How To Grow Lavender
It is easy to grow lavender if you have the right growing conditions. Learn how to plant, grow and care for your lavender plants. When you grow lavender you will experience the vibrant purple flowers, the calming scent, and the myriad of medicinal uses. But you don’t have to have a huge amount of space to grow lavender. Lavender is good for borders, perennial gardens or informal hedges. Lavender (Lavandula) is a Mediterranean plant that’s easy to grow and maintain.
It is drought-resistant, low-maintenance, and – thanks to the strong essential oil it produces – undesirable to foraging critters and pests. Growing lavender isn’t much of a challenge for any gardener, experienced or not. However, there are a few staunch guidelines that every gardener should keep in mind when starting to grow lavender.Lavender…
- Loves heat
- Hates water
- Needs space
- Wants lean soil
Considering that lavender originates from hot, arid climates similar to Italy, France, and Spain, it’s understandable that cold or humid weather is not ideal.
If you live in a southern state where summers are long and hot, then you’ll need to provide slight shade during the peak heat of the day, and aid in air circulation by generously spacing out your plants.
Remember that lavender hates water. If you live in region with significant humidity, then your plants are going to need some serious elbow room to ensure maximum airflow and prevent disease. So proper drainage, airflow, and fast-drying stone mulch will ensure a healthy harvest.
Lavender Need Space
Lavender needs space to grow, allowing for maximum airflow – especially in southern regions with humid climates.
A good rule is to plant them as far apart as they will grow tall. Strong southern varieties will grow much taller than the northern varieties, which remain short and dense due to the cold weather.
If you are planting outdoors in a region with mildly cold winters, there are a few tricks you can use to naturally increase the temperature around your plants.
Planting near southern-facing stone walls or building walls will naturally radiate heat from the sun and warm your plants.
Other surfaces like asphalt, or the addition of stone mulch, can increase the amount of heat your plants receive. As previously mentioned – lavender loves heat.
Provide Good Drainage
Another element to consider when choosing where to plant your lavender is drainage.
Proper drainage is the key to a successful season, especially in regions with rainfall averaging around 12-15 inches. Lavender can’t tolerate an excess of water in the soil or in the air.
Find an area with well-drained soil, or consider organic additions to amend your soil.
If you’re concerned about your plants receiving too much water, you can always take an extra precautionary step: dig a half-foot deeper than the root ball and add a layer of gravel to assist drainage.
Provide Lean Soil
An alkaline, lean soil will make for a happy, healthy lavender plant.
If the soil is acidic, just add a half cup of a lime and bone meal mixture to your planting hole to sweeten it up a bit. Continue promoting strong growth by adding this mixture to the soil every year.
The third year of growth is when lavender reaches its peak. If your plant is not meeting your expectations after the first 2-3 years, it’s time to test your soil. If you find you need to compensate for acidic soil, you can throw in a little crushed oyster shell to improve alkalinity.
A great tip that we strongly advise is to dig your hole, line with gravel, then fill and mound the earth up to 12-24” above the soil line before planting.
The mound will settle some, but by piling the earth up before planting you will maximize drainage around the plant. The height also improves airflow, and as you already know, circulation is key!
Don’t forget the importance of providing ample room and adequate spacing to stretch out and feel the breeze. A spot with 6 or more hours of sunlight is ideal to keep your plants happy and warm.
Pruning and Maintaining
Pruning is very important as it slows down the growth of woody stems, and forces the plant to produce new foliage.
Lavender should generally be pruned right after it flowers, and again at the end of the summer months to help prevent a damaging winter.
Pruning in early fall helps slow the process of woody stems and increases flower blossoms the following year.
If you have an especially woody plant, prune lightly throughout the growing season for maximum results.
If you have chosen to grow your lavender in containers that can be brought in during the cold winter months, the following tips will come in handy when the time comes to bring them inside.
Consider the Lavandula dentata variety when growing indoors, as the smaller plants do better in pots.
The biggest fallback of growing indoors is the lack of light. Place near a southern-facing window and consider providing supplemental lighting via grow lights if you’re in the darker, northern climates.
Pots should be close in size to the root ball of your plant. Any larger and you risk root rot from waterlogged soil. Do not use too much water!
Consider adding a layer of gravel to the base of your pot to assist draining and use a terracotta pot – its sides release moisture and prevent rot.
The soil in your pot should be monitored closely for acidity. Make it a habit to add lime every month or so to give your lavender the lean soil it craves.
Water only when soil is dry up to one inch under the surface. It’s best to keep the plant in a cool room so you don’t shock it when it is placed back outside.
Harvesting lavender is really simple. Be sure to cut the lavender above the start of the woody stem and then allow it to dry for two weeks.
You can bundle dried branches together for a sweet addition to a bouquet, or for an added sense of elegance around your home. Strip the blossoms off for use in potpourri or baking.
The essential oils in these plants have various medicinal properties, and they are often used as antiseptics, sleep aids, and for stress relief. These can easily be added to homemade soap, cleaning solutions, shampoos, lotions, and more.