How to Grow Lavender – What to Know

Lavender is a beautiful and fragrant herb that’s not only a pleasure to look at but also has many uses in cooking, cosmetics, and aromatherapy. Growing lavender can be a rewarding experience as it’s a low-maintenance herb that is easy to care for.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about growing lavender, including sunlight and soil requirements, watering, pruning, and harvesting. Whether you’re a beginner gardener or an experienced grower, this information will surely be useful, so let’s dive in and discover the joys of growing lavender!

What is Lavender (Lavandula)?

lavender flowers

Lavender is a perennial herb known for its fragrant, spikes of purple, blue, or white flowers. It has grayish-green leaves and can grow up to 2-4 feet tall. The plant is drought-tolerant and can grow in well-drained soil. It’s also a low-maintenance herb, with only occasional pruning and fertilizing needed.

Lavender is popular because of its ornamental value and low maintenance. It’s native to the Mediterranean region, specifically the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean basin. It’s also found in other parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

In recent times this plant has been introduced and grown in other regions with Mediterranean-like climates, such as the western United States, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s a popular ornamental and commercial crop in many countries and it can be found in different forms like wild and cultivars.

Types of Lavender

growing lavender plants

There are many different types of lavender, with some of the most common and popular varieties including:

  • English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): This is the most popular variety of lavender, known for its strong fragrance and deep purple flowers. It grows to a height of about 2-3 feet and is hardy in zones 5-8.
  • French Lavender (Lavandula dentata): This variety has a more delicate fragrance and gray-green leaves that are toothed. It produces spikes of purple flowers and grows to a height of about 2-3 feet.
  • Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): This variety has a strong fragrance and produces spikes of purple flowers with distinctive, showy bracts. It grows to a height of about 1-2 feet and is hardy in zones 8-10.
  • Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia): This is a hybrid of English and spike lavender, known for its large, fragrant flowers and high essential oil content. It grows to a height of about 3-4 feet and is hardy in zones 5-8.
  • Munstead (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’): A cultivar of English lavender known for its compact size and deep purple flowers.
  • Hidcote (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’): A cultivar of English lavender known for its deep blue flowers and compact size.

These are just a few examples, there are many other cultivars and hybrids available, each with unique characteristics and growing habits.

How to Grow Lavender

lavender plants in a field

Growing lavender can be easy and rewarding. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to grow lavender:

1.     Choose the Right Variety

Select a variety of lavender that will thrive in your area. Some varieties are hardier than others and can survive in colder climates.

2.     Choose the Right Location

Lavender prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s important to choose a location with good drainage and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

3.     Prepare the Soil

Lavender prefers well-drained, sandy or gravelly soil. If your soil is heavy clay or poorly drained, amend it with sand or grit to improve drainage.

4.     Planting

Plant lavender in the spring or fall. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball and remove the plant from the container. Plant it at the same depth as it was in the container and backfill with soil.

5.     Watering

Lavender prefers well-drained soil and minimal watering. Water once or twice a week, providing about 1 inch of water per week. Avoid over-watering to prevent root rot, water the soil around the base of the plant, and avoid getting the leaves wet. Increase watering during hot summer months, and reduce watering during winter dormancy.

6.     Fertilizing

Lavender is a relatively low-maintenance plant that does not require a lot of fertilizing. In fact, over-fertilizing can actually harm the plant and lead to issues such as weak growth and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases. When planted in the right environment, lavender can thrive with minimal fertilizer.

It’s best to fertilize lavender with a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring, or use a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can lead to lush foliage at the expense of flower production. With the right care, your lavender plants should thrive with minimal fertilizer.

7.     Pruning

person pruning plants

Lavender should be pruned to promote healthy growth and to encourage the plant to produce more flowers. Pruning helps to remove old, woody growth and to shape the plant. It’s best to prune lavender in late spring or early summer after the plant has finished blooming.

Cut back the plant to about 4 inches above the ground, this will encourage new growth and a bushy habit. Be sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears, and avoid cutting into woody growth. With regular pruning, your lavender plants will stay healthy, and bushy, and will produce more flowers.

8.     Harvesting

Lavender is typically harvested in the late spring or early summer when the flowers are in full bloom. The best time to harvest is usually when the flowers on the lower buds just start to open, and the upper buds are still closed. To harvest, gently cut the stems of the plant just above the second set of leaves, using sharp, clean shears.

It’s best to harvest in the morning when the flowers are still fresh and the oil content is the highest. After harvesting, the lavender can be dried or used fresh for a variety of purposes such as aromatherapy, cooking, or in beauty products.

9.     Pest and Disease

aphids on a plant

Lavender is generally a hardy plant that’s resistant to most pests and diseases, but there are some common issues that can affect it. Some of the pests and diseases that can affect lavender include:

  • Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause damage to the leaves, leaving them discolored and stippled. To control spider mites, use a strong stream of water to blast them off the plant or spray with a solution of water and dish soap.
  • Whiteflies: These small, white insects feed on the sap of the plant and can cause wilting and yellowing of the leaves. Control whiteflies by using sticky traps or horticultural oil.
  • Powdery mildew: This fungal disease causes a powdery white coating on the leaves and can lead to leaf drop. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure good air circulation around the plants, avoid overcrowding, and use a fungicide.
  • Root rot: This is caused by overwatering or poorly drained soil. To prevent root rot, make sure to plant lavender in well-drained soil and avoid overwatering.
  • Gray mold: This fungal disease can cause wilting, browning and death of the lavender plant. To prevent gray mold, make sure to space the plants properly, avoid overcrowding, and use a fungicide.

In general, keeping the plants healthy and avoiding overcrowding, and providing good air circulation, can help prevent most of these issues. It’s also important to regularly inspect your plants, and take action immediately if you spot any symptoms of pests or diseases.

Uses of Lavender

lavender essential oils

Lavender has a wide range of uses, both in traditional and modern medicine, as well as in culinary, beauty, and household applications. Some of the most common uses of lavender include:

  • Aromatherapy: The soothing scent of lavender is often used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep.
  • Skin care: Lavender oil is often used in skin care products such as lotions, soaps, and creams for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
  • Hair care: Lavender oil is often used to improve hair growth and prevent hair loss, as well as to treat dandruff and itchy scalp.
  • Culinary: The flower and leaves of lavender are often used to flavor sweet and savory dishes, such as cakes, cookies, jams, marinades, and roasted meats.
  • Household: The scent of lavender is often used in laundry detergents, potpourri, and sachets to freshen up linens and clothes.
  • Medical: Historically, lavender has been used to treat a wide range of ailments such as headaches, depression, and insomnia, and it’s still being used today in some traditional medicine.
  • Insect repellent: Lavender oil is a natural insect repellent and can be used to repel mosquitoes, moths, and other insects.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of the versatility and popularity of lavender. It’s also important to note that not all uses of lavender have been scientifically proven, and some should be used with caution or under the supervision of a professional.

History of Lavender

lavender on a table

Lavender has been used for centuries for its medicinal, culinary, and aromatic properties. The history of lavender can be traced back to ancient times, when it was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans for its healing properties and to scent their baths, clothes, and homes.

In ancient Egypt, lavender was used in the mummification process, and it was also used as a perfume. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used the plant for its fragrance and medicinal properties, as well as in cooking.

During the Middle Ages, lavender was widely used in Europe for its medicinal properties, and also to freshen up homes and repel insects. Monks grew lavender in their monasteries and used it to make perfumes, soaps, and other products.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, lavender became very popular in England, where it was used to freshen up homes, make perfumes, and repel insects. It was also a popular ingredient in lavender water, a popular toiletry of the time.

In the 20th century, the use of lavender in perfumes and toiletries declined, but its use in aromatherapy and alternative medicine increased. Today, lavender is popularly used in a variety of products such as essential oils, soaps, lotions, and candles, and it’s also grown as an ornamental plant.

The history of lavender shows us how this plant has been valued for its many benefits throughout the centuries, and it continues to be widely used today.

Frequently Asked Questions about Lavender

1. Where is the best place to plant lavender?

The best place to plant lavender is in a well-drained, sunny spot with good air circulation.

2. Do lavender come back every year?

Lavender is a perennial plant, it will come back every year if it’s planted in the appropriate climate zone and conditions.

3. Can I leave lavender outside in winter?

Lavender is generally hardy and can tolerate cold temperatures, but it may not survive in areas with harsh winter conditions, it’s best to bring it inside or protect it with mulch.

4. Should lavender be cut down every year?

Lavender should be pruned regularly to promote healthy growth, but it doesn’t have to be cut down every year. Cut back the plant to about 4 inches above the ground every 2-3 years.

5. How many years does lavender last?

Lavender is a perennial plant, it can last for many years with proper care and in the appropriate conditions. Its lifespan can vary depending on the variety and the conditions, some lavender can live for up to 20 years.

The Take-Away

Growing lavender is a rewarding and easy task that can be enjoyed by both experienced and novice gardeners. This versatile plant is hardy, drought-tolerant, and requires little maintenance, which makes it perfect for a variety of garden settings.

Whether you want to use it for its fragrant aroma, for its beauty, or for its medicinal properties, lavender can be a great addition to your garden. With a little care and attention, you’ll be able to enjoy the many benefits of lavender for years to come.