A lavender plant turning gray is a sign that it’s dying or not doing as well as should be expected. ‘Why is my lavender turning gray?’ is likely one of the many questions pinging around your head as you scramble to look for a solution or solutions. Chances are the quest on how to revive your dying lavender brought you here.
Like all dying plants, a failing lavender is always a distressing sight. It is a slow process that pulls at the heartstrings with despair especially if you don’t have a clue about what’s going on despite your best efforts.
First of all, if you are looking for solutions to this peculiar lavender problem, you are in the right place. Secondly, you don’t have to panic because the fix isn’t hard. In this guide, we’d discuss how to get ahead of the issue and ways to ensure it never happens again.
Why Is Lavender Plant Turning Gray?
Lavender is a shrub-like aromatic plant with origins in the Mediterranean thriving best in hot weather and dry soil. The plants are typically cultivated in herb gardens or as perennial border plants in hardiness zones 5 – 9 depending on the species.
The vivid ashy green color of lavender foliage makes them great as companion plants, creating a perfect contrast with other plants for an overall lovely aesthetics display.
Generally, growing lavender is easy and problems are rare. But when that awesome silvery gray lavender foliage starts turning sickly gray, it could be due to either damage from frost or the side effects of battling with fungal disease(s) or both.
Fortunately, fixing the problem is very simple as long as the plant is not too far gone, especially if the issue is a fungal attack.
Let’s take a look at how to diagnose and fix both issues.
Lavender Plant Turning Gray From Frost Damage
If your lavender turns gray due to exposure to extreme cold, it is likely you planted the wrong specie. Usually, English lavender is winter hardy, unlike French or Spanish lavender.
Here is a pro tip for you: make sure to plant only species that are hardy for your region. So for regions with severe winters, the best choice is English lavender.
The typical lavender frost damage indicators are the gray discoloration on the lower stems and leaves. Apart from the gray color, the lavender literally appears sad and neglected.
That said, this isn’t the end of the plant though. It can be revived with proper care.
The solution to Lavender frost damage
The first thing to do to a frost-damaged lavender is to prune out all the graying areas of the plant when winter ends. Pruning would stimulate new growth but the best part is, the stem would become thicker and more resilient to frost attack.
Use sharp pruning shears to get the job done quickly. And you’d want to clean the blades with rubbing alcohol or a suitable disinfectant before starting and between cutting each stem to avoid spreading diseases.
Beyond the solution, though, you can take your winter care a little further with the following tips:
- Cover your garden lavender with tree branches after the first snowfall. This protects the soil from the drying effects of cold winter winds. The branches also provide the needed shade to the plants.
- For potted lavender, you can protect the plant from the cold by completely covering only the pot with dry leaves or mulch. The best way to do this is by placing it into a bigger pot and covering the space between both pots with the mulching material or leaves.
Then, place this post near a wall to provide further protection against winter winds. Ensure you water the soil when it gets dry but not frozen.
- If you live outside the plant’s hardiness zone and there is enough indoor space, take the pot indoors and place it near a window that gets adequate sunlight. Water about once a week or once every couple of weeks.
Lavender Plant Turning Gray From Fungal Attacks
When it comes to fungal disease turning lavender gray, the Botrytis spp is the most common microorganism implicated in fungal attacks. This is a serious problem that can ultimately result in the death of the plant if left untreated.
Like frost damage, the most affected parts of the lavender are the foliage near the base of the plant.
Fungal diseases though don’t just pop out of nowhere. There are several causative factors and the common ones include:
Over-watering – Being native Mediterranean plants, lavenders can survive long periods without water. This drought-resistant quality is built into the DNA with the resultant effect that they thrive best in drier conditions.
Essentially, too much water is more harmful than no water when it comes to lavender. When the soil is damp or soggy, the potential for fungal growth and subsequent disease is high.
Soil drainage – The primary issue when it comes to soil and fungal disease is slow-draining soil. Again, this goes back to the tropical nature of lavender where the ideal soil for growth is dry, comparatively sandy, and fast-draining.
Slow-draining soil retains water for too long creating ideal conditions for dangerous fungus to grow.
Humidity – High relative humidity can give rise to fungal disease. Breezy conditions with adequate airflow in and around the plants are usually recommended for growing healthy lavender plants.
The solution to Lavender Fungal Disease
- The first step is to prune away the affected parts of the plant. Like in the case of frost damage, use clean sharp, clean, sterilized pruners to prevent the spread of plant diseases.
- Carefully pull up the plant and check the roots for fungal infection. Uninfected lavender roots are typically creamy or whitish in color and firm to touch. Infected roots are dark brownish and mushy to touch.
If the roots are infected, use the shears or pruners and cut out the infected parts. Ensure you disinfect the blades with rubbing alcohol in between cuts.
Next, treat the soil with fungicide after cutting off the infected plant parts before replanting. This is important because the soil is definitely contaminated with fungal pathogens.
Follow these simple steps for effective soil treatment:
– For garden lavender, get the best granular soil fungicide from the nearest garden store. Following the instructions on the label carefully, mix the fungicide into the soil to kill all the harmful fungi. You can now replant the lavender and water not lightly.
– For potted lavender, discard the infected potting soil and wash the pot with warm water and soap. Then rinse the pot thoroughly and allow it to dry.
– You could also use a new pot with adequate drainage holes at the bottom.
– You also want to remove the old soil from the lavender’s roots. Use a gentle stream of water to rinse out the soil from the roots.
– Fill the pot with the new potting mix. To improve soil drainage you can add sand to the potting mix. About 30% sand to 70% potting soil would be sufficient.
– Replant your lavender and water the soil; allow excess water to drain out completely via the drainage holes at the bottom.
Preventing Lavender Fungal Attacks: Lavender Care Tips
- Far and away the most important care tip is how and when to water your lavender. Experts recommend watering once every couple of weeks. Depending on the conditions though, the frequency could be once every 3 weeks.
- No matter the external conditions, water your lavender only when the soil is completely dry.
- To ensure a vibrant lavender and prevent legginess, prune out about a third of new growths in the growing season. Avoid cutting old stems while at it.
- When planting lavender, keep them about 3 feet away from other plants for optimum airflow. This is also an anti-fungal care routine for lavender.
- For potted lavender, it is critical to get the pot size correct. A pot that is less than 12 inches would inhibit growth. Aim for a pot between 13 – 17 inches across. This can comfortably accommodate the robust root system.
- Keep in mind that lavender plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. So choose a location that meets this requirement
Lavender plant turning gray isn’t usually a death sentence as long as the right measures are taken. Typically caused by frost damage and fungal attacks, the symptoms usually show up close to the bottom of the plant.
Fortunately, saving or reviving your lavender when it turns gray isn’t difficult. Better still, with the right care routine, you can prevent your lavender from turning gray. And the best place to start is to plant the lavender species that is suited to your hardiness zone.