How to Grow Lavender

By on June 25, 2011

Spanish lavender is just one of the many varieties to grow

It’s easy to get carried away by the virtues of lavender.

Here are the somber reasons to plant it:

Drought tolerant
Easy care (cut back once a year)

There are lots of fun reasons too:

Flowers come in colors from white to deep purple
Graceful stems that brush your ankles as you walk by

Don’t forget the useful reasons:

As Linnie shows in our video you can make lavender wands and wreaths. It’s essential as part of Herbes de Provence, and also a novel addition to goat cheese, ice cream, or as a swizzle stick in your iced tea or cocktail.


All lavenders require full sun, good drainage and alkaline soil. If your soil tends toward acid clay then one-quarter of the total planting soil should be compost, along with a small amount of gravel to assist drainage. If bought as a plant, the lavender should be sited on a mound or slope so that excess water runs off. Water weekly in the first summer, and then every three weeks in following summers.

A busy gardener is rewarded by the fact that lavender does not have a yen for fertilizer and rich soil. Mulch it with gravel, to recall its Mediterranean home.

Lavender Varieties

English Lavender

If you have only one lavender in your garden, make it English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Its fragrant flowers dry well, and their flavor is delicate enough to use in food. The hardiest of all lavenders (USDA zones 5-11), it is perfect in Northern California and in most other parts of the United States.

Confusingly, the ancient plant has many valid names, such as: True lavender, Lavandula officinalis or Lavandula vera. Some of the most beautiful and popular lavender varieties in the world are cultivars of this plant. Flowers come in a range of colors from deep purple through blue, mauve-pink and white.
Look for:

  • Hidcote- purple
  • Munstead - purple and hardly only to zone 8
  • English Pink
  • English Perfume - plum

The natural form is rounded, so prune lightly after June blooming to keep the dome shape. If it is pruned heavily the blooms in the next season will be dramatically reduced.

Spanish Lavender

Lavandula stoechas, Spanish lavender, has fat pineapple-shaped flowers topped by a few alert-looking bracts. Hardy in Zones 8-10, just prune it back after the first bloom, to give it shape and encourage a second bloom in the summer. Spanish lavender has a strong, almost resiny flavor, so use it in food only when you want a real punch. The flowers are lovely in bloom but don’t dry all that well.

French Lavender

Lavandula dentata, French lavender, has distinctive little “teeth” along the edges of its leaves. Hardy to USDA zone 8b, it’s a vigorous addition to your garden. This is not the lavender grown in France for essential oils—that is Lavandula x intermedia, a cross between English lavender and spike lavender. Enjoy this one for its beauty and fragrance in the garden and bouquets. Like its Spanish cousin, the flavor is strong and this should be used only when you want an assertive taste.

Fernleaf Lavender

Lavandula multifida, fernleaf lavender brings unusual fern-like foliage to your lavender collection. The distinctive foliage and trident-shaped flower heads are attention getters. Indigenous to Spain and Portugal, fernleaf lavender is hardy only in Zones 9-11. Grow this as an intriguing ornamental (there is no floral fragrance and the foliage is too strong to be used in cooking). It grows easily from seed, making it simple to bring back every year.

Choose lavenders that will suit your climate, and any cooking or crafting you’d like to do. Then relax and enjoy that fragrance!

  Comments (41)


I would like to know when to harvest the flowers. Before the buds open, after? Morning, evening? Thanks, Katherine

Posted by Katherine on Jun. 26, 2011 at 7:55:42 AM


Am I right in thinking that English Lavender would be the best choice for growing in Kansas?

Posted by Joan Breit on Jul. 01, 2011 at 5:54:25 PM


HI ,....I am not a gardener or grower of flowers.  I live in Southern Texas Hill Country.  We have abundant white tail deer…..on to my lavender…I bought 3 lavender ‘bushes’ at a grocery store.  They were blooming just gorgeous !!  I bought them probably mid March. I kinda got busy and did not do much for them. NOW that I am ready to repot, I find they were extremely root bound.  There were 3 plants per container. they are all shrivelled up, now that I read more, I suspect that I have really over watered them.  I have put rocks in bottom of each pot and split each bush into three parts to spread out in bigger pot.  The wonderous smell is soooo relaxing.  SOOO… I am doing right so far !  And is it now the time to prune and how far back ??  I do hope to hear from ya’ll ...God Bless .....dee

Posted by diana fair on Apr. 15, 2013 at 10:16:03 AM

Katherine, Harvest the lavender after the buds are open. Do so in late morning (after dew has all evaporated) or in early evening. Cut the stems back as close as possible to the main plant.

Posted by on Apr. 15, 2013 at 12:42:59 PM

Joan, Yes Kansas is USDA zones 5-6 so English lavender is best there.

Posted by on Apr. 15, 2013 at 12:43:40 PM

Diana, Sounds like you are doing the right things. The other point is that they prefer alkaline soil, so you might want to do a soil pH test. The rocks will be good for the drainage that lavender wants. If they bloom, then cut the stems off to the main plant—that is how we prune lavender. But don’t do it until they bloom.

Posted by on Apr. 15, 2013 at 12:46:07 PM


Hi Charlotte!  Wondering which variety to plant in Middle TN.  What Zone is it?  Also, when is the best time to plant lavender?  Would lavender be ready to harvest in its’ 1st year?

Posted by Kathy on Jan. 10, 2014 at 4:58:22 PM

Hello Kathy, middle Tennessee is mostly zone 6b. If you live just south of Dixon there is a little U of 6a. Once you get around Pulaski and Savannah that’s zone 7a. English lavender will do very well there. You will have to very cognizant of drainage since you get summer rain. If you are growing from plants purchased at a nursery they will flower the first year in the ground, second year if you are growing from seed.

Posted by on Jan. 15, 2014 at 9:00:14 AM


Hi   I planted Lavender Vera from seed. I live in northeast Ohio near Lake Erie.  I am growing them under grow lights.  They are just getting their first true leaves.  Will they survive next winter here, since they are a perennial?

Posted by Ken Enos on Mar. 29, 2014 at 3:02:55 PM

Hello Ken,

Yes, the lavender will survive. Lavender is hardy to USDA zone 5. Most of Ohio around Lake Erie is zone 6.

Posted by on Apr. 01, 2014 at 4:29:24 PM


What variety of lavender would grow in zone 10, the north coast of California?

Posted by christine on Apr. 27, 2014 at 4:10:01 PM

Hello Christine,

Fernleaf, Hidcote, and Munstead are all great varieties for you area.

Posted by on Apr. 28, 2014 at 8:01:47 AM


Stephanie, back in March my Lavender Vera were just developing true leaves.  They are now 2 to 3 inches tall and starting to bush out.  I have planters that I bought, but also plan on planting the the yard.  Will they survive the winter in planters?  I read to put the planters near the house foundation.  Tips on planting them would help.  I am excited and want to do this right.  Thanks You.


Posted by Ken Enos on May. 10, 2014 at 7:02:19 PM

Hello Ken,

What is your USDA zone? Plants in containers are more sensitive to heat and cold. Yes, putting the planters on the south side next to he foundation will keep them warmer. It sounds like they are big enough to plant though.

Posted by on May. 12, 2014 at 9:47:40 AM


Hi Stephanie! My bf and I would like to start an organic lavender farm… We live in Lake Lure, NC. What type if lavender would you recommend? And would you suggest multiple types or just stick to one variety? Our PH level is 6.8… And we’re planning on liming our pasture before tilling… Thanks for the info and if you have any book/references you think would be helpful, let me know!! Much appreciated

Posted by Alexis W. on May. 15, 2014 at 8:15:07 AM

Hello Alexis,

That sounds marvelous! The variety is going to depend on what you want to sell the lavender as; cut flowers, oil production, plants ect. This fact sheet from North Carolina has great information about growing lavender commercially:

Posted by on May. 15, 2014 at 9:25:50 AM


What type if lavendar is the best for northern ny, zone 4? I am looking for pretty as well as fragrant but unfortunately we have harsh winters up here :(

Posted by Julie on Jun. 09, 2014 at 5:15:16 AM

Hello Julie,

English lavender is the most frost hardy lavender, hardy to zone 5. If you have a south facing wall of your house, or a stone wall, you might be able to cheat a zone. Plant the lavender with a southern exposure, in a sheltered area, near the house.

Posted by on Jun. 09, 2014 at 9:10:17 AM


Hello Stephanie,
I have a similar question as Alexis. I live in central Texas and the climate here can get rather humid. I haven’t tested our soil but will be doing that. I’m wondering which varieties might do best here? I’m considering starting a lavender farm. Also, when is the best time to direct sow the seed? Thank you!

Posted by Joe on Jun. 23, 2014 at 6:27:36 PM

Hello Joe,

This is a great fact sheet on growing a lavender farm:

I found an article about a farm in West Texas that grows Porvence and Grosso, those are good culinary and oil varieties.

Posted by on Jun. 24, 2014 at 9:05:02 AM


My French lavender is 2 years old.  Last year, the blooms were thick and bushy on the top of the plant.  This spring/summer,,not so much.  Thin at the top with blooms.  Blooms are thin and droopy at the sides of the plants.  How to correct this?  Live in western WA state.

Posted by Max on Jun. 27, 2014 at 10:39:37 PM

Hello Max,

Lavender can be sensitive to water issues and can get root or crown rot if the bottom of the plant gets too wet. What’s the water situation?

Posted by on Jun. 30, 2014 at 8:59:07 AM

Hello Max,

Lavender can be sensitive to water issues and can get root or crown rot if the bottom of the plant gets too wet. What’s the water situation?

Posted by on Jun. 30, 2014 at 8:59:08 AM


We are in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, and plan to plant several “farm-style” rows of lavender.  Should we wait til Fall or even spring to plant? With the hottest part of the year being August-October, my instincts tell me the stress and water needs may be high to plant now.  Thanks for advice!

Posted by AnnT on Jul. 19, 2014 at 8:43:34 AM

The choice of when to plant really depends on whether you will be putting in small transplants or starting from seed. If from seed you should start in the spring and if small transplants you can put them in now. But you will need to keep them watered until they get an established root system. You put in plants, transplant either early in the morning or in the cool of the evening. Watering the transplants with kelp or a product like Thrive-Alive with help minimize shock.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jul. 21, 2014 at 10:40:05 AM


Hello there, I am here in beautiful South Florida. I just planted my Fern Leaf seeds in a Jiffy seed starting kit and I have sprouts. When is it best to remove the dome, transplant them to larger pots? I have sandy soil and with the heat I am not so concerned about drainage. If you have any other pointers I would be grateful.

Posted by Hutch on Sep. 17, 2014 at 8:33:37 AM

I would wait to transplant until the seedlings have at least 3-4 sets of leaves. I would remove the dome after the seedlings have sprouted. You do not want too much humidity in an already humid region. Lavender does not like to be overwatered, so wait until the soil is dry between waterings. Also provide full sun conditions.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Oct. 07, 2014 at 11:51:01 AM


I would like to plant a Lavander farm in Grass Valley CA. Originally I wanted to plant the highest yielding oil producing kind, but I’m not sure if that will work?


Posted by Melissa Cox on Dec. 03, 2014 at 12:45:46 AM


Hi!  I live in SE South Dakota / zone 4.  I am looking to start a lavender farm but am not finding a kind that is hardy enough for the harsh winters.  Do you recommend a type of lavender perennial for zone 4 and how to winterize?  Thank you for your help!!

Posted by Wendi on Feb. 09, 2015 at 6:15:18 PM

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ produces the most essential oil and is the plant that is used commercially for oil.  It does great here in Grass Valley, CA

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Feb. 13, 2015 at 10:24:57 AM

Growing lavender in South Dakota is probably not an option. It is just too cold. Unless you want to erect some sort of greenhouse or hoophouse and heat it during the winter.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Feb. 16, 2015 at 9:35:23 AM


So excited! New home…new life…but pretty much on edge of Everglades in zone 10…we are plagued with no-see-ums that come through our screened lanai! I just read that Lavender repels pesky insects (as well as other plants) and I would like to know which lavender would be the best one for my zone. I will also be planting lemon grass…

Posted by Janet on May. 10, 2015 at 5:46:42 AM

I have read that Lavandula dentata ‘Candicans’ does well in more tropical climates. But make sure that when you plant it it is in well drained soil and full sun.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on May. 11, 2015 at 12:53:43 PM


I live in south central Ohio.  What variety of lavender would be best to grow here?  I am planning on growing them in pots.  Thank you!

Posted by Brenda Whalen on Jun. 05, 2015 at 7:42:54 PM

Brenda, English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Its fragrant flowers dry well, and their flavor is delicate enough to use in food. The hardiest of all lavenders (USDA zones 5-11). This would probably be your best choice given that you are in Ohio. If you read in this article, the other types of lavender are not that hardy.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jun. 08, 2015 at 11:18:24 AM


I live in Boca Raton, Florida, zone 10-11, what variety of lavenders I can plant? If I plant from seed, when should I plant it?

Posted by Jennifer on Jul. 09, 2015 at 9:22:39 AM

I have read that Lavandula dentata ‘Candicans’ does well in more tropical climates. You have such warm temperatures there, you probably can plant it at any time. But check with your local master gardener or nursery.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jul. 14, 2015 at 12:42:01 PM


I have been trying all summer to grow some lavender seeds I have and have had no luck. I live in Florida what would be the best way to grow them?

Posted by Helena on Aug. 24, 2015 at 8:31:05 AM


Hi Helena,

I found this: ( You can probably ignore the frost warning, depending on where you are in FL smile You may even try cold stratifying to fool your seeds into thinking their spring fling has finally arrived when you take them out of the refrigerator.

Start lavender seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Space them ½” to 1” apart in a flat of well-drained sterile seed starting mix, and cover them only about 1/8”, since light aids germination. Keep the flats in a warm place, about 70 degrees, and moist but not soggy-water in the morning so that the flats aren’t too wet in cooler nighttime temperatures, causing the seedlings to damp off. Be patient; seeds can sometimes take a month to germinate, but I have often been pleasantly surprised to have seedlings germinate within the first two weeks. Although I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble, some gardeners recommend cold-stratifying lavender seeds to improve the germination rate. The simplest way to do this is to place lavender seeds into a ziplock bag of moistened seed starting mix and leave it in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Then sow as above. When seedlings emerge, provide strong lights so that they don’t grow weak and leggy.

When the seedlings have several sets of true leaves, gently loosen the soil around the plants and transfer them into a 2” pot or 2” apart in deeper flats of well-drained planting mix. Since nutrients quickly leach out of containers, add some granular slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Snip off the growing tip to encourage branching. When the plants have grown about 3 inches tall, the weather is warm, and all danger of frost is past, gradually expose the plants to outdoor conditions over the course of a week, being careful not to leave them in full sun right away. Finally, plant them outdoors 12-24” apart into well-drained garden soil. In particularly moist, humid areas, plant them at the wider spacing recommendation, so that air circulates freely around the plants.

In poorly drained, damp soil, lavender roots are highly susceptible to rotting. If you have heavy, soggy clay, or live in a rainy climate as I do here in Western Oregon, loosen your soil as deeply as possible, pile on well-drained compost (preferably without too much peat moss, which retains moisture), and plant the lavender on raised mounds. Adding lime to acid soils also helps improve its chances, since lavender prefers a soil pH of 6.0-8. Lavender often does not require additional nitrogen fertilizer; in fact, too much nitrogen can result in less fragrant flowers and plants that are more sensitive to frost and fungal infections.

Lavender will probably produce several flowering stems in the first season, but cut these off either when they appear or, if you really can’t bring yourself to do that, just after the first buds start to open so that the plant can focus its energy on developing strong root and vegetative growth, rather than flowers and seeds. In subsequent years, cut back flowering stems after 1/3 of the buds have opened to about 1/3 of the new growth. Provide winter protection in cold areas. Mulch the plants with sand, gravel or bark, leaving 6” around the stem of the plant so air circulates at the base.

Posted by Tamm on Aug. 27, 2015 at 5:59:57 PM


I live in Santa Monica, CA.  I have planted Provence Lavender and before the plants blooms they turn grey and the plant dies.  I have planted them on crowned hillocks in rows with 3/4’ of space between the rows and 2’ between plants.  I have installed a drip water system.  What am I doing wrong?  I would love to send a picture to you.  I love being able to harvest the lavender and make lavender wands as gifts for friends and family and I make sachets for a charity event each year.  Unfortunately, though I have replanted twice, I have not had any blooms as the lavender plants start to get larger, don’t bloom, don’t create stems and then the middle of the plant dies.  Help!

Posted by Judy Berglass on Oct. 24, 2015 at 10:08:48 AM

How is your drainage? Good? Not sure what is happening but maybe you are over-watering your plants. Maybe try them in pots if you have poor drainage. They like full sun as well.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Nov. 02, 2015 at 9:19:10 AM

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