5 Reasons Why Lavender Needs Full Sun And Not Shade

Mountain lavender in sunset flare

If you’re going to start growing your garden, herb, landscape, or vegetable, you’ll probably have lavender somewhere in the mix. Whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, you’ll want to make sure you plant lavender in the right spot!

Lavender needs to be planted in an area with full sun, with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Lavender will suffer in the shade and won’t grow. Planting lavender in full sun will promote a healthier and stronger plant, and increase the production of blooms.

We’ll go over why lavender needs full sun and not shade, and the best things to do when planting lavender. Keep reading to keep your lavender bright and blooming!

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If You’re Harvesting Lavender You’ll Want Full Sun

Fields of lavender against blue sky

Lavender needs full sun to grow properly and thrive. Imagine you planted some vegetables in the shade that needed full sun, chances are the growth will be stunted, and you might not even get any fruits. Your vegetable plant might even start to rot or get mildew! Yuck!

Lavender is an indigenous perennial to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and India, and is found along the coasts and mountains regions of Europe. So, if you imagine the types of climates in these regions and what can grow there, like desert landscapes, coastal areas, and rocky soils, this will give you an idea of the conditions lavender does best in. 

The same thing applies to lavender, if you want to get that big bushy purple wave of blooms, well you’re going to want to plant it in full sun!

On the other hand, there are a few shade-tolerant varieties of lavender, but we’ll get into that later.

So, you’re growing your lavender. Regardless of what you are growing it for, landscape, herb, or whatever it may be, you’re going to need full sun if you want to harvest it! And chances are, if you’ve ever had it in your yard, grown it, or seen it, you’ll want to try harvesting it at some point.

Lavender Needs Full Sun For Fragrant Blooms

If you’re growing lavender, chances are aside from the look you’ll want to smell that sweet fragrance from time to time. And where does that fragrance come from? The blooms!

But guess what your lavender needs to give you those fragrant blooms? The sun! This means it needs to have at least 6-8 hours of full sunlight a day to even grow the blooms at all. 

Lavender oil production within the flowers is directly dependent on the amount of sun it receives. Another factor at play is soil fertility. If your lavender is in full sun but still not producing fragrant blooms, it may be in overly fertile soil, which sounds counterintuitive. 

Overly fertile soil typically has excess nutrients like nitrogen. Excess nitrogen causes lavender to turn yellow because it’s receiving too many nutrients, and it will begin to look leggy. Not only that, but its flower production will start to decrease as well.

But that’s not all, there are also certain varieties of lavender that have stronger fragrances compared to other varieties, and ones with scents similar to rosemary or pine. Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ is known to be the strongest smelling lavender variety. 

There are four types of lavender, all of which have different growth habits, sun requirements, looks, and uses. ‘Grosso’ lavender is part of French lavender, but there are four other types of lavender, including English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Lavandin (which are the hybrid forms). 

So, if we didn’t make it clear, the main idea is the sun! If you’re tending to your lavender during the day, you’ll probably want to protect yourself from the sun. 

If you need a hat, this Quiksilver Men’s Pierside Lifeguard Beach Sun Straw Hat is wonderful option to keep cool while gardening! It comes in multiple sizes and colors and is large enough in diameter to keep the sun off you from all angles!

Lavender Needs Full Sun To Control Soil Moisture Content

Purple lavender flowers on a blue clear sky background. Blooming lavender in the sunlight. Beautiful summer day. Close-up, selective focus.

Lavender does not tolerate sitting in wet soils for an extended time. Without full sun and well-draining soil, this will tend to be an issue. This leads to a variety of diseases, especially if the water has nowhere to go. 

And just like most plants, over-watering is a huge problem and is super common. 

If you’ve ever tended to ornamentals or flowers in your yard or vegetables in your garden, you have probably heard of things like powdery mildew and root rot. Well, they aren’t unique! Lavender is just as susceptible especially without the sun to dry up excess water that sits in the soil. 

So, if you have poorly draining soil and shade, this will present itself in the form of your lavender plant suffering. This can look like yellowing, wilting, fewer blooms, leggy-ness, and browning of the whole plant.

As we mentioned, most lavender varieties cannot tolerate sitting in heavily saturated soil, like, at all. This means if you have clayey soil, which is slow draining, or areas that are commonly flooded, it’s not to say your lavender won’t survive, but you may have to do some extra work to keep it growing.

If you do live in an area with clay soil, there are a few tips to help you grow lavender successfully:

The first tip of growing lavender in clay soils is to plant lavender in an area of full sun, with 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. What a surprise! 

The next tip is to plant lavender above the water table so that it’s elevated. You can do this in the form of a mound or a raised soil bed that looks like a semi-circle. 

Lastly, when planting lavender in clay soils, you can dig the hole twice as deep and wide as your plant and backfill the hole with limestone, sand, compost, and grit!

If you decide to try this method, the VPG Fertilome PEL318 6Lb Agricul Limestone is an excellent choice to help correct soil acidity (if needed), and increase drainage.

All of the tips mentioned above can drastically help with drainage and can help ensure your lavender grows successfully in poorly draining, sometimes flooded soil. 

Shade Increases The Chance Of Pathogens In Lavender

Purple lanes of lavender in the provence in france, europe

You may have guessed what comes next on our list: lavender ailments.

  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that will display symptoms on the leaves of lavender plants. This fungus looks exactly as the name says and proliferates in humid environments with warm temperatures.
  • Root rot is a result of overwatering, poor drainage, and waterlogged soil underneath lavender. Although this is especially common in indoor plants, it can be a common issue with lavender, since they are quite finicky about sitting in water. This will quickly cause your lavender to expire.
  • ‘Shab’-Phomopsis is a fungal affliction that targets the stems of lavender. If you notice every shoot beginning to wilt, without the threat of drought, this could be the culprit.
  • Verticillium is a soil-borne fungal ailment that thrives in warm and wet conditions near lavender. This affects over 400 different plant species and NOT just lavender. Because it is a soil-borne disease it is difficult to manage. This pathogen affects the xylem vessels, which transport water from the roots to the leaves.
  • Alfalfa Mosaic Virus is a phytopathogen that causes lavender leaves to turn yellow, wilt, and curl up. This is not specific to lavender and affects over 600 plant species. This pathogen is spread through insects, mainly aphids, but is also transmitted through seeds and pollen.

Growth Of Lavender Is Dependent On Full Sun

Lavender growth is directly dependent on the amount of sun it receives. Without 6-8 hours of full and direct sun every day, your lavender will most likely become leggy and weak, and you won’t get that full, dense look you may have expected. 

Growing lavender in the proper location can also ensure that your plant is lush and has lots of buds and blooms. 

If you’ve never seen a leggy plant, we’ll give you an idea of what it looks like. It is sparse, doesn’t have dense, full growth, and kind of looks lanky and misshapen. Usually, it’s a lot of tall stems with not much else going on. Your plant might also lack those gorgeous, fragrant flowers you were hoping for!

As we mentioned above, root rot, along with other pathogens, is a concern when growing lavender in an improper location. So, to grow a strong plant that will continue to come back year after year is dependent on having the proper amount of sun.

Does Lavender Grow In The Shade?

Lavender does not grow well in shade. Although some varieties may be more shade tolerant than others, like Spanish lavender, French lace lavender, and French lavender, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will grow to their full potential given too much shade.

So, wherever you are planting in your yard, garden, or landscape, make sure your lavender is placed in a location that receives full sun.

Most Common Types Of Lavender

Spectacular lavender rows at sunset. Picturesque purple lavender fields and agricultural areas in provence region, france, europe

Lavender has been tested time and time again to determine the best growing conditions. Including things like drought tolerance, moisture tolerance, and soil composition tolerance. 

Lavandula angustifolia is one of the most common types of lavender that you’ll find and it comes in multiple varieties.

Each variety can tolerate different conditions, so it’s important to read the tag or research it before planting! What we mean by this is some Lavandula angustifolia responds well to drought conditions without showing signs of stress, while other lavenders prefer moist conditions, and don’t tolerate drought as well. 

Some of the most common types of lavender you’ll see are: 

  • English lavender
  • ‘Hidcote’ English lavender
  • ‘Munstead’ English lavender
  • Lavandin
  • ‘Hidcote Giant’ lavandin
  • Spanish lavender
  • French lavender

English Lavender

English Lavender is drought tolerant and needs well-draining sandy soil. It grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8 and can grow up to three feet tall!

This lavender is most widely used in cooking and baking, and essential oils.

‘Hidcote’ English Lavender

Next up is the ‘Hidcote’, which boasts silver foliage with fragrant flowers. It is a compact variety that does best in well-draining soil.

This variety grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8 and grows up to 20 inches tall, significantly smaller than the English lavender we just mentioned.

‘Munstead’ English Lavender

The ‘Munstead’ lavender is another compact growth lavender. This variety also has silver-gray foliage like the ‘Hidcote’. It does best in well-draining soil and grows to 18 inches tall.

Like the previous lavenders, this one grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.

Lavandin

Lavandin lavenders are a hybrid version of lavender. They are English lavender crossed with spike lavenders and are typically used in perfumes and oils. This type is tolerant of dry conditions, and warm temperatures, and needs well-draining soil.

This variety grows to two feet tall and does best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.

‘Hidcote Giant’ Lavandin

The ‘Hidcote Giant’ lives up to its name, growing up to three feet in height. It is known for its incredibly tall and abundant flowers. It does best in well-draining soil and USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.

Spanish Lavender

Purple spanish lavender flower
Purple Spanish Lavender Flower

Changing gears to the Spanish lavender. Not only does Spanish lavender look wildly different than English lavender, but it can also tolerate hot temperatures.

If you want spring and summer blooms, you can intersperse your English lavender with Spanish lavender that begins blooming in the middle of spring.

This lavender grows to two feet tall and does best in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11. 

French Lavender

French lavender has a few cool-looking varieties. Especially the Lavandula dentata, which resembles ferns or yarrow.

French lavender has a different scent to it, which is said to be more like camphor. This variety also begins blooming in spring and will continue blooming into summer and fall.

It grows up to three feet tall and does best in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11. 

Now that you’re well versed in a few different popular lavender types, hopefully, you have an idea of what is best for your location.

That’s All For Now!

Thanks for sticking around with us to learn more about if lavender grows in the shade. 

We hope that you were able to pick up some helpful tips on why lavender needs full sun and not shade to grow and produce beautiful, fragrant blooms that we know and love. 

References

Adgaba, Nuru, Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, Yilma Tadesse, Awraris Getachew, Awad M. Awad, Mohammad J. Ansari, Ayman A. Owayss, Seif Eldin A. Mohammed, and Abdulaziz S. Alqarni. “Nectar secretion dynamics and honey production potentials of some major honey plants in Saudi Arabia.” Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences 24, no. 1 (2017): 180-191.

Cook, Samantha M., Martin Jönsson, Matthew P. Skellern, Darren A. Murray, Peter Anderson, and Wilf Powell. “Responses of Phradis parasitoids to volatiles of lavender, Lavendula angustifolia—a possible repellent for their host, Meligethes aeneus.” BioControl 52, no. 5 (2007): 591-598.

Jianu, Calin, Georgeta Pop, Alexandra TGruia, and Florin George Horhat. “Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) grown in Western Romania.” International journal of agriculture and biology 15, no. 4 (2013).

Kayedi, Mohammad Hassan, Ali Akbar Haghdoost, Ali Salehnia, and Kiumars Khamisabadi. “Evaluation of repellency effect of essential oils of Satureja khuzestanica (Carvacrol), Myrtus communis (Myrtle), Lavendula Officinalis and Salvia sclarea using standard WHO repellency tests.” Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases 8, no. 1 (2014): 60.

Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2013 (2013).

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