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My Lavender Topiary Plant is Dying!

So you went to the big box store and couldn’t resist bringing home that charming lavender topiary tree. It’s no surprise – lavender topiary miniature plants are truly eye-catching with their fragrant blooms and unique shape.

Many lavender topiary trees are created using varieties like ‘Goodwin Creek’ or ‘Stoechas’ lavender, known for their eye-catching blossoms and lovely scent.

Lavender is Not Meant to be Shaped into Topiary Trees

Lavender, with its delicate purple blooms and soothing fragrance, is a beloved plant in many gardens. However, it is important to understand that lavender was not meant to be a topiary plant. Aggressive pruning can actually injure the plant and compromise its health.

When lavender is pruned too harshly or shaped into intricate designs, it can disrupt its natural growth patterns and leave it vulnerable to diseases and pests.

Stripping the bottom leaves of lavender for topiary purposes can also hinder photosynthesis, which is a vital component for lavender’s survival.

To ensure the longevity and health of your lavender plants, it is best to allow lavender to grow in their natural form without excessive pruning or shaping. This will not only help them thrive but also preserve their beauty and aromatic qualities for years to come.

Common Varieties of Lavender Topiary Plants

Here are the three common varieties of lavender I have seen in topiary tree form:

Lavandula angustifolia or “English” Lavender Topiaries

English Lavender produces new growth on old woody stems near the base of the plant. Imagine what happens when you strip the bottom branches to create a topiary. Yes, the plant will eventually die because its lifeline has been severed.

Stoechas or Spanish Lavender Topiaries

Stoecha, or Spanish Lavender, topiaries with its alluring tufts that resemble butterfly wings are simply irresistible. These are the most common lavender topiaries that are sold in Michigan.

Unfortunately, they are sold at the height of their seductive blossoms. So you may be able to enjoy the blossoms for a week or two, if you are lucky. You may be able to get more blossoms by trimming the current blossoms when they are half spent.

Stoechas are annuals in Michigan. This means you cannot overwinter them. If your Stoecha Lavender topiary is still alive after the summer season: bring them inside to overwinter!

Those alluring Spanish Lavender blossoms make a lavender topiary irresistible:

Stoecha lavender with tufts of purple

Goodwin Creek Lavender Topiaries

They are around but difficult to find. Goodwin Creek Lavender topiary plants have the best chance of surviving due to their unique growth habit that sets them apart from other lavender types.

Other Reasons Why Lavender Topiaries Do Not Live Long:

Lavender dislikes too much water and fertilizer so resist the urge to treat her like the rest of your flowering plants!

Explore other reasons why your lavender topiary may be dying and potential remedies to save it:

Clay and heavy soils will not allow for proper drainage for lavenders finicky feet and expansion of lavender roots.

Adding bark mulch, especially if it touches and retains moisture against the plant, will also be a slow death sentence.

Transplant your lavender in well draining soil and/or remove bark mulch from its bed or area and replace it with pea gravel.

Too much water from timed sprinklers or excessive rains may be killing your lavender.

Dial back on irrigation and allow the soil to dry before watering again.  Plant lavender on a slope where drainage is superior.

Lavender plants without wind block may perish from the cold Michigan winter winds.

Plant large Michigan loving bushes, such as lilacs or hydrangeas, near your lavender to prevent winds from damaging the plants.

Tree stands with heavy forest undergrowth nearby, lake effect snow from the Great Lakes or covering  your lavender will also help protect your lavender from cold winds.

Lavender enjoys nutrient poor soil.  If you fertilized your lavender heavily, your lavender may die very quickly.

Avoid fertilizing your lavender.  Dolomite lime has the perfect balance of nutrients for your lavender to thrive.

So you bought that cute little lavender topiary at the nursery and you take it home and now it is dying.

There are two most common reasons why your lavender topiary may be dying:

  1.  Lavender was not meant to be a topiary plant.  Aggressive pruning and stripping lavender's leaves prevents photosynthesis, which is required for lavender to survive.
  2. These are usually "Stoechas Lavender" which are not hardy in Michigan.

Resist the urge to buy lavender topiaries unless you plan on enjoying it for only a week!

Phytophthora is a plant pathogen that can wreak havoc on lavender plants if left unchecked. Recognizing the signs of phytophthora early on is crucial in preventing its spread and saving your precious lavender garden.

Phytophthora is a water mold that thrives in moist conditions, attacking the roots of plants like lavender. The first signs of phytophthora infection may include wilting leaves, yellowing foliage, and stunted growth. As the disease progresses, you may notice dark lesions on the stems or roots of your lavender plants.

Preventing phytophthora starts with good gardening practices. Make sure your lavender plants are not sitting in waterlogged soil and provide adequate drainage to prevent excess moisture buildup. Avoid overhead watering which can splash soil onto the leaves and introduce pathogens to the plant.

If you cover your lavender plants for the winter, you may find rodents like mice, chipmunks and voles creating beds slightly underneath the soil or in your plants.

While lavender is typically a "rodent proof" plant, you may find these rodents are appreciative of the "warm home" (plant cover) you provided for them in the winter!

Avoid covering by building fences or natural wind blocks around your lavender.

Root-knot nematodes are microscopic round worms that could munch on your lavender root systems.

You can avoid these nematodes by planting forage radish near your lavender garden!

Lavender Farmer | Aromatherapist | Yoga Instructor at Twin Flame Lavender Farm | Vibe Aroma LLC

Renee started out as an avid real estate blogger in 2006. Opting for a less stressful life, Paul and Renee moved to Michigan in 2018 and started a lavender farm in 2019.

There are very few resources available to aspiring lavender farmers for growing lavender, lavender aromatherapy and lavender culinary infusion.

Renee hopes to change and shake up the world of lavender by sharing her knowledge and experience she has gained by being a lavender farmer and aromatherapist with lavender lovers all over the world.

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