent of lavender is delightful and remains with the dried flowers long after cutting.
For years, I fought a battle with lavender in my back yard. The soil is chunky with clay and generally acidic. Drainage is poor and in late winter and early spring, part of my yard looks like a swamp.
But with a bit of thought and creative planting, I am pleased to say that I have 3 lavender plants that have survived through 4 winters (including a major blizzard) and several soggy springs.
If you want to grow lavender in clay or acid soil in a yard that retains way too much moisture, read on . . .
Create a Micro Climate for Lavender
We all basically understand the climate of the area in which we live. But there are variations in a climate, and small variations around our own homes. Plants that survive in the sheltered southern exposure of the house might perish in the cold winter winds on the north side of the house.
So it is with lavender. In order to offer lavender a happy home in which it will thrive, consider its needs:
- bright sunlight
- dry, well-drained soil
- alkaline soil
Plant lavender in a spot where it will receive full sun (6 - 8 hours of sunlight a day)
To avoid root rot from lingering moisture, build up a bed to lift the lavender garden slightly above the level of the yard. Make sure that the raised bed is well drained.
A rock garden works well with lavender. If the lavender is elevated, it will dry out more quickly during wet seasons.
Another method is to plant the lavender in a southern exposure under the eaves of the back porch. Sun still shines on the plant, but there will be less rainfall and puddling.
Create Drainage To Avoid Root Rot in Lavender
Plant lavender late spring or early summer after the soil has warmed up.
- If the soil is full of clay and you do not want to build a raised bed or rock garden, dig the planting hole at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the potted purchased plant.
- Fill the bottom of the hole with limestone gravel.
- Add a layer of garden soil mixed with compost, and sand. Set the plant on a third layer of gravel and turkey grit or sand. (Turkey grit is ground granite)
- Gently remove the lavender plant from the pot and backfill the hole with the garden soil mixture. Allow the top of the soil in the pot to protrude 1 inch above the soil line.
- Mulch with limestone gravel and turkey grit.
- Do not over water.
Lavender Needs an Alkaline Soil
Lavender needs an alkaline soil of about 6.5 to 7.5 pH and will not thrive in acidic soil.
The addition of limestone gravel adds the alkalinity to the soil that lavender needs to thrive.
If you don't want to use gravel—personally, I don't like the look of white gravel, so I added a couple of chunks of broken concrete near the base of the plant. The lime leaches out of the concrete and into the soil.
Cut lavender early in the day in order to retain utmost color and fragrance
Cut stems above the top leaves to encourage repeat blooming later in the season
Bundle lavender stems and hang them upside down in a warm, dark, dry place to ensure retention of color and scent. Hanging the lavender in a clothes closet will add a delicate fragrance to your clothing.
And remember that lavender is an insect repellent!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I have planted lavender and really hope it takes in the clay soil. I have noticed that the bark has started to peel on some of the plants. Is this normal? I have lavender Grosso. I hope that I have added enough grit. The ground is pretty wet right now.
You don't want to plant lavender in clay soil. The idea is to remove the heavy clay and change the soil in the area where you place the plant. Clay retains too much moisture, and that moisture may damage the roots. I have kept lavender growing for years in a garden where the soil has been loosened and the clay pretty much removed. This past year has been a wet one in my area, far wetter than usual. The garden was often flooded and standing water killed off all the lavender. Lavender will not thrive in a soggy area.
If I were you, I'd wait until spring and see what happens.Helpful 10
Where do I buy limestone gravel? I live in Los Angeles, CA.
Limestone gravel can be found at Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, and many other places that sell home and garden supplies.Helpful 7