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How to grow lavender

Jun 25, 2011 -
   
  How to grow lavender
 
   

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

Here are the somber reasons to plant it:

Drought tolerant
Deer resistant
Easy care (cut back once a year)

There are lots of fun reasons too:

Fragrant
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.

CULTURE

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
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)
english lavender hidcote
Munstead’ (purple and hardy only to Zone 8)
english lavender munstead
White Ice
english lavender white ice
‘English Pink’
French Perfume’ (plum)
english lavender french perfume

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
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 LAVENDERfernleaf 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!


Categories: Herb Seeds, Edible Landscaping, Organic Gardening 101


Katherine Says:
Jun 26th, 2011 at 7:55 am

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

Joan Breit Says:
Jul 1st, 2011 at 5:54 pm

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

diana fair Says:
Apr 15th, 2013 at 10:16 am

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

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Apr 15th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

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.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Apr 15th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

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

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Apr 15th, 2013 at 12:46 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.

Kathy Says:
Jan 10th, 2014 at 5:58 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?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jan 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am

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.

Ken Enos Says:
Mar 29th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

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?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Apr 1st, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Hello Ken,

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

christine Says:
Apr 27th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

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

Stephanie Brown Says:
Apr 28th, 2014 at 8:01 am

Hello Christine,

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

Ken Enos Says:
May 10th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

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.

Ken

Stephanie Brown Says:
May 12th, 2014 at 9:47 am

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.

Alexis W. Says:
May 15th, 2014 at 8:15 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

Stephanie Brown Says:
May 15th, 2014 at 9:25 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: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/herbs/crops/culinary/lavender_mccoy.html

Julie Says:
Jun 9th, 2014 at 5:15 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 :(

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jun 9th, 2014 at 9:10 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.

Joe Says:
Jun 23rd, 2014 at 6:27 pm

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!
Joe

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jun 24th, 2014 at 9:05 am

Hello Joe,

This is a great fact sheet on growing a lavender farm: http://www.wnc.edu/files/departments/ce/sci/attralavender.pdf.

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

Max Says:
Jun 27th, 2014 at 10:39 pm

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.

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jun 30th, 2014 at 8:59 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?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jun 30th, 2014 at 8:59 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?

AnnT Says:
Jul 19th, 2014 at 8:43 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!

Suzanne Says:
Jul 21st, 2014 at 10:40 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.

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