Lavender is a lovely, fragrant perennial flower that is native to the Mediterranean. It is used in many applications, including but not limited to food, cosmetics, medicines, and perfumes.
Its long-lasting buds also draw in and support essential pollinators. With a little careful tending, lavender will reappear and boom each spring and summer.
We’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to ensure that your lavender garden is awash with pastel purple flowers and silvery-green foliage.
What is Lavender?
Lavender is a perennial shrub that originated in North Africa and the Mediterranean. It thrives in warm, dry climates. The pearly gray leaves and pastel purple flowers are used in several unique applications.
Since lavender plants attract pollinators while deterring deer and other pesky animals, it is a welcome addition to most gardens.
What are the Different Varieties Available?
Before you pick a lavender variety, consider what you are looking to do with your harvest. Some lavender varieties are favored for their aesthetics, fragrances, and flavors. Consider the limitations of your local growing conditions.
Spanish lavender, or Lavandula stoechas, is favored for its fresh scent and lovely aesthetics. This type of lavender thrives in Hardiness Zones eight and nine. As such, it is an excellent choice for growers in hot, humid climates.
When properly cared for, Spanish lavender produces abundant spring and fall harvests. While intensely aromatic, Spanish lavender is not the best variety for cooking. If you’re looking to create aromatic oils and potpourris, Spanish lavender is the plant for you.
There are several varieties of Spanish lavender, including Ann’s Purple, Purple Ribbon, and Lutsko’s Dwarf. Spanish lavender will return each year. If your local climate isn’t suitable for Spanish lavender, consider propagating it in a container.
French lavender is not cold-resistant. It thrives in Hardiness Zones eight through 11. When grown in the appropriate conditions, French lavender will become quite large and bushy. This type of lavender is typically used in oils and tinctures.
English lavender, or Lavandula angustifolia, is the heartiest and most cold-tolerant variety of this perennial. It can be grown in Hardiness Zones five through eight.
It is the best kind of lavender to plant in cold regions. While the plant is not very large, it produces long-lasting and aromatic blooms.
You can utilize both the foliage and blooms of this aromatic herb. You may propagate this plant in rows, raised beds, landscaping borders, and containers. The blooms will attract pollinators while deterring other pests and animals.
You can harvest the blooms multiple times each season. Lavandula angustifolia is also the most suitable lavender variety for cooking.
Lavadin is a hybrid variety of lavender and spike lavender. It is said to have a particularly powerful aroma as well as several health benefits.
There are many different kinds of lavadin, including Grosso and Provence. Lavadin fares best in warm, dry climates.
Portuguese lavender, or Lavandula latifolia, is a large and vibrant variety of this celebrated perennial plant. It blooms once in late spring or early summer. It is between 18 and 24 inches tall and wide at full maturity.
Portuguese lavender is also called spike lavender. Plant this variety of lavender if you’re looking to make essential oils, potpourris, and other scented products. It grows best in Zones seven through 10.
When is the Best Time to Plant Lavender?
Lavender seeds germinate in soil that is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you live in Hardiness Zones five through nine, it is best to purchase and plant nursery-grown lavender or cuttings in late spring or early summer.
If you reside in Zones eight through 10, it is best to wait to fall or winter to plant seedlings or cuttings. Keep in mind that some varieties of lavender, including English lavender, can withstand the harsh winters.
Meanwhile, some varieties will need to be treated as annuals or kept in pots to ensure they do not succumb to cold weather.
If you live in a warmer climate, it is a good idea to plant well-established plants in early fall. Older plants are hardy enough to withstand a few cold spells. Be sure to remove any blooms before planting.
Where Can You Plant Lavender?
Lavender does best when it receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Be sure to find a sunny spot in your yard. What’s more, plant lavender near likewise plants, such as aster, sedum, wild indigo, and baby’s breath.
When planting lavender in rows, consider the mature size of the variety. According to Colorado State University Extension, plants should be 2 to 3 feet apart.
Meanwhile, rows should be 3 to 6 feet apart. Lavender can also be planted in pots and along hedges. Unlike many other perennial herbs, lavender does not spread. Mature plants are roughly feet in diameter and height.
Lavender originated in the Mediterranean region, a place where summers are exceptionally warm and dry. As such, you’ll need to ensure that your plan has plenty of heat, sunlight, and dry soil. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones one through five, wait until the soil reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant your lavender in the ground.
As a native Mediterranean plant, lavender can be pretty particular about its soil. It does best in alkaline soil with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3. Lavender also prefers sandy, well-drained soil with plenty of airflows.
Reach out to your local agricultural extension to have your soil tested. You can use the results to make the most beneficial amendments. If you find that your soil is particularly dense, consider adding lime and sand to improve drainage and airflow. Lime provides plants with extra calcium.
Lavender plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, there’s rarely a need to fertilize these hardy drought-resistant perennials. If anything, consider adding a bit of rich organic matter to your soil.
This should help make up for any nutrient deficiencies. If your soil results reveal nutrient deficiencies, consider adding a small amount of N-P-K 20-10-10 once a year after harvesting. Blood or bone meal is also a good source of nitrogen.
When adding nutrients to established plants, sprinkle the mixture around the base of the plant. Water the plant to release the nutrients.
Lavender requires six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Make sure to set your plants up in a brightly lit area of your yard. Place lavender patches on the southern side of your property to ensure they receive adequate sunlight.
Indoor lavender needs just as much sunlight and heat as outdoor lavender. Place containers in brightly lit south-facing windows. Move your plant outside when the weather is appropriate. Limit your plants’ exposure to direct sunlight to prevent shock. Rotate your indoor lavender to ensure that all sides of the plant receive the same amount of sunlight.
Lavender needs regular irrigation until it can establish its root system. Water young and freshly transplanted lavender plants twice a week. Once your plants establish themselves, reduce the frequency of your watering to once every three weeks. Resume more frequent waterings when your plants develop flowers.
The beauty of lavender is that it can withstand droughts. For this reason, it is often used as a ground cover in arid areas. Provide the plants with occasional deep soaks. Always allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Excess water promotes disease and malnutrition in lavender plants. Excess water may even kill otherwise healthy lavender plants.
For this reason, you must provide your plant with well-draining soil. If you’re propagating your lavender in a container, make sure that there are several drainage holes in the base of the container.
How to Plant a Lavender Plant in the Garden?
First, prepare your garden soil by digging a hole that is roughly the same size as the container your lavender came in. Then, remove your young lavender plant from the pot. To do this, grasp the base of the stems in your hand and gently tip the container to release the root ball and dirt.
Use a clean knife to break apart the root ball. Place the plant into the hole you just dug. Replace and tamp the soil over the root ball. Finally, water your plant.
While you can also plant lavender from seed, it’s usually best to start with a nursery-grown plant. If you live in a particularly cold climate, consider planting your lavender in a container. This will enable you to move the plant indoors over the winter.
Remember, lavender plants are considered small shrubs. Make sure that the container you choose is at least 12 inches in diameter and has plenty of drainage opportunities. Fill the container with premixed potting soil or amended soil.
Dig a hole that is slightly larger than your plants’ root ball. Cover the plant. Then, gently tamp down the soil. Water your lavender immediately after transplanting.
How to Take Care of a Lavender
While lavender requires a bit of initial upkeep, it’s a relatively low-maintenance perennial. Water your plant once or twice a week until it starts to settle in and establish permanent roots.
After that, you only need to water it once every three weeks. It will thrive long after the soil has become dry and brittle. Just be sure to pay extra attention to your plant when it is flowering.
One way to boost your plants is to add a mixture of organic compost, bone meal, and lime. Once a year, mix these simple amendments into the topsoil around your lavender plant. Compost provides a variety of essential plant nutrients.
Meanwhile, bonemeal provides phosphorus and calcium. Meanwhile, lime releases calcium and magnesium. All of these nutrients and minerals help foster healthy plant growth.
It’s important to eliminate weeds to ensure that your lavender does not have to compete for water, sunlight, and nutrients. If you’re planting lavender in rows, you can cover the area between the plants with breathable black weed cloth or landscape fabric.
You can also apply a thin layer of hard mulch to the area around your plants. Both of these methods are effective in reducing the number of weeds. It is still essential for you to check for and remove weeds throughout the growing season.
If you live in a dry climate, you should mulch your lavender. Materials such as white gravel, sand, oyster shells, and crushed nut shells make excellent lavender mulches.
Make sure that the mulch you choose is not capable of retaining moisture. Moreover, ensure that it is a light color. Apply a 1-inch layer of mulch around the base of your plant. Mulch should help maintain the moisture and temperature of soil without inhibiting airflow and drainage.
Pruning is an essential role of every lavender grower. Pruning should be done in the late spring and late summer or early fall. Cut off 2/3 of the plant growth from the top.
Do this shortly after the plant flowers in spring and again in late fall. Avoid cutting the base of the stems. Keep in mind that pruning recommendations vary between varieties.
When propagating nursery-grown plants, you should remove blooms before planting.
How to Harvest Lavender
It’s beneficial to harvest lavender shortly before the buds bloom. Remove the flowers, foliage, and top portion of the stalks. Do not cut into the woody base of the plant, as this area is particularly vulnerable.
Most lavender varieties produce two rounds of flowers. Harvest bushels early in spring to ensure your plants have a chance to rebound in time for a second harvest. It takes young plants a few years to develop a robust harvest. Initial yields may consist of just a couple of bundles of flowers. Eventually, plants will produce enough stalks to create dozens of bundles.
To harvest lavender, gather a small bundle of stems in your hand. Use bypass pruners to snip the bundle just above the woody section of the stems. Make sure to leave a few levels of leaves behind.
Gather a handful of lavender in your hand. Bind the stems together with a piece of natural twine, ribbon, or a few rubber bands. Position the binding element just below the lavender buds. Hand the bundles in a dark, dry area. Alternatively, place your lavender buds on framed screens placed in direct sunlight.
When your lavender is dry, you can separate the buds from the stems. Keep the loose buds or dried bundles in an airtight container to preserve their aroma and flavor. You may also consider adding the lavender to oil or alcohol.
What Pests and Diseases affect lavender?
While lavender is a hearty and mostly disease-resistant plant, it doesn’t manage to avert all diseases and pests.
Phytophora Root Rot
Root rot is an all too common fungal disease that causes lavender plants to wilt and die. Phytophoro is a type of fungus that develops in water. It can be identified by the white blooms it produces on lavender stems.
To avoid phytophthora, take care to never over-water your lavender plants. What’s more, make sure to purchase disease-free plants. What’s more, eliminate infected plants to prevent the spread of this disease.
Alfalfa Mosaic Virus
Alfalfa mosaic virus causes unsightly yellow splotches to develop on the surface of lavender leaves. Eventually, afflicted plants will become wilted and disfigured.
This unsightly virus is spread through aphid saliva. Sanitize your garden tools to prevent the spread of AMV. What’s more, remove any diseased plant material from your garden.
Shab is a disease caused by the spread of the fungus Phoma Lavandulae Gab. Shab is very detrimental to lavender shoots. They will turn yellow, wilt, and die when infected with this unpleasant fungus.
There’s very little you can do to restore the health of shab-infected lavender shoots. Be sure to eliminate any diseased plants from your garden. Burn, bury, or toss the materials to ensure that the fungus spores do become airborne.
Spittlebugs are the larvae of froghoppers. These insects have an innate taste for lavender. They produce milky white foam that looks a lot like spit.
They can be removed with a hose or wet cloth. While spittlebugs do not kill lavender plants, they cause unsightly damage.
Whiteflies are small insects that can cause unsightly damage to lavender plants. These small bugs may cause lavender foliage to turn yellow. Check the bottom of your lavender plants’ leaves for powdery white material.
If you are coping with a large infestation, consider releasing ladybird beetles. These insects are a natural predator of whiteflies.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to growing lavender. After a bit of initial effort, this hearty perennial is likely to take off in your garden.
In no time, you’ll be harvesting bundles of aromatic blooms.