Growing Lavender

Growing lavender is a great way to add color and fantastic scent to your yard. I love it when I'm weeding and brush up against a lavender plant. It smells wonderful and is so calming. It's like a touch of Heaven.

Lavender can be grown in zones 4 to 10. Zones are based on the average temperature, so get a lavender plant that is hardy for you zone. Some types aren't hardy to frost, so you may want to grow these tender types in pots or in protected areas. If you don't get snow cover in the winter, you may want to mulch the plant in the fall to protect it. When growing lavender in zone 3 get something hardy like Munstead.

The lifespan of an established lavender plant is at least ten years. This hardy plant attracts bees and butterflies.

Lavender grows in mounds or clumps, making them great for hedges and borders. Some lavenders are dwarfs and only get 10 inches high, while others can reach 3 feet. The shorter lavender makes a lovely lavender border, while the taller plants make a wonderful lavender hedge.

When growing lavender, think sunshine. If a plant becomes shaded by a tree or larger plants it will become stunted and only throw out sparse blooms. One of the nice things about growing lavender is they don't take much care.

Lavenders can stand brief droughts if they are established. As a matter of fact they do poorly in wet soil and may get root rot. If the drought is prolonged you may need to water. If you do need to water , do so in the morning so the plant has time to dry out by night. It is better if you water outside of the diameter of the plant to help prevent leaf fungus. The root line is wider then the leaf line.

Sandy soil is a must for growing lavender. If your soil is clay, heavy, or rich just add sand or round stones to the soil to lighten it. Don't use crushed stones because they will compact over time. Drainage is very important to them. They also grow well in mounds, raised beds, rock gardens or even on slopes. Lavender grows wild on mountains. This really is a hardy little plant!

Soil should be on the alkaline side, or a ph of 6.4 to 8.3. If your soil is acidic, use some garden lime, and add some as a top dressing annually. They don't need or even like real good soil. A small amount of compost or rotted manure in the spring is all you need for the year. Dry and low fertility soil will actually increase the oil yield in a plant. Over fertilizing makes these pretty plants more tender to early frosts and fungal attack. With too much fertilizer you stimulate leaf growth and less blossoms. Most soils don't even need fertilizer.

Humidity can be more of a problem with lavender then the drought. The plants can get fungus disease. If this is a problem in your area leave some room between the plants so they can have some air flow. The general rule of planting is that if your plant is 18 inches in diameter, put your plants nine inches apart. Most dwarf species are 12 to 18 inches apart, but some species are as big as 5 feet in diameter!

The best mulch for growing lavender in humid areas are sand (not salty beach sand) or light pebbles. These reflect the sun and help prevent fungus diseases. Avoid sawdust, leaves, shell mulches, or hay. These tend to hold the moisture.

One disease that can kill lavender is a spore called shab. It first causes the stem to turn brown. Then black spots appear on the stem of the plant. If you do get this, pull the plant and burn it. Never put diseased plants in your compost pile.

Most insects, deer and gophers seem to ignore lavender. Some gardeners will plant lavender with other plants to help discourage the deer. I have a couple of lavender plants in my front yard. The deer and rabbits leave them alone. Deer are a big problem in my area, so this is a good test. I wish I could say the same for the tulips!

Growing lavender is easy. You can start with seeds, cuttings or plants. Or you might want to try propagating lavender by layering. The easiest way is to buy some plants. Pot grown plants take root more easily. Wait until the ground is warm and past frost date to put them into the ground. Bare root plants should be planted right away. In cold climates plant in the spring after frost. In warmer climates you can plant in the fall. Some people say you should not let your plant produce blossoms the first year. It takes about 3 years for a lavender plant to mature.

To plant you need to find a nice sunny location with good drainage. Use a fork to loosen the soil. Mix sand, round river rock ( about 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter) and a small amount of aged manure if you want to the soil. Don't add high fiber soil amendments to the soil or it will make the soil hold moisture. Make mounds 8 to 20 inches tall. The more rain you get in your area, the higher the mound. Mounds will settle over time. For a bare root plant dig a shallow hole, form a small cone on the bottom of the hole, spread the roots over the cone, and over with soil. If in a pot, check to make sure the plant isn't root bound. If it is, take a pencil and gently loosen some of the ends of the roots before you plant it. You will need to make the hole slightly bigger than the plant. Bury as deep as it is in the pot. Water after planting.

You need to plant in a area with plenty of sun, good drainage, and light sandy or gravel soil to grow a healthy lavender plant. They like low moisture and poor soil. If they become leggy, you can cut them back after flowering or harvest the flowers.

To rejuvenate an old plant you could prune it back in the spring as new growth starts. Or you can cut it back close to the base instead of pruning lightly. You may lose the plant if it is weak and feeble, but it most likely will return healthier and stronger. You can harvest and dry your lavender for crafts and other uses.

I hope you enjoy growing lavender as much as I do. :)

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