Lavender is well-known in both the gardening and design community for its bright colors and hearty foliage. It brings a chic yet casual elegance to your home or garden, no matter where you live.
Thankfully, growing lavender is so easy that even a novice gardener is up to the task and can enjoy its fragrant blooms. It is a perennial herb, meaning it will come back year after year, typically blooming early spring and planting it is a breeze.
But what are some of the benefits of growing lavender? Well, the first and most obvious one would be that it is a beautiful plant.
Its lush, upward-pointing greens and richly-colored blooms can brighten up just about any space, but that isn’t the only reason why lavender is a prized plant. Once in bloom, lavender provides a soothing scent.
You are probably already familiar with how lavender smells if you have used a soap or candle that contains its essential oil. It is a light and fresh floral scent that can sometimes have undertones of sweetness or balsamic.
Most people say that when they smell lavender they feel calmer, which is why it is an ingredient in products used at places like spas and yoga studios. Linalool, the alcohol component in lavender, has been studied by neuroscientists and was found to produce an anxiety-reducing effect.
With all of these positive benefits, it seems like a no-brainer to want lavender in or around your home. Let’s take a look at how to make that happen!
How to Care for a Lavender Plant
Your first order of business is looking for cutting-grown rather than seed-started lavender plants. This is crucial especially if you are planning on caring for a bigger lavender plant, such as a hedge.
If you are confused already, no worries – most nurseries will be able to tell you how their lavender plants got going. And if all they have is seed-grown lavender, just be aware that the end size of seed-grown lavender varies depending on its early life.
As with most plants, there are a wide variety of different types of lavender to choose from. This can be daunting even for an experienced gardener, but the best way to figure out which type to get is to know what you want it for.
Lavender is grown for many purposes, from its essential oil to use in cooking and crafting. Picking the variety (or varieties) that you want for your personal use ensures that you will be happy with your plant. Overall, Lavender is a great drought-tolerant plant making it a perfect addition to any garden.
To that end, here is a quick breakdown of some of the most common types of lavender as well as their uses:
- English lavender is a particularly fragrant variety commonly used in perfume, but its strong scent means it is also good for flavoring things like jam or a meat rub. This is the most common variety of lavender and is probably one you have seen before!
- Buena Vista lavender has dark blue-purple flowers and pairs well with rosemary in a glaze or a cookie.
- Grosso lavender is known as the “commercial” variety, planted far and wide across Europe. It often repeats blooms in late summer, and it is the perfect lavender for drying and crafting purposes.
- Spanish lavender comes in shades of purple and pink and grows in a large variety of planting zones, from 4 to 24. It blooms spring into summer and the flowers (or “bracts” as they are sometimes called) are said to resemble rabbit ears.
- Edelweiss lavender has white flowers and is of a medium size. It is most commonly grown as a landscaping plant.
The types of lavender available to you locally may vary depending on what grows the best in your region. Remember that lavender is native to the area near the Mediterranean Sea, so it particularly enjoys a dry soil and full sun.
If you are not sure what type of lavender plant is best for you, feel free to ask your local greenhouse or nursery worker. They should be able to point you in the right direction, and also advise you on the number of plants to get.
Now that you have your lavender, you are probably wondering what it needs to thrive. Lucky for you, growing lavender is much easier than many other varieties of plants.
How much sun does Lavender need a day to grow?
Lavender is a laid-back herb that does not require much in order to provide you with fragrant blooms. Full sun (meaning 6+ full hours of direct sunlight) and well-drained soil are a must, with organic matter added to your dirt if it is particularly dense.
What type of soil does Lavender need to grow?
If you are in an area where your soil drains poorly, it is a great idea to grow your lavender in a raised bed or be placed in terracotta pots with drainage holes to supply good drainage. Regardless of where you plant, full-sized varieties of lavender should be set 3 to 4 feet apart, and dwarf sizes need only 18 inches.
If you decide to mulch where you have planted your lavender, be sure to use decomposed gravel or granite–no compost or bark. Those types of mulch can inhibit drainage and cause root rot, which can be a death sentence for your lavender.
Starting with the best conditions possible is essential to good lavender growth, so be sure to follow the instructions provided about your soil. You should water your lavender deeply but when the soil is almost dry, to avoid flooding the roots.
Like most other plants, you want to prune lavender every year immediately after it blooms. If you have never pruned a lavender plant before, it is easy if you follow these steps:
- If your lavender is low-growing like the Buena Vista variety, trim back the foliage by 1 to 2 inches.
- Starting in the second year of growth, any variety of 2 to 4 foot lavender plants should be cut back by around a third of its size.
- If your lavender plant becomes “woody” (overgrown) and opens up in the center, there is a simple fix. Just remove a few of the oldest branches and be sure to take out more when new growth comes in.
- If new growth does not start, you will have to dig out and replace your lavender plant.
If you are growing lavender for harvest, there are a few things you can do to ensure it goes smoothly. Many varieties of lavender only bloom once per season, so you do not have to worry about them trying to rebloom.
If you chose a variety like Spanish lavender that will want to bloom more than once and you will not be harvesting the second round of blooms, that’s okay. Just be sure to cut off any faded flowers to keep new blooms from forming.
To harvest lavender, snip its stems when the bottom third of the plant’s blossoms are open. It is important to look at all of your lavender blooms closely, as not all stems will be ready to harvest at the same time.
Take off all the leaves from the stems and gather the stems together in bunches. You can secure these bunches with a rubber band, but be sure to put together no more than 100 stems per bundle.
Those are instructions for harvesting lavender for decoration or food, but what about drying? If you want to use your lavender for potpourri, cut the flower spikes or strip the flowers as the blossoms begin to show color.
Once you have lavender around your home, you will discover that bees absolutely adore lavender in bloom. Bees will travel up to 6.5 miles from their hive in order to retrieve pollen, so it is entirely possible that you could be the source of the lavender flavor in someone’s honey!
Due to the endangered nature of bees, you may consider leaving a certain percentage of your lavender plants uncut when you go to harvest so they have something to eat. It may also be a good idea to grow various varieties suited to both your needs and the needs of your local pollinators.
If you have a lot of space, it may be tempting to consider starting a lavender farm. Whether you are considering this for fun or for a business venture, be sure you know what you are getting into first.
Visit a lavender farm in your area, or look some up online. Do your research and understand that this is a long-term commitment that will require much more work than growing a few plants in your backyard.
Regardless of where or how you decide to grow your lavender, it is important to remember to have fun doing it. All it takes is a little work for your lavender to thrive, so get out there and plant some!