How and When to Transplant Lavender Plants
If you bought lavender starts or grew seedlings this year, you'll need to transplant them when they are ready to be planted in the ground. But when should you do it, and how is it done? In this article, gardening expert and former organic lavender farmer Logan Hailey shares the easiest way to transplant lavender into your garden this season.
Lavender is a classic Mediterranean herb with a delicate perfume and easy-care requirements. It doesn’t require much in the garden and even thrives on a little neglect. This drought-tolerant herb loves full sunshine, warmth, and extra well-drained soil.
If you’ve been wanting to transplant lavender but don’t know where to start, you’ll be glad to know that it’s a super simple process. Whether you plan to grow in a container or out in the garden, planting lavender requires only a little bit of preparation.
Once established, this coveted herb will flower for years to come with little more than a twice annual pruning and occasional water. Let’s dig into both when and how to transplant lavender into a pot or garden bed.
When to Transplant
In most climates, spring is the best time to transplant young plants. After the risk of frost has passed, it’s safe to get rooted lavender cuttings, seedlings, or young plants in the ground.
While lavender is frost tolerant, it prefers to get established during warm weather. This allows the plant to build a robust root zone before cool autumn weather rolls around.
However, if you live in a climate with mild winters (climates 9-10), fall is a better time to plant. Most varieties resent ultra hot weather, so this timing allows them to establish their roots during the south’s cooler season.
If you want to plant fall lavender in a region that receives frosts, be sure that you choose a larger potted lavender and provide at least 30 days before the first frost for root development. Never plant into frozen ground.
In summary, your ideal planting time for lavender depends on your climate:
- Zones 5-8: Plant in spring after the last frost date.
- Zones 9-10: Plant in fall with larger transplants.
To reduce the risk of transplant shock, you should plant in the morning before the sun is too harsh.
How to Transplant
Lavender is a hardy perennial that is very easy to move to a new location. Whether going from a pot to the ground or vice versa, it can easily be transplanted in 30 minute or less.
The key to successful transplanting is gentle handling and plenty of water for root establishment. As long as the roots are protected, this Mediterranean herb can quickly adapt to a new home.
Step 1: Use a Quality Plant or Cutting
Transplanting is a breeze when you start with a quality plant. First, choose the proper variety for your region and preferences.
Next, purchase plants from a reputable source. Whether you source from a farm, nursery, garden store, neighbor, or your own propagation, be sure that it meets the following criteria.
Healthy Plant Criteria
- Fully rooted in its container
- At least 6-8” tall
- Free of any signs of disease or pests
- Healthy and growing
Cuttings should be up-potted in your home or greenhouse before they are planted out in the garden. The ideal transplant container size for proper root establishment is at least 5” in diameter. If you are planting in the fall or during more extreme weather, larger plants are always better.
If the plant is already flowering, remove the blooms and prune down the leaves until just 4-6” of foliage is above the ground. This will signal the plant to put its efforts toward root development in its new soil.
Step 2: Plant in Bright, Direct Sunlight
Lavender will not compromise on sunlight. It needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine per day. If you plant in the shade, you may be disappointed by the lack of flowers and reduced fragrance.
When choosing a location in the garden, carefully examine the area to be sure that morning or afternoon shadows won’t be cast over the growing area. The ideal spaces are on south-facing slopes or in wide open plantings without nearby trees or structures.
If you want to keep lavender indoors, choose the brightest south-facing window possible. If you don’t have much sunlight coming into the building, you may need supplemental grow lights to keep your plant happy.
Step 3: Container Choices (Optional)
Lavender can happily grow in a container on a windowsill or outdoors on a patio. Either way, choose a container that is at least 12” in diameter. A 16-24” container is ideal for portability and future growth.
If you plan to grow a larger variety that you want to move indoors for the winter, be sure to invest in a rolling planter caddy to avoid hurting your back.
Choose a pot made of terracotta, ceramic, or another breathable earthen material. Be sure that there is at least one large drainage hole at the bottom and a separate catchment tray.
Avoid plastic containers, especially those with an attached drainage tray. These can quickly lead to waterlogging issues and root rot.
Step 4: Prepare Well-drained Soil
Whether you’re planting in your garden or in a pot, soil preparation is the most important step for successful planting. This Mediterranean-native is accustomed to growing in gravelly or rocky soils on steep, blazing slopes.
Rainfall naturally flows through these areas very quickly, which means it is used to having fairly dry roots. The most common mistake made by beginner lavender growers is planting in poorly drained soil.
A well-drained soil is crucial for as many fragrant flowers as possible. Remember that this is a perennial that can live in your garden for the next 5-10 years. You don’t want to have to dig it up and move it due to poor soil. Just do it right the first time!
Soil Preparation Tips
- Use soil that is neutral to slightly alkaline pH
- Ensure it is extremely well-drained (add sand, peat moss, perlite)
- Make sure it is compaction-free (use a broadfork to loosen layers)
- Use low fertility soil (avoid high nitrogen materials like manure)
If growing in garden beds, mix in materials like sand, peat moss, and fine gravel until the soil looks gritty and chunky. Use a pitchfork or shovel to thoroughly blend and loosen the earth at least 10-12” deep.
Step 5: Dig a Properly Sized Hole
Use your hands, a trowel, or a shovel to dig a hole in the soil that is 2 to 3 times deeper and wider than the root ball of your plant. This step ensures that the plant has plenty of room to grow and extend its roots.
Without a big enough hole, it can suffer from transplant shock while trying to dig its roots into the new ground. This leads to plant stress symptoms like wilting, yellowing leaves, and a lack of flowers the following year.
The larger size of the hole also ensures that the roots won’t be exposed after you water it. Gardeners in rainy climates sometimes plant on a soil mound and mulch with gravel to ensure that the roots remain buried.
Step 6: Remove the Plant from its Pot
To make it easier to get your lavender out of its existing pot, give the plant a nice soak. I like to water with a diluted kelp solution to help prevent transplant shock. This added moisture helps the soil stick to the roots so you don’t make a big mess or shock the plant.
Next, grasp the plant at the base and gently wiggle the pot until the roots are exposed. If you have ever planted vegetable seedlings before, this is the exact same process. Be careful not to squeeze too tightly, rip off any leaves, or shake too much soil off of the roots.
Once the root ball is exposed, check that the plant is not root-bound. If the roots are really tight or winding around in the shape of the pot, use your fingertips to loosen them up and tussle them around so they grow outwards into the new soil.
Step 7: Plant and Backfill
Place the lavender seedling in the prepared hole so that the soil line remains even. Backfill the hole and ensure the crown stays above soil level.
Burying the central crown could cause crown rot or other pathogens. Avoid compacting or pressing on the soil; you want to ensure as many air pockets as possible.
Step 8: Water Thoroughly and Mulch
Last but not least, lavender needs to be watered in to help it get established. Although this herb is incredibly drought-tolerant, young plants are much thirstier than mature plants. You should provide a generous pour of irrigation around the root zone of a newly planted lavender.
Water from the base of the plant and make sure a 1-foot radius of soil around the crown is dampened. Be sure that water is moving straight into the soil. It should never pool up on the surface.
Never water from above. Though it can handle some rainstorms, lavender prefers that its leaves and stems remain as dry as possible.
For the first month after planting, continue to water on a weekly basis if there isn’t any rain. Let the soil dry out between waterings. After 30 days, you can reduce watering to once every 2-3 weeks. Stop irrigating if it rains or the soil appears soggy.
After 6 months, your plant should be established. The vibrant green, growing plant with robust roots is now ready to fend for itself in the hot, dry summer. Only water sparingly if the plant appears wilted or the heat is particularly harsh.
Mulching is ideal for insulating the root zone and preventing water splash onto the leaves. It can also help with moisture management. The most popular mulch amongst professional growers is crushed rock or pea gravel.
If you are transplanting multiple shrubs, be sure to give them plenty of room. Most lavender varieties require at least 1-3 feet between each bush.
Dwarf varieties can be as close as 10-12” with proper pruning. Humid climate gardeners should expand the spacing as much as possible to ensure plenty of air flow and reduce the risk of disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you dig up lavender and replant?
If lavender is not doing very well in its current location, you can dig it up and move it. Begin by digging a hole at least a 12” circumference around the base of the plant. If the plant is very large, you may want to extend the circle wider because of their extensive root systems.
Then, use a pitchfork or shovel to slowly lift the plant from the soil. Try to keep as much soil intact on the roots as possible. Prepare the new location with extremely well drained soil and a hole at least 2-3 times the size of the root ball.
Carefully move the plant to the new hole and plant it at the same depth, taking care not to cover the crown. Thoroughly water in and prune back any flowers to encourage root development in the new site.
Should you water after transplanting?
Lavender needs a generous drench immediately after transplanting. Continue watering once every week or so (depending on rainfall) for the first month after transplanting. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Once established, lavender is extremely drought tolerant, but young plants are thirsty for water to fuel their new growth.
Why is my lavender drooping after transplant?
Lavenders planted in midday or hot weather are prone to drooping after transplant. Transplant shock can also be caused by compacted soil, a poorly prepared bed, or roots that were damaged during the planting process.
The easiest way to prevent drooping is to be very careful with the roots, make sure the soil is very well-drained, and water with a diluted kelp solution after planting. Transplant only in the morning or evening.
The process for transplanting lavender is surprisingly similar to planting veggie seedlings. The only difference is that you should prepare a very well-drained, nutrient-poor soil for lavender (as opposed to the fertile, loamy soils we use for vegetables).
Handle lavender plants with the same amount of care as you do with seedlings. Most importantly, provide plenty of water to help your transplant get established.