Your climate will determine if French lavender can survive winter. French lavender is not considered cold-hardy (USDA zones 9 and 9) so it won’t survive winter in areas with frost, snow, or ice.
French lavender is a native of the Mediterranean region of Europe. It thrives in the warm climate of southern France and is extensively cultivated for commercial lavender oil.
Climates French lavender can survive Winter
French lavenders will only survive winters with mild temperatures that only occasionally go lower as 10degC (50degF) at night. English Lavenders are the only species that can tolerate cold (hardy to USDA Zone 5 ).).
French lavenders can only be grown in climates similar to those of their home in Southern Europe.
French lavenders cannot survive in freezing and persistent frost conditions.
Planting French lavenders in pots is the only way to grow them in cooler climates. You can grow lavenders in containers or pots for their beautiful fragrance and flowers outdoors.
When winter begins to approach and the temperature starts to drop below 10degC at night then you can move the pot inside for winter protection and return the pot to your garden once the temperature has warmed up the following growing season.
(There a few best practices for growing lavender in pots that you can read about in my article growing lavendar in pots )
French Lavender Indoors for Winter Protection
Planting French lavenders in pots and moving them indoors before the temperature gets too cold 5degC (41degF) is a great way to grow French lavenders in colder climates.
The foliage will still emit a certain fragrance in your home even though it won’t be as strong or as intense as during the growing season.
It is not as easy as just bringing your plant inside and putting it in a corner until spring. You should be aware that there are specific care instructions.
- Indoor french lavenders will only need to be water once every four weeks as they are in a dormant state. The plant should be given a light watering to ensure that it doesn’t become dry throughout the winter.
- Although they are in a dormant state, French lavenders will need to be in as much sun as possible. The lavender should be placed in the most sunny window of your home. Once the temperatures rise, it will be fine to bring it outside.
- Keep the lavender out of the way of persistent draughts and air currents such as those from forced air or radiators. While french lavenders are best when it is dormant, heat from indoors can cause too much heat to heat them up. However, most french lavenders can tolerate heat fluctuations in most homes.
Increase Chances of French Lavender Surviving Winter
French Lavenders are vulnerable to cold damage. However, there are steps you can take to reduce risk and improve your lavender’s chances of survival in winter.
- Do not prune your French lavender too late in the season. To maintain a beautiful mound shape, it is best to prune french lavender in spring. Pruning will encourage more flower growth, keep the lavender from becoming stale and prolong the lavender’s life span. French lavender can be harvested for its flowers and the fragrant foliage. However, it is best to not prune after August. French lavender is delicate and susceptible to cold. The cuts caused by pruning may take some time for the plant to recover so it can withstand winter temperatures. (Read more about pruning lavender and maintaining a neat and tidy appearance)
- Ensure the lavender is planted in the appropriate soil. Lavenders need to be able to drain the soil and not retain water. The soil too high in organic matter will retain water. With cooler temperatures in winter, this will mean that the roots of french lavenders will remain in moist soil for many months. Because the soil is less moist, root rot and stress will be more likely. Amend the soil with around 30% sand or gravel to 70% organic soil or potting mix to ensure that the soil structure will allow water to infiltrate quickly, so it drains away from the roots. (Read more in my article about the optimal soil mix for potted lavenders)
- Do not water outdoor french lavender during winter (unless indoors in a pot) as the lavender is in a state of dormancy and will attain enough water from the environment. Winter will see more water in the soil, which is contrary the dry conditions that lavenders thrive in. (Read how frequently to water lavenders to learn how much and how often to water lavender in different conditions).
- Clear away leaves and other organic material from around your lavender as organic matter is very effective at holding moisture which will damage french lavender.
- Planting french lavender in the ground can afford the lavender more protection for cold weather as the soil acts like insulation, protecting the lavenders root system from the cold. This will make it difficult to move the lavender indoors in winter.
- If your have a potted French lavender then it is important the pot measures at least 16 inches across. A larger pot will have more soil. The soil acts as insulation during winter and doesn’t dry out as quickly during the summer heat. French lavender is already sensitive to cold, so a small pot can cause more damage to the roots and increase the risk of them becoming stressed by the cooler temperatures. (Read my guide about the best pot for lavenders)
- Move French lavenders indoors for winter protection if you live in a cold climate and place by a sunny window.
French lavenders are much shorter lived then English lavenders and typically last 4 or 5 years in good conditions so even with the best winter care.
- French lavender only survives winter in warmer climates (USDA zones 7-9) and will not tolerate winters with cold temperatures, frost, ice and snow.
- It is possible to grow French lavender in colder climates in pots, as long as they are brought indoors before winter and preferably placed by the sunniest window in the house.
- It is important to plant French lavender in well draining soil which will make make the lavender less susceptible to root rot in cold wet winter soils.
- Scale back watering of French lavender over winter. French lavenders grown outdoors will retain enough moisture to survive in the harsh environment. When the weather is warm again, water the pot once every 4-6 weeks.
- English lavenders are more cold hardy then French or Spanish lavenders, capable of tolerating frosts and cold temperatures and they are hardy up to USDA zone 5.
- Plant french lavender in a large pot (16 inches across) to provide the roots with insulation from cold temperatures.
- Even with the right care French lavender will only live for 4 or 5 years.