People have grown lavender for centuries. Many are familiar with the use of lavender essential oils for cleansing, relaxation, and insect repellancy. In Roman times, lavender was used in religious ceremonies. Today you can even enjoy lavender as a culinary accessory.
Perhaps the best thing about lavender is how easy it is to grow. Lavender plants thrive in a garden, raised beds, or even indoors. You can grow lavender in pots and thus easily protect it from the cold. Or you can make it part of your perennial gardening work and let it die in the winter.
Aromatic herbs are a great addition to a pest control garden. Lavender in particular produces beautiful flowers that you can incorporate into a floral arrangement. With so many varieties of lavender, you can choose a variety that is adapted to your region and try another that is not suitable as a gardening experiment. You can start growing lavender almost anywhere!
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Brief instructions for care
A healthy, growing lavender plant is pretty beautiful. Source: Jean et Coco
|Common name (s)||lavender|
|Scientific name||Lavandula spp.|
|Days to harvest||Up to 3 years for maximum harvest, but small harvests can be taken in the first year|
|floor||Moderately fertile, well drained|
|fertilizer||Slow release, little nitrogen 1-2 times per growing season|
|Diseases||Root rot, alpha mosaic virus, lavender shab|
Everything about lavender
Whether as an accent plant or a centerpiece, lavender stands out. Source: Shelley & Dave
These plants include a wide range of species, all of which belong to the genus Lavendula. This guide covers English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and French lavender (L. dentata). There are other famous varieties such as Dutch lavender, spike lavender, and the hybrid Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin). We'll go into the details of each of them in the next section.
These plants are erect with gray-green foliage and white to deep purple flowers. The leaves are arranged opposite one another on square, woody stems. Like other flavorings, lavender grows slowly and often does not bloom in the first year of growth. Healthy plants that are several years old can grow up to 3 feet tall. Squeeze a leaf or flower, and fragrant oils will be released. Lavender is best known for this: its slightly fresh, floral scent.
In the kitchen, lavender flowers are a star for delicious baked goods, teas and meat graters. Outside the kitchen, people use lavender in aromatherapy for relaxation, and homemade bug sprays and cleansers. It has been used medicinally for centuries as a headache reliever, nerve and digestive aid. The root of the word "lavender" comes from the Roman "lavare", which means "to wash". Anyone who knows the plant knows how clean the scent can be.
Types of lavender
The best-known types of lavender are French lavender (L. dentata) and English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). The main difference between the two lies in the climates for which they are suitable. English varieties are hardy, while French lavender thrives in temperate, humid climates. English species also live longer than French lavender at 15 years, compared to around 5 years. English lavender also tends to grow up to 20 inches. French lavender grows a maximum of 36 inches taller.
While most of the types of lavender you can buy from a nursery are either of the above, the Dutch hybrid lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) is valued for its essential oil. It's a cross between English and Portuguese lavender, and it produces tons of flowers that essentially have the lavender scent everyone loves so much.
Wait until the last frost in late spring to plant lavender plants in the garden or in a pot. It is possible to transplant in the fall, but French varieties appreciate the spring and summer months the most. English strains can survive winter more easily, making them a better candidate for fall transplants.
Choose an area of your garden that has full sun. If you are unsure about the amount of sunshine in your chosen spot, try growing lavender in pots first. This way, you can move your plant throughout the season to find the best spot. Give lavender plants easily fertile, well-drained soil. This applies to growing lavender in pots and in a garden bed.
It is possible to plant lavender seeds, but it can take up to three weeks for them to germinate. When starting your lavender growing journey this way, start seeds indoors in a potting soil or seed starting mix in early spring or late fall. Make sure the area you start them in has enough sunlight or UV radiation from a grow lamp. A heating mat helps with germination. Most of all, be patient. It takes at least three months for viable seedlings to grow.
Bees and other pollinators are attracted to lavender flowers. Source: starmist1
Growing lavender is easy with an established plant. If you give a lavender plant what it needs right from the start, you can almost ignore it and it will thrive.
Sun and temperature
Grow lavender in an area with at least 6 hours of full sun. Lavender is hardy in zones 5 through 8 and thrives in average temperatures of 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. English varieties are hardy to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. French lavender can withstand lows as low as 10 degrees. French lavender is more likely to suffer cold damage than English lavender. If you expect temperatures below that, provide a frost cloth cover during this time. Both can withstand high three-digit temperatures of up to 113 degrees.
Water and moisture
Lavender plants don't need a lot of water. Water them in the morning or at dusk every two to three weeks once they are established. As buds form, increase the amount of water to once or twice a week to encourage healthy inflorescences. The best way to water when growing lavender is to water the base of the plant with drip irrigation or soaking tubes. Avoid wet leaves and flowers. These plants do not need water in the rainy season. Lavender is drought tolerant and doesn't like wet feet that can rot its roots.
Grow lavender in slightly alkaline soils with good drainage. A potting soil or potting soil enriched with building sand is ideal for a lavender plant. First, avoid organic material that will retain more moisture that lavender doesn't need due to its drought tolerance. Remember that good drainage and a slightly alkaline soil with a pH of 6.7 to 7.3 are crucial. This rule applies to garden beds and pots. Add a little compost around the plant base every spring to replenish some of the soil's nutrient content.
Lavender does not need any fertilizer during its entire life cycle. Applying too much fertilizer could stunt the flowers and encourage the development of foliage over the precious flowers of the lavender. However, a slow release granular fertilizer in early spring at planting time will support new growth. Find a fertilizer with an N-P-K of 7-9-5 to apply when planting your lavender in the spring. Do not fertilize in the fall, early summer, or the winter months. That would encourage new green growth that will die if frozen. Since cold damage can spread, leave the granules for the planting time. This applies to plants in pots, in the garden, indoors or outdoors.
When gardening perennial plants like lavender, you will need to prune the stems in order for them to grow.
Cut off the first blooms of your lavender plants to encourage more blooms in subsequent flowering periods. Use secateurs and trim the flower spikes just above the area where new growth will appear about two-thirds of the height of the plant. Cut again in the same way after the first flowers have been used up.
Avoid pruning before your plant has flowered unless you need to remove damaged foliage. To allow your lavender plants to bloom luscious, fragrant flowers in the summer, prune them twice a year. Do not cut off the woody part of the stems as this can damage the plant. Instead, just prune the green parts of the stem.
Lavender plants can be propagated by planting seeds or rooting clippings. Stems can be rooted with root hormone in the water or directly in the soil. Powdered root hormone can be applied to the soil in a saucepan or mixed with water. To propagate by cuttings, in a temperate season, cut off the soft green tip of the stem. In winter, you can not reproduce by cuttings, because at this time lavender is dormant. Remove any flowers that are present on the stem and the lower leaves up to 2 inches from the ground. Then dip the stem in powdered hormone and place the bare stem in a pot of soil lightly enriched with organic matter. In two to four weeks you will have lavender plants with strong roots. The same goes for clippings that are rooted in the water. After roots form in the water, transplant the branch in soil.
To propagate by seeds, collect stems with a flower that contains spent purple flowers. In each fragrant purple flower lies a lavender seed. Collect these by gently shaking the stem and plant them in a seed starter mix in a starter pot. Use a heating mat and give the seeds plenty of sunlight or extra light. From the planting time, expect at least two weeks for the seeds to germinate. Roots are sometimes slower to form from lavender seeds. Once each stem has several fringed lavender leaves, they can be transplanted.
Harvest and storage
Commercial lavender farms can be stunning. Source: Chris Gin
Fragrant lavender flowers are ideal for making aromatic oils, cosmetics and food. Collect them at harvest time and you will have that clean smell and taste all winter.
You can harvest both lavender flowers and leaves. Wait until late summer for flower buds to form, then cut the stems just before the woody part. Then dry them in a place with good air circulation. Do this by tying the stems together and hanging them upside down. Alternatively, you can lay them out on a clothes horse or parchment. Each of these methods takes at least a couple of weeks. The better the air circulation, the faster the drying process.
You can use fresh lavender in a hot bath or make an alcohol-based tincture, but dried buds are great for soaps, candles, and cooking. This is because lavender's effectiveness increases when it dries in an area with good air circulation. Place your dried crop in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. It lasts longer than a season (up to 3 years), but after a year the effect of the fragrance wears off.
You can grow a single plant or an entire field of lavender. Source: Coanri / Rita
Really, lavender doesn't have a lot of problems because of its concentrated oils. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
A lavender plant that has not been properly distributed can have developmental problems such as: lack of bloom or stunted growth. To avoid incorrect spacing, place at least 3 feet between the center of the plant and the plants growing next to it. Once the planting process is complete, divide and move other plants as needed.
Plants that are grown in Earth that holds too much water will develop rot. If your soil is constantly too wet, remove the lavender and plant it in a pot to keep it indoors while it dries out, or move it to a drier area of your garden.
Lavender keeps most pests away. However, it is susceptible to sap suckers like whiteflies and aphids.
Whiteflies come from the insect family Aleyrodidae, which includes over 1500 individual species. They tend to rave about herbs. Insecticidal soap or horticultural oils are effective against whiteflies.
Aphids are small, congregating insects that feed on the leaves of lavender. They tend to cluster on the undersides of the leaves and when they get bad enough they feed on stems. They can be knocked off and killed with a strong jet of water. Insecticidal soap is also effective here, as are horticultural oils. For severe outbreaks, consider a combination of insecticidal soap and pyrethrin, but only if the situation is dire as lavender can be sensitive to pyrethrin.
Root rot occurs when lavender has too much moisture and heat in the soil over time. Under these conditions, fungal pathogens rot roots and cause withered leaves. Avoid over-watering or fertilizing your plant to prevent root rot. When the rot has already started, stop watering your plant. Remove dead leaves and carefully remove the plant from its planting area. Then use clean secateurs to trim off any rotten roots. Repot it and make sure it has plenty of sunlight to dry out the soil.
Lavender Shab is caused by the fungus Phomopsis lavandula. You know your plant is shabby if it suddenly wilts even though there is no drought. There is no treatment or cure for this disease. Plants suffering from Shab should be removed and burned or discarded.
Alfalfa mosaic virus causes leaf curling and deformity and can be spread by infected garden tools, insects, and even your hands. If you find it is there, remove and discard the plant. Unfortunately, there is no treatment or cure for the alfalfa mosaic virus. Sterilize your tools and wash your gloves to prevent the virus from spreading.
frequently asked Questions
A close-up of a lavender flower. Source: Dittmeyer
Q: Does lavender come back every year?
Answer: yes! It mainly blooms in summer and dies in winter.
Q: is lavender an easy plant to grow?
A: Once it's set up, you shouldn't have a problem with it. However, don't water too much.
Q: Where should I plant lavender in my garden?
A: Give it full sunlight and well-drained, slightly alkaline soil.
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