lavender tree

Lavender Tree Plant or Tree?

How to care for small lavender trees

Written by victoria

A lavender tree otherwise known as lavender standard or lavender topiary has 3 main needs.

Shape: Its not a lavender tree (standard) if you don’t maintain its shape. The shape of the tree is determined by pruning every year. A lavender tree canopy can fully grow back every year. You need to maintain the shape of the tree by pruning in the spring and fall. Pick which branches you like and form them into the shape you want the tree to be. If you cut a side branch that you didn’t mean to do not be worried, lavender plants create new branch growth every year. You can slowly fix the shape over time.

Location: Where you place your lavender tree is important. When you plant, you’re looking for two main factors. Drainage lavender does not like too much water and sun lavender needs 12 hours or more of sun each day.

General lavender plant needs: allow the lavender shrubs to dry its soil between watering. Make sure the lavender shrubs receives 12 hours of light daily. Potted lavender is more likely to get to much moisture so check soil often. You can place lavender kept inside out on the patio during warm summer days to dry out if you over watered.

 You can learn more about tree care in our lavender trees guide section in the grow lavender book.

lavender information chart


Types of lavender trees

There are three main varieties used to create lavender trees. The trees are formed from English, French and Spanish plants.

English lavender makes the most cold hardy lavender trees. They are hardy down to 5a and work best in colder climates. If you live somewhere colder than 5a you will need to grow your Lavender trees indoors.

French lavender is a middle of the road option. These plants can be hardy down to 6a but don’t like temperatures much lower than that. The plants also are more sensitive to humid conditions often found in Midwest areas of the United States and Britain. If you live in a dryer region like Idaho these lavender trees are the way to go.

Spanish lavender referred to as the desert lavender can with stand very dry and hot conditions. In fact, it loves it. Mostly found in Mediterranean areas like Spain these lavender grow almost like a weed. It wants its soil kept dry and prefers little to no fertilizer. Hot temperatures are not only preferred but needed to see this type of lavender tree thrive. So if you live in a warm dry area like the southwest regions of the United states this lavender tree will do great for you.

Lavender tree height

lavender tree stem

Lavender trees will reach an average height of 3 to 4 feet. A lavender tree is a lavender plant that has grown to full size then has had its stem and leaves pruned to give the appearance of a tree. Pruning a lavender plant into a lavender tree involves some simple yet time consuming steps.

  • As the lavender grows pick a main stem to act as the trunk. You need to stake the stem to a support until it has the strength to hold the weight of the lavender canopy above it.
  • As the tree grows remove the side branches from the main stem until you reach the height of the lavender canopy. Usually around 2 feet from the stem base start letting the side branches stay on the stem to form your tree top.
  • Growing lavender from scratch can be time consuming. You can speed the process up by buying a lavender shrub.

Lavender tree winter care 

Lavender in a tree form vs plant form doesn’t vary much. We have written a full guide on lavender in winter that can be found at Many of the same rules would apply to a lavender tree so I will instead break down a list of the differences in winter care for a lavender tree vs plant.

  • Lavender trees are top heavy with weaker stems which can cause wind to snap the trunk of the plant. Use a sturdy stake to help strengthen the lavender trees trunk.
  • Lavender trees are more exposed to the cold, try covering the tops of the plant when temperatures dip below freezing.
  • If your lavender trees are made with Spanish style lavender bring indoors in temps below freezing.
  • Do not prune the plant in the fall. Cutting back the lavender before winter removes some protection from its woody base reducing the warmth the plant receives.
  • Place taller items that will not fall over around the lavender to act as a wind block.
  • Do not clear the lavender of snow. Many people think snow is bad for plants, in fact snow is a great insulator and can keep your plants up to 10 degrees warmer in the winter.
  • Don’t worry if you choose a cold hardy lavender like English Hidcote, than it will be just fine dealing with the cold conditions.


Potted lavender plant - how much sun does

lavender need?

Lavender needs a minimum of 12 hours of light daily. For your plant to thrive it needs  to be able to dry out its soil. The best way to do this is light. Place the lavender in a south facing well lit spot. The plant will thank you for it. Alternatively you can use grow lights to increase light of indoor lavender.

Potted lavender tree care, tree lavender plants in a container 

What do you do once you’re done potting your lavender?

5 Steps to care for your lavender shrubs in containers:

  1. Water your lavender only when the plant has had time to dry its soil. Watch your lavender tree for drooping branches or browning. A lavender tree often show signs of stress when over watered.
  2.  Move your lavender into a spot with good light the plant requires 12 hours a day.
  3. Prune the trees top every spring or fall. Lavender needs to be cut back 1/3 every year to prevent a woody base from forming. However never cut the base wood of the plant this can lead to die off.
  4. Shop around when picking trees. Look for a healthy plant, you want the tree to be straight and sturdy. Inspect the soil for fungus or distress.
  5. Take your tree outside in warm weather. A little extra non filtered light will do wonders for your tree. Air flow from an open window or door will help fight off disease.

Video about lavender tree care.


How to plant and water lavender in pots, brown leaves?

lavender soil

Let’s talk about water needs first. Lavender plants want their root ball to dry between water sessions.  Lavender plants are susceptible to root rot if too much water is present. A good way to tell if you’re using too much water is to look at the leaves. Are the leaves drooping or brown? This can be a sign of too much water.

If you are keeping your tree lavender indoors it will need to be put into pots or a container. To do this:

  • add small amount of sand gravel mix to bottom of pots. This helps with drainage in the soil.
  • Place lavender tree in pot and surround it with soil. Be careful not to get soil on the lavender leaves. It can lead to disease.
  • Water soil until it is damp to the touch.
  • Place pots or container in a sun rich location. A lavender tree needs a lot of sun in its early growth period.

Does a tree lavender come back every year? 

A French tree or English (Lavandula angustifolia) tree will come back every year in a zone 5 or higher. Spanish tree needs to be kept indoors or in zones 7 or higher.


Where is the best place to put a lavender tree?

If you are keeping your lavender tree indoors you need to make sure it is placed in a spot where it can receive 12 hours of sun each day. In zones colder than 5a the lavender tree will need to be kept indoors in winter.

If placing your lavender tree outside make sure it gets full sun exposure, but make sure the soil won’t receive too much water. Lavender trees do not want wet boggy conditions. Wet soil will lead to root rot.

Where to buy lavender topiary or starter lavender?

Its never to late to buy a lavender standard topiary tree. Or with the right care grow one for free. Things to look for when buying trees.

Species: the three varieties are English, Spanish and French as talked about above.

Soil: inspect the soil to insure it is fungus free.

Skip buying and grow trees yourself using standard plants found at most nurseries.

These plants and trees can be found at most nurseries and garden centers.

What plants go well with lavender and topiary lavender?

When you shop for plants to go with your lavender you want to look for easy to care for plants that like dry conditions. Lavender grows fast so make sure you leave room for the plant to reach its full potential when planning out your garden beds.

Consider the seasons when planning around your plant. Lavender is evergreen and has a unique foliage year around. I like to start with tulips or daffodils around my plants. These bold flowers go well with the plants’ evergreen leaves in spring.

Next consider summer. Remember the plant likes it dry so take care not to plant water hungry plants next to it. Sedums and cornflowers work great and come in a variety of colors that can match or contrast with the lavender.

In fall the plants start to prepare for winter. Lavender is no different, the blooms are dried and can be cut back. Leading to that lush evergreen look again. A great showy combo of plants for fall are Mums and aster. Both can be found easily in garden centers come fall.

Winter can be a bit more tricky you can plant multiple topiary that will add winter structure. Taller evergreens make a great addition to your topiary as they add the needed height to be visible in snowy areas. These can include arborvitaes and cedars, or you can add structures with fruit trees like apple that keep buds through the winter. And create pink flowers in the spring to go with your tulip flowers.

Finally pick the plants you like the most and grow them around the base of your garden bed. If you love what you created that’s all that matters.


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