- Benefits of Lavender
- How and When to Plant Lavender
- Get Started:
- What are the health benefits and risk of lavender?
- How to grow lavender
- Great lavender varieties to grow
- Types of lavender
- How to grow lavender from seed
- How to care for lavender plants
- How to prune lavender
- Common problems
- Ways to use lavender
- How to Grow Lavender
- Types of Lavender
- Lavender Growing Conditions
- Pruning Lavender
- Harvesting Lavender
- Propagating Lavender
- How to Use Lavender
Benefits of Lavender
Celebrate the versatility of lavender by using this herb to its fullest. The benefits of lavender start in the garden, but when you’re willing to harvest flowers, you can enjoy lavender benefits indoors, too. Lavender offers a host of uses in the home, from scenting linens, to giving fleas the brush-off, to seasoning foods.
If you’re planting lavender, consider which lavender benefits you want to enjoy before making your final variety selections. For instance, if you plan to snip flower stems to make dried lavender bunches for decorating, choose a type of lavender that hangs onto its flowers after drying. ‘Grosso’ lavender (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’) is a favorite for drying because it doesn’t shatter. It also packs intense fragrance into its blooms.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to enjoy a lavender benefit of making fragrant sachets or potpourri, you’ll want to harvest lavender buds. Choose a type of lavender that releases its buds easily. ‘Provence’ lavender (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’) drops its buds readily after drying and is the ideal choice when your goal is lavender buds.
The benefits of lavender extend beyond decorative uses. You can also harvest lavender flowers and buds for making lavender oil. While handmade lavender oil, if not steam distilled, is usually more of an infusion, it still brings wonderful lavender benefits. The essential oils of this perennial herb are simply more diluted in a lavender oil infusion.
One of the key benefits of lavender is its relaxing, soothing properties. Lavender essential oil makes a terrific treatment for relaxing sore muscles, encouraging a good night’s sleep or relieving tension headaches. Rub lavender oil onto muscles or temples for relief, or dot it on a cloth and slip it inside your pillow case for a soothing night’s sleep.
Another benefit of lavender oil is to relieve itching and swelling of insect bites. Lavender oil can take the sting out bee stings and sunburns. Lavender oil also makes a good treatment for minor burns, helping to keep infection at bay and reducing inflammation. A medical benefit of lavender is as a wound wash. Lavender provides good germ-fighting properties and also promotes healing.
In the garden, take advantage of the benefits of lavender flowers in beckoning pollinators. Place lavender bushes strategically near a vegetable garden to lure bees and other pollinators. Or tuck lavender into a wildlife or butterfly garden, where its flowers will be abuzz with activity.
Don’t overlook the benefits of lavender in the kitchen. Flowers bring a sweetly spicy flavor to tea blends and lemonade. Or savor lavender in honey or butter on pancakes, toast or in cookie recipes.
Dried lavender plus orange or lemon peels in a pot of boiling water can freshen a home, and tossing lavender sachets into the dryer can scent laundry. Grind lavender buds and add to baking soda for a carpet deodorizer and freshener.
There are dozens of beautiful flowers and plants to put in your garden this time of year. But, while it’s important for your picks to be visually appealing, added benefits definitely can’t hurt. Pretty plants like lavender, for example, are not only visually appealing additions to your garden, but also have several benefits beyond looks. Here’s everything you need to know about adding lavender to your garden.
Benefits of Growing Lavender
As with many plants, lavender is naturally very beneficial for a multitude of reasons. According to the The Old Farmers’ Almanac, lavender is “prized for its fragrance, medicinal properties…beautiful color,” and the fact that it attracts pollinators, like butterflies.
Another extremely helpful benefit of lavender, especially in the summer, is that it acts as a natural insect repellant, Mother Nature Network (MNN) reports. So it actually repels mosquitoes, moths, fleas, and flies, which you’ll see a lot of during the hot months ahead—particularly if you live in one of the 15 cities with the worst mosquito problem.
“Although people love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes, flies and other unwanted insects hate it,” MNN shares, advising readers to “Place tied bouquets in your home to help keep flies outdoors. Plant it in sunny areas of the garden or near entryways to your house to help keep those areas pest free.”
How and When to Plant Lavender
The Almanac also notes that spring is the best season to plant lavender in because the soil is starting to warm up. When you do plant, here are some key tips to follow:
- Plant lavender plants 2 to 3 feet apart as they grow to be between 1 and 3 feet tall.
- Keep your plants away from wet or moist areas and in full sunlight.
- Plant lavender in “poor or moderately fertile soil” with a neutral pH.
- Lavender will bloom in the summer and attract butterflies (as mentioned above.)
Lavender Dwarf Munstead Seed homedepot.com $1.59 Potted Provence French Lavender walmart.com $4.99 Provence French Lavender in Pot jet.com $13.99 Potted Munstead Lavender Herb amazon.com
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What are the health benefits and risk of lavender?
Lavender oil is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to heal minor burns and bug bites.
Research suggests that it may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness.
Some studies suggest that consuming lavender as a tea can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.
In addition to helping with digestive problems, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores. It can also be used to prevent hair loss.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil could be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections.
The researchers found that the oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin.
In the study, the essential oils distilled from the Lavandula genus of the lavender plant seemed to work by destroying the membranes of fungal cells.
The study showed that Lavandula oil is potent and demonstrates antifungal activity on a wide spectrum.
A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared the effects of several treatments for wound healing.
The researchers compared the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), saline solution, povidone-iodine, and lavender oil. These were applied to laboratory rats.
The study authors noted that wounds closed faster in the TENS and lavender oil groups than the control groups. These findings suggest that lavender has an acceleratory effect on wound healing.
Lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata. This is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
Research from 1998 shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.
In a more recent study, researchers found that applying lavender oil to the backs of mice helped to promote hair growth over the course of 4 weeks.
Share on PinterestLavender scents have been shown to reduce anxiety before a dental appointment.
A review article in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice evaluates how effective Silexan might be for patients with different anxiety disorders. Silexan is a lavender-oil preparation available in 80-milligram (mg) gelatine capsules.
The team found that Silexan had an anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, effect on patients with generalized or subsyndromal anxiety within 2 weeks.
Researchers have also found that lavender scent may help anxious dental patients.
The investigators measured the dental anxiety levels of 340 adult patients during their wait at the dentist’s waiting room for their appointment.
Half the patients were exposed to lavender scent, while the other half were not.
The team found that those exposed to lavender scent reported lower levels of anxiety compared to the other patients. The calming effect of lavender was present regardless of the type of scheduled dental appointment.
Kritsidima, who conducted the study, concluded:
“Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective ‘on-the-spot’ anxiety reduction in dentists’ waiting rooms.”
Dr. M. Kritsidima, study author
Lavender does not seem to impact anxiety about future dental visits. However, it has been shown to provide a sense of calm while attending a treatment.
Post-tonsillectomy pain in children
Lavender oil has been shown to reduce the amount of painkilling medicine required after a tonsillectomy.
A team of researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, carried out a study to determine whether aromatherapy with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil might reduce symptoms of pain in children after the removal of the tonsils.
The study included 48 children aged 6 to 12 years. They were randomly separated into two groups of 24 participants. One group took painkillers alongside lavender, and the other took only painkillers.
The frequency of each child’s acetaminophen use and nocturnal awakening due to pain was monitored for 3 days after surgery. Pain intensity was also measured. Acetaminophen is also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, and the group using lavender oil was shown to use acetaminophens less frequently.
However, there was no significant difference in how often they woke up at night or their perceptions of pain intensity.
Due to the small sample size, more research is required to fully confirm lavender oil as an effective painkiller.
Premenstrual emotional symptoms
Researchers have also studied whether lavender might help to alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.
Many women of reproductive age experience a range of symptoms in the premenstrual phase, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Even though PMS is common, no single treatment is universally recognized as effective. As a result, many women turn to alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy.
This crossover study involved 17 women, aged on average 20.6 years, with mild-to-moderate premenstrual symptoms. The participants spent one menstrual cycle with no lavender aromatherapy treatment, and another undergoing lavender aromatherapy.
The study concluded that lavender aromatherapy could alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.
What does lavender not treat?
There is insufficient evidence to rate lavender’s effectiveness for treating:
- colic in infants
- nausea and vomiting
- otitis, or ear infection
- high blood pressure
- menstrual pain
- cancer-related pain
One study found that lavender fragrance could have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in female college students. However, the authors highlighted that “repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression.”
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved lavender for medicinal use. It is sold as a supplement only and should not replace any prescribed course of treatment.
If you choose to use this essential oil, the FDA does not monitor these products. There may be concerns about purity, safety, or quality. Only purchase essential oils from reputable companies.
How to grow lavender
Lavender is an evergreen shrub, grown for its powerful scent, attraction to bees, culinary uses and flowers that can be picked and dried. There are hardy, half-hardy and tender species of lavender to choose from.
Lavenders are popular container plants and are often used in formal gardens as a low-growing hedge.
More advice on growing and using lavender:
- How to take lavender cuttings
- Best lavenders to grow
- Video: How to make a scented lavender garden
- How to make a lavender hedge
- How to make lavender oil
- How to make a lavender bath bag
- How to dry lavender
Discover how to grow lavender, in our comprehensive Grow Guide, below.
Lavender enjoys an open site in full sun and copes well in drought conditions. French lavender in pots
Where and when to plant lavender
Lavender enjoys an open site in full sun and copes well in drought conditions. In wet, heavy soils they may suffer. To avoid this improve the soil before planting by digging in horticultural grit. The ideal soil type is a well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Lavenders are not as happy on acidic soil, apart from Lavandula stoechas.
It’s sensible to grow half-hardy and tender types in containers so that they can be moved to a light, airy frost-free place in winter.
You can plant lavender in spring, from March through to May, or in autumn.
Planting lavender in pots
How to plant lavender
The best time to plant tender lavender is in spring. Hardy types can also be planted in autumn.
On heavy, wet soils plant on a mound to help the plant cope with the wet. Plant at the same depth as the plant was in its pot. Add a sprinkling of bonemeal to the planting hole, place the plants in the hole, backfill and firm in. Water well.
When planting in containers choose terracotta pots with drainage holes. Fill pots with a John Innes no. 2 or 3 and mix in some horticultural grit. Pots should be placed in a sunny spot away from overhanging trees and shrubs.
How to take lavender cuttings
Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in late summer. Remove non-flowering cutting material of about 10cm long with a woody base and a tip with new growth. Pull off some of the lower leaves. Fill plastic pots with cutting compost, water and then push the cuttings into the compost. About 1cm should be below the soil. Cover pots with a clear plastic bag and place in a light and airy place. A greenhouse is ideal.
More advice on propagating lavender:
How to take semi-ripe lavender cuttings
Lavender in flower
Lavender: problem solving
Lavender can be become very leggy and bear few flowers. The reason for this is lack of or poor pruning. Many gardeners just deadhead hardy types which leads to leggy plants and few flowers. Looked after in this way the plant will be very short lived.
To rejuvenate a woody plant, prune in mid-August to just above a green shoot and hope for the best. If new shoots don’t appear within the next month you might be better off starting again.
Pruning lavender in summer
Looking after lavender plants
Hardy lavenders (angustifolia and x intermedia types) can be left in the garden all year round. Prune plants after flowering in August. Plant will benefit from being cut back quite hard as long as there are green shoots evident below your cut. Cut into old wood and you may sacrifice flowers the following year. If you cut out all evidence of shoots it is likely you’ll finish the plant off. Hardy types can cope with temperatures down to about -15°C.
Watch Monty Don’s video guide to summer-pruning lavender, below:
Frost hardy types, such as Lavendula stoechas, flower for a long season. These plants survive in the garden if they’re in a sheltered spot and it’s a mild winter. Prune after their first flush of flowers have faded and avoid pruning any later than early September.
If growing the more unusual tender types, such as the Lavandula denata, deadhead and only prune as above if the plants are becoming scruffy.
How long does lavender live?
Lavenders are not long-lived plants. Expect tender varieties to live for about five years. If pruned correctly, hardy types can live for about 15 years (as many as 20 years, in some cases).
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Arctic Snow’
Great lavender varieties to grow
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ – a hardy lavender. Popular for its long-flowering period from July to September. Often used as a low hedge. When in flower reaches 60cm in height
- Lavandula stoechas ‘Purple Emperor’ – a frost-tender type with dark purple flowers with petal-like ears above. Flowers from late spring for months. Height 55cm
- Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ – often grown to harvest its oil. Very powerful scent. Dark blue flowers reaching a height of 80cm
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Rosea’ – a hardy type with pink flowers from July to September. Silver foliage. Reaches 70cm
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Arctic Snow’ (pictured) – a popular white hardy lavender. Flowers all summer. Reaches a height of 50cm
Despite Mediterranean origins, this irresistible herb is a stalwart of the English cottage garden
Image: / Julietphotography
Lavender plants are easy to grow, but it’s worth knowing a little about them to get the best displays and prevent them becoming thin and straggly. And while you’re picking up tips on how to grow this fragrant herb, take a look at our full range of evergreen lavender plants to suit all types of garden.
Types of lavender
Lavender ‘Hidcote’ is a popular type of English lavender
Image: Thompson & Morgan
There are many species of lavender with countless varieties, from the traditional purple-flowered plants through to those with white blooms and dwarf cultivars. The most commonly available varieties can generally be broken into 3 main groups: English Lavender, French Lavender and Lavandin hybrids.
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a fully hardy plant which flowers in June and July. Single flushes of flowers on long stems make excellent, highly scented, low hedge or path edging. Popular varieties include ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’.
French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is slightly less hardy than English but flowers from May to September if deadheaded. It can cope with short periods of cold weather (-5 to -10 degrees celsius) and should be planted in sheltered borders, containers or path edges. A glorious cottage garden plant, the ornamental and nectar-rich flowers are carried on short stems. Popular varieties include ‘Fathead’ and the slightly more compact ‘Bandera’.
Lavandin, or sterile hybrid lavenders, are more vigorous than common lavender but slightly less hardy. Flowers are borne on very long stems throughout July and August. Popular varieties include ‘Edelweiss’, an evergreen shrub with white flower spikes that thrives in sunny borders and wildlife gardens. Excellent for cut flowers and drying.
How to grow lavender from seed
To create a long low hedge, it may be more cost effective to grow lavender from seed.
Image: / Ratda
Most people prefer to buy pre-grown lavender plants, but if you’re on a budget or enjoy a challenge, you can grow your own lavender plants from seed.
Sow lavender seeds from February to July on the surface of moist seed compost. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of vermiculite or finely sieved compost.
Place the seed tray in a propagator at 21-25°C (70-75°F) or seal it inside a clear polythene bag until germination, which can be up to 21 days.
Keep the compost damp but not wet and do not exclude light as this helps germination. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into 7.5cm (3″) pots and grow lavender plants on in cooler conditions until they are well established.
When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise young lavender plants to outdoor conditions over 7 – 10 days before planting outdoors.
How to care for lavender plants
The showy French lavender has particularly long bracts that flutter in the breeze
Featured product: Lavender ‘Flaming Purple” from Thompson and Morgan
Given its Mediterranean origins it should come as no surprise that Lavender enjoys a free draining soil in full sun. Lavenders tolerate chalky soils well, and cope reasonably well with dry conditions once established. They make useful shrubs for coastal positions and hot, dry gravel gardens. You can even plant lavender as a low hedge for a lovely informal edging that will attract plenty of pollinating insects to the garden.
Avoid planting lavender in wet ground as this will cause the plants to rot. Heavy soil conditions can be improved with the addition of coarse grit or sharp sand prior to planting. Alternatively, grow lavender in containers, using a well drained soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3. Mix in some slow release fertiliser prior to planting to get your plants off to the best start. Each lavender plant will need a container measuring at least 30cm (12″) diameter.
After planting lavender it’s important to water regularly during the first growing season until your plants are fully established. This is especially important during periods of hot, dry weather. Once established, lavender is reasonably drought tolerant.
How to prune lavender
Prune lavender plants at the end of every August to encourage growth and prolong their life
Image: / NicO_l
Lavender plants need pruning each year to prevent them becoming sparse and woody. In late summer, after flowering, prune your plants back to within 2cm (1″) of the previous year’s growth. It’s important to leave some of the current year’s growth on each stem as lavender may not regrow from old wood. Neglected, woody plants are best replaced.
The Rosemary Beetle makes itself at home on a lavender flower
Image: / Mark Bridger
Lavender is easy to grow but does suffer from root rot when grown in wet conditions. This can be avoided by improving the soil prior to planting.
One of the major pests of lavender is the Rosemary Beetle. This shiny metallic looking beetle is quite striking in appearance, but will quickly decimate the foliage of your plant. Most of the damage occurs between late summer and spring, leaving plants looking distinctly tatty.
Rosemary Beetle is best controlled by removing the beetles and grubs by hand. Pesticides can be effective, but these should be avoided if you intend to use the lavender for making edible products. Avoid spraying when the plants are in flower as this will kill beneficial pollinating insects too.
Ways to use lavender
Simply pop some flowers and sugar into a jar to create delicately flavoured lavender sugar
Image: / Africa Studio
In the kitchen, lavender makes an interesting flavouring for cakes and other recipes. Try popping a few sprigs into a jar of sugar to add to biscuits, sorbets, jams or jellies. Add lavender flowers to vegetable stock and create a tasty sauce for duck, chicken or lamb dishes. If you’re a keen beekeeper, lavender honey is relatively easy to make and adds a delicate flavour to bakes and marinades.
Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties and can be used to make home-made soaps, candles and bath oils that will help you unwind for a good night’s sleep. Or simply cut a few stems to naturally fragrance your home rather than using chemical air fresheners or plug-ins.
Check out Thompson & Morgan’s amazing array of lavender, including English, French and dwarf varieties. 100% satisfaction guaranteed or we give you your money back.
How to Grow Lavender
Which type of lavender to grow?
Most lavenders need dry heat in summer to grow well. In areas which have wet or humid summers look for tolerant species and varieties including Allard’s lavender, Lavandula x allardii, and forms such as ‘Sidonie’ which are cultivars of L. canariensis. Also useful are fringed lavender, L. dentata, and its cultivars. Lavandula stoechas (French lavender) has the distinction of showy, leaf-like purple tufts at the top of each flower spike, which remain after the dark purple flowers have faded. Grow one of its many cultivars such as ‘Fairy Wings’ at the foot of standard roses as a decorative fringe. (This lavender species is sometimes considered a weed.)
An alternative for cool climates is the pure white-flowered ‘Nana Alba’, a variety of L. angustifolia. It blooms from summer to autumn, and makes an attractive foil for richly coloured plants.The deep purple ‘Hidcote’ variety of English lavender is more compact than the species and reaches a height of up to 60 cm. Its deep purple flowers combine well with delicate pink roses.
Where to grow lavender
Warm, dry conditions suit lavender best. Plant in any well-drained soil in a sunny position where the roots will seek moisture deep in the soil. Lavender often does well in heavy soil for a while, but winter waterlogging may well shorten its life. Take cuttings early in autumn to grow replacement plants.
The best soil for lavender
Many lavenders come from poor soils around the Mediterranean. This area has soils that are well drained but rich in lime. When planted in acidic soils, lavenders appreciate the addition of lime to the soil. If your soil is very acidic, grow lavenders in pots containing potting mix.
Planting new lavender plants
Take 7.5-10 cm heel cuttings from semi-woody non-flowering lavender shoots in autumn. Insert in pots of propagating mix and overwinter in a polystyrene box. They can be moved to their flowering positions early in spring. A small piece of concrete rubble beside plants provides lime.
Scented lavender pathways and hedges
Plant Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender), which has a height and spread of about 1 m, beside a path. The silver-grey foliage exudes as much scent on sunny midwinter days as the flowers do from midsummer to autumn.
For a fragrant hedge with a profusion of flowers in summer, plant different lavender species to give shades of purple, mauve, pink and white. The plants’ size and spread will vary, so clip the hedge to a uniform height.
Cut off the dead flower stems and lightly trim the plants in late summer. Straggly plants may be cut back hard in early spring to promote bushy growth and encourage new shoots. However, lavender plants are inclined to grow leggy with age and it is recommended to replace them after five or six years.
To dry lavender, pick it when the flowers show colour but before they are fully open. Cut off the full length of the flower stalks, tie them together in small bunches and hang them upside-down in a cool, airy place to dry.
SERIES 19 | Episode 04
Hepburn Springs near Daylesford in Central Victoria, is the perfect place for a lavender farm. The property was originally settled by Italian-Swiss farmers in the 1860s. They grew olives, vines and other traditional crops to sustain them through winter. It’s an area that’s rich in history with farmhouses clustered around a cobbled courtyard, surrounded by olive groves, grape vines and lavender fields.
Carol White knows a lot about lavender. In the 1990s, to escape city life, she decided on a change of lifestyle. She bought the property and set about restoring the old buildings and planting her favourite plant. “I’d been to the south of France and seen lavender growing around small stone cottages similar to the one that’s here and felt that it was a crop that I could manage as a single woman,” she said.
She remembers it was difficult to establish the lavender farm. “There was a lack of water and I didn’t really know the property. In those days, lavender wasn’t popular, so trying to get lavender cuttings to put in the ground was also difficult,” she said.
According to Carol, Lavender was originally taken to England with the Romans. “It’s a Mediterranean plant that went to England early and was rediscovered by the monks in the Renaissance. But if you visit France now, what we call English lavender they call French lavender and the inferior lavender we call French lavender they call Anglaise,” she said.
Carol grows a range of lavenders including Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ – an English lavender, hybridised in the lavender-growing regions of Provence, specifically for its oil content.
Carol also uses various cultivars of English lavender to get continuity of flowering. She lists the early flowerers in the Angustifolia range as:
* ‘Hidcote’ – silver grey leaves and masses of violet flowers
* ‘Alba’ – fragrant white flowers
* ‘Rosea’ – pretty dwarf variety with pale pink flowers
Carol harvests the lavender by hand. “We use little Chinese half-moon sickles that are also used all over rural Malaysia, Indonesia and still in France to harvest lavender flowers for the cut and dried market. Mechanically harvested lavender would end up all higgledy-piggledy and we want it in nice straight bunches,” she said.
Lavenders include some 28 species of evergreen aromatic shrubs and sub shrubs belonging to the mint family, the Lamiaceae. They occur mainly around the Mediterranean and their flowers range from pink to purple and white.
Lavenders appreciate full sun. Grow them in shade and they grow out towards the sunlight, and they like a well-drained soil. They don’t like wet feet. They don’t need a lot of fertiliser but some dolomitic lime in spring and autumn helps, and add some potassium to intensify the colour and strengthen the stems.
These plants develop a good root system, so they don’t need too much water. As lavender plants age, bushes can become woody. When pruning it’s important to retain the green foliage and don’t cut back into the old wood.
Lavenders can be propagated by seed but you run the risk of cross pollination and remember some are prone to becoming weedy. Check with your local council whether they’re weeds in your area before planting. Propagate by taking cuttings – either with a heel on soft wood or take older semi-hardwood cuttings. Just put them into the soil or into an open mix.
The flower spikes of lavender are used for floral arrangements and the pale purple buds are perfect for potpourri. The plant’s oils are used as an antiseptic and are now commonly used in aromatherapy. Lavender is a great plant for pots and tubs. You can also use them around the garden as a hedge or mass plant them as a feature. Lavenders are really versatile plants.
It seems like as soon as summer hits everybody starts talking about growing lavender, and for good reason! Lavender is a gorgeous ornamental with a dazzling fragrance, it has a wonderful delicate flavor that adds depth to many different types of recipes, and it is one of the most popular ingredients in natural beauty recipes and aromatherapy. All of that, plus it is hardy, drought resistant, beneficial to bees, and deer and rabbits leave it alone.
Lavender can be a bit tricky to grow and keep properly so that it is tidy and healthy, but this essential guide to growing lavender will provide you with a few tips that will help keep your lavender in top shape for years to come and the know-how you need to prune, propagate, and use this versatile garden staple.
Types of Lavender
While there are many varietals in different sizes, scents, and colors, lavender plants fall into two main categories: English and Spanish.
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Easily identifiable by its gray-green leaves, long slim purple flower spikes, and breathtaking fragrance, English lavender comes in different shades of purple as well as white and pink varieties.
It is actually native to the Mediterranean, but grows well in England’s climate, which is why we know it as “English lavender.” This is the type of lavender that is regularly used as a culinary ingredient (it is one of the herbs in the famous herbs de Provence mixture) as well as in aromatherapy and natural beauty recipes.
A few popular varieties of Lavandula angustifolia are:
With its silvery leaves and strongly scented flowers, it’s no wonder that Hidcote is the most popular variety for growing lavender in home gardens.
Munstead is also no wallflower in the fragrance department, but the plant stays a bit more neat and tidy with a compact habit. Munstead lavender has the best flavor for cooking with.
Small-space gardeners will love Thumbelina, a dainty beauty that grows only 12” tall and yet will bloom up to three times a season!
Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
Spanish lavender can be identified by its slender leaves and plump, pineapple-shaped flower tops which are more pinkish-purple than most English lavender.
Legend has it that Spanish lavender was used by ancient Romans to perfume their baths, but it is not commonly used for aromatherapy today. More often, Spanish lavender is planted as an ornamental and to attract bees. Bees prefer Spanish Lavender to English because its flowers are bigger and more open, which means it is easier to pollinate.
Lavender Growing Conditions
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, so it likes cool winters and hot, dry summers reminiscent of its native climate. It needs sandy, well-draining soil and full sun. Lavender is drought resistant and hardy to zone 7 or 8.
Proper pruning keeps your plant healthy and neat and promotes growth, branching, and blooming. Lavender blooms on new stems, so pruning early or late in the season will be most beneficial. Start pruning in the second year after planting, and repeat each year after that.
First, follow the 4 Ds of pruning. Then, you can cut back up to one third of the plant at a time, taking care not to cut into the woody stems. Pruning new growth promotes more new growth, whereas cutting into the woody stems will just cause those stems to die.
If you like the plant to be neat and tidy, then lavender should be pruned three times throughout the season:
- Prune once in early spring just after the new growth appears,
- prune again in summer after the first bloom,
- and prune a third time in fall after the second round of flowers have finished.
You don’t have to prune all three times, you can do it only once or twice a season if you want the plant to grow wilder and leave all of the flowers for the bees. It’s all about personal preference!
You can also harvest lavender buds for crafts and recipes. If you time it right, pruning and harvesting can be the same thing, but they can also be very different. The purpose of pruning is to maintain the shape of the plant, and harvesting is the act of removing the flower buds for another use.
Spanish Lavender doesn’t require harvesting.
Head over to see How to Properly Harvest English Lavender in this article.
Growing lavender in bulk is easy when you know how to propagate. You can grow a garden full of lavender from just one plant by taking a cutting and rooting it following this technique.
Take a Cutting
Using a sharp knife, cut a straight piece of stem with no flower buds on it. Cuttings should be about three to four inches long. Remove all of the leaves from the bottom two inches of the cutting, and scrape the skin off of the stem on one side of the bottom two inches with your knife.
Plant the Cutting
You can either dip the cutting in rooting hormone first to help encourage root growth, or else just plant it straight into a pot of good, well-draining soil. Lavender roots easily so root hormone is not necessary, but may help.
Poke the cutting two inches deep and pack the soil lightly around it so that it stands up straight on its own. For a mini “greenhouse,” simply cover the cuttings with an upside-down plastic Ziploc bag. Place cuttings in a sunny spot and water when the soil feels dry.
Learn more about propagating herbs here.
How to Use Lavender
After harvesting and, if you wish, preserving your lavender, there are a myriad of uses for it. Lavender can be used fresh or dried in floral arrangements, baking, cooking, and cocktail recipes, aromatherapy, and natural beauty recipes, and is a useful supply to have on hand for many crafts.
For more information on pruning, check out these posts:
- Learn How to Prune Like a Pro! Pruning 101
- Want to Know When to Prune? This Will Answer All of Your Questions!
- Your Guide to Pruning Hedges
- How to Remove Suckers from Trees (and Why They are There in the First Place)
- Care and Pruning for Decorative Topiaries
- The Art of Espalier: Growing Fruit Trees in Small Spaces
- The Best Garden Greenery for Holiday Decorating (and Which Ones to Avoid)
And for even more lavender, don’t miss these!
- Lavender Linen Water Recipe
- Harvesting English Lavender and How to Use it
- Lavender and Cocoa Butter Bath Melts
- Naturally Freshen Laundry with Homemade Lavender Dryer Bags