- The Fundamentals of Growing Gorgeous Lavender
- COMMON TYPES OF LAVENDER
- CLIMATE CONSIDERATIONS
- GROWING LAVENDER
- PLANTING, PRUNING & WATERING TIPS
- POPULAR LAVENDER VARIETIES
- DESIGN IDEAS FOR LAVENDER
- IDEAS FOR USING LAVENDER IN THE KITCHEN
- READER QUESTIONS
- Pruning Lavender for Beautiful Plants
- Purple Ribbon Spanish Lavender
- Spanish Lavender Plants – How To Grow Spanish Lavender In The Garden
- Spanish Lavender Information
- How to Grow Spanish Lavender
- Planting, Growing & Enjoying Lavender Plants
The Fundamentals of Growing Gorgeous Lavender
Growing tips for this fragrant, easy-care plant that thrives in sunny locations By Anne Balogh
Lavender, an herb with many culinary uses, also makes a stunning addition to borders and perennial gardens, providing sweeping drifts of color from early summer into fall. With its silvery-green foliage, upright flower spikes and compact shrub-like form, lavender is ideal for creating informal hedges. You can also harvest it for fragrant floral arrangements, sachets, and potpourri.
COMMON TYPES OF LAVENDER
- ENGLISH LAVENDER
- FRENCH LAVENDER
- SPANISH LAVENDER
June to August
2 to 3 feet
Lavender, deep blue-purple, light pink, white
Despite its Mediterranean origin, English lavender was so named because it grows well in that country’s cooler climate and has long been a staple in English herb gardens. The gray-green foliage and whorls of tiny flowers make this one of the most attractive lavenders in the garden. It’s one of the most cold-hardy varieties and the best for culinary use because of its low camphor content.
Photo by: S10001 / .
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L. dentata 8-11 Early summer to fall 36 inches and larger Light purple
Also called fringed lavender, this showy variety is distinguished by narrow, finely-toothed leaves and compact flower heads topped by purple bracts. While the flowers have less aroma than English lavender, the fleshly leaves are more fragrant, with an intoxicating rosemary-like scent.
L. stoechas 8-11 Mid to late summer 18 to 24 inches Deep purple
This variety is prized for its unusual pineapple-shaped blooms with colorful bracts, or “bunny ears,” that emerge from each flower spike. Although the flowers are not especially fragrant, the light-green leaves are very aromatic.
Photo by: Peter Radacsi / .
L. ×intermedia 5-11 Mid to late summer 2 to 2½ feet Dark violet, white
This popular hybrid combines the cold hardiness of English lavender with the heat tolerance of Portuguese lavender (L. latifolia). It typically starts blooming a few weeks later than most English lavenders and features long spikes of highly fragrant flowers. Although not considered edible (due to high camphor content), the flowers and foliage are often added to sachets and potpourris.
Although all lavender (Lavandula) is native to the Mediterranean, there are many varieties offering a vast selection of bloom times, colors, flower forms, and sizes. “Bloom time can vary drastically between different locations—where one lavender blooms at the start of June, only 20 miles away could be a very different outcome,” says Kristin Nielsen, president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado.
Contrary to the name, not all lavenders are purple. Some hybrids come in other lovely pastel hues such as violet blue, rose, pale pink, white, and even yellow. The leaves can also vary in shape and color. To extend the bloom season as well as the color palette, consider planting several varieties.
Lavender is a tough, dependable woody perennial that will last for several years under the right conditions. Because of its Mediterranean origin, lavender loves blazing hot sun and dry soil. If your lavender doesn’t thrive, it’s most likely due to overwatering, too much shade, and high humidity levels.
English lavenders and their hybrids are the best varieties for cooler climates, since they are cold hardy north to Zone 5. However, they will grow best in a sheltered location with winter protection. For southern gardens in extremely hot, humid climates, Spanish and French lavenders are more tolerant of the moist conditions, but should be spaced apart to allow good air circulation.
If your winters are too harsh or your soil is heavy and dense, consider growing lavender in containers. They will flourish as long as they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day and are planted in a high-quality potting mix with good drainage. In winter, bring your container plants indoors and place them in a sunny window. Learn more about growing lavender in containers at Everything-Lavender.com.
Growing lavender is easy and rewarding. Lavender can be grown in garden beds or in pots. To grow lavender successfully it needs well-drained soil and full sun. In arid climates lavender grows well as a perennial, but in humid climates it is often grown as an annual.
Learn how to grow lavender:
- Purchase healthy lavender plants for your garden
- Bring them home and water them if you can’t plant them immediately
- Select a location for your lavender that receives full sun
- Set the potted plants in different spots to decide where they look best
- Unpot, plant and water your lavender
- Provide consistent watering until the lavender becomes established
- Prune back your lavender each spring
PLANTING, PRUNING & WATERING TIPS
Planting Sweet Romance® Lavender
Learn more about Sweet Romance® Lavender.
All lavender varieties require well-drained soil, especially during the winter months. To ensure good drainage, mix some sand or gravel into the soil before you plant lavender or grow the plants in mounds, raised beds, or on slopes. Instead of applying moisture-holding organic mulches, consider using rock or stone, especially in humid climates.
Once established, lavender is very low-maintenance and requires minimal watering or pruning. If the stems become woody as the plant matures, prune it back by about half its height in the spring to promote fresh new growth and robust flowering. Plants that aren’t pruned also have a tendency to sprawl, leaving a hole in the middle. In the summer, clip faded blooms to encourage repeat blooming throughout the season.
Justin Claibourn of Cowlitz Falls Lavender Company in Randle, Washington offers the following advice:
- Check your soil’s pH. “If it’s too acidic you can kiss your lavender goodbye,” he says. They will look great at first, but after a few years you may notice plants dying off randomly. Once the roots grow out into the native, un-amended soil trouble can begin. Most universities will check your pH relatively cheaply or some hardware stores for free. You can amend your soil with lime to better accommodate your lavender plants.
- Don’t overwater. “As a large-scale grower, we typically irrigate twice a year—that’s it,” states Claibourn. Give your lavender a long soak to promote root growth, short and frequent watering cycles result in unhealthy roots that may rot.
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POPULAR LAVENDER VARIETIES
Photo courtesy: Proven Winners.
Sweet Romance® – buy now from Proven Winners
This variety grows 12 to 18 inches tall and blooms from early summer into fall. Its grey-green foliage is topped with rich purple flowers that are perfect for fresh or dried bouquets.
Photo courtesy: Ball Horticultural Company.
‘Hidcote’ – buy now on Amazon
This compact cultivar grows 12 to 18 inches tall and features slender flower spikes with tightly bunched dark purple-blue flowers and aromatic silvery foliage. Because of its low profile, you can use it as a tidy hedge plant around herb or perennial gardens or alongside walkways.
Photo courtesy: W. Atlee Burpee Company.
‘Grosso’ – buy now on Amazon
This popular lavandin hybrid is the most fragrant of all lavenders and the one most often used for scenting perfumes and sachets. It produces an abundance of exceptionally large deep-violet flower spikes that stand well above the mounded silver-green foliage. Growing to 3 feet tall and wide, this heavy bloomer needs ample space to accommodate its vigorous growth habit.
Photo courtesy: W. Atlee Burpee Company.
‘Munstead’ – buy now on Amazon
This early-flowering English lavender is tolerant of tough growing conditions, including heat, humidity, and drought. It grows to a compact height of 12 to 18 inches and produces masses of lavender blue flowers from late spring well into summer. Use as a border accent, in mass plantings, and in containers.
Courtesy of photographer Doreen Wynja© for Monrovia.
‘Provence’ – buy now on Amazon
‘Provence’ is one of the tallest of the lavandin cultivars and gets its name from the area in southeastern France where it is commercially grown for the perfume industry. It grows to a height of 3 feet with heavily scented flowers and foliage. Pale purple blooms on upright stems appear from June through August.
Photo by: Pressebereich Dehner Garten-Center / Flickr.com.
True to its name, ‘Thumbelina Leigh’ is a dwarf English lavender ideal for containers, low borders, and rock gardens. It produces a profusion of strongly fragrant, violet-blue flower spikes that will bloom continuously from early to mid summer.
Photo courtesy: Kieft Seed.
Silvery white blooms with a light-blue blush distinguish this attractive English lavender cultivar. The large aromatic flower spikes bloom all summer and attract butterflies. A compact bushy form makes it an excellent choice for containers.
Photo by: Ngordon99 | Dreamstime.com.
Here’s an unusual pink-flowering English lavender that harmonizes beautifully with purple-flowering varieties. It has silvery foliage like other English lavenders but produces delicately scented light-pink flowers that gradually fade to white. It can grow to a height of 27 inches and blooms from late spring to early summer.
Photo by: HighCountryGardens.com.
This rare twice-blooming English lavender cultivar flowers in late spring and again in September, with a few flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. It produces bi-colored purple and deep blue flowers on stems that fan out around the plant, so the form is not as tidy as some other cultivars. Grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches with a similar spread.
Photo by: Matt Purciel / Alamy Stock Photo.
‘Royal Velvet’ English Lavender is a real showstopper, producing velvety, richly colored navy and purple flower spikes on tall 2 to 2.5 foot stems. It blooms from late spring to early summer and is one of the best lavenders for use in dried arrangements because the flowers retain their gorgeous color.
DESIGN IDEAS FOR LAVENDER
- Use lavender along walkways and garden paths where you can enjoy their scent and where they can benefit from the heat reflected off the pavement.
- Plant in formal or informal herb gardens, where the cool, gray-green foliage sets off other green herbs and plants.
- Create aromatic hedges or borders along fences and garden walls as shown in this video for Sweet Romance® lavender.
- Use lavender as a natural pest repellent near patios and porches. The scent deters mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and other problem insects while attracting butterflies and bees.
- Plant with drought-tolerant companions such as coneflower, sedum, black-eyed Susan, roses, and shasta daisies.
IDEAS FOR USING LAVENDER IN THE KITCHEN
A member of the mint family, lavender has been used for centuries as a versatile, unexpected flavoring in both sweet and savory foods. English lavenders are the best varieties for culinary purposes, and both the buds and leaves can be used fresh or dried. Because the flavor of lavender is strong, use it sparingly so it won’t overpower your dishes. The buds are best harvested right before they fully open, when the essential oils are most potent.
- Immerse a few dried lavender buds in a jar of sugar to give it a sweet aroma. Use the sugar for baking and in desserts.
- Chop the fresh buds and add to a cake batter or sweet pastry dough before baking.
- Add flower buds to preserves or fruit compotes to give them subtle spicy notes.
- Sprinkle fresh lavender on a salad as a garnish.
- Use fresh lavender to infuse teas, cocktails, and other beverages.
- Use chopped buds and leaves to flavor roast lamb, chicken, or rabbit.
- Make Herbes de Provence by blending dried lavender with thyme, savory, and rosemary.
For more ideas, check out these 15 lovely lavender recipes from Boulder Locavore.
Q: My ‘Provençal’ lavender plants are a few years old and very leggy, which is not so good since they line a walkway. How can I get them back into shape? – Holly Dietor, Glen Arm, Md.
A: All lavenders should be pruned once a year to keep them low and full. Since you haven’t pruned for a year or so, renovation will require several steps. Start this spring, when the plants begin to regrow. First, brush the branches with your fingers to knock off any dead foliage. Then, shorten half the old, gray stems — roughly every other one — to within a few inches of the base. If you see green buds sprouting near the base of an unpruned stem, cut to a quarter-inch above a bud. This thinning will admit more light, awakening buds that are low on remaining old stems. When green buds form near the base of these stems, cut the old wood back to the lowest emerging bud. By early summer, you will have shortened all the old stems to a few inches above the base. In midsummer, use hedge clippers or hand pruners to shape the plant into a symmetrical mound, like a shallow bowl turned upside down. Next year, you will have bushy lavender, which will need to be pruned only once. In zone 7, where you live, and northward, you can perform that annual haircut in early spring or in midsummer, right after heavy flowering. In milder climates, pruning should follow summer bloom.
Last updated: January 8, 2019
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Pruning Lavender for Beautiful Plants
Pruning Lavenders is essential to promote more beautiful blooms and get a healthy, nicely shaped, mounded shrub that will last for years. If these rules are not respected, you might end up with a shabby, sprawling shrub.
Pruning Lavender differs with the type of Lavender you’re growing
- Lavandula angustifolia – also called English Lavender, True Lavender or Common Lavender:
These Lavenders usually bloom once, but may enjoy a weak second flush after pruning. Prune them immediately after flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut. Always make sure there are green leaves left on your lavender when you are done pruning. If all the green is gone, your Lavender will die. Expect your Lavender plant to live 20 years or more.
- Lavandula x intermedia – also called Lavandin:
These late season lavenders typically bloom in July or August and tend to last until late summer. Similarly to Lavandula angustifolia, prune them after flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut – even if you have to sacrifice some late flowers. Expect your Lavender plant to live 20 years or more.
- Lavandula stoechas – also called Spanish Lavender or Butterfly Lavender:
Since these Lavenders flower almost continuously from spring to fall, it is not obvious to figure out the best time to prune them. The general rule is to prune them immediately after the first flowering by cutting below the flower wands, well into the foliage beneath, leaving 1 to 2 in. (2-5 cm) of foliage below the cut. Deadhead for the rest of the flowering season and continue to shape the foliage into a rounded, mound – including a gentle trim in late summer. Expect your Lavender plant to live 5 to 10 years.
- When pruning your Lavender, never cut into the woody part of your Lavender. Always make sure to leave the leafless wood intact, since cutting it could injure the plant. A good rule is to prune two leaf sets above the woody part. This will encourage stable growth and a healthier, thicker lavender plant.
- Always use a very clean set of pruning shears or secateurs that have been washed clean of dirt and disinfected with a bleach solution. Taking this precaution will help ensure that your Lavender plant doesn’t pick up a bacterial disease. You should also make sure the shears are very sharp, so that they make a clean cut that will heal over quickly.
When to Prune Lavenders
Pruning once a year is great. Pruning twice a year is better. Pruning your Lavender will prevent your shrub from turning to wood. This is important because the parts of the plant that turn to wood will not produce new lavender stalks. Additionally, a woody plant is prone to cracking or rotting in winter.
- While pruning in spring can delay flowering, it is a good time to trim away dead or damaged parts. Prune your Lavender plants just as the new growth begins, cutting back as to leave some new shoots at the base of each branch.
- In late summer or early fall, after the last flush has faded, prune your Lavender stems down to an inch above the wood. This will provide better air circulation and prevent the snow to collect on the shrub and break it, or the wind to blow off weaker branches.
- Never prune just before winter as Lavender needs some foliage to protect it against the winter cold. If you prune too close to winter, your Lavender may die from the cold.
Purple Ribbon Spanish Lavender
Tips for Growing Lavender
Lavender are sun-loving plants that thrive in hot weather and grow best in arid climates. Lavender plants will be taller and wider in mild winter, hot summer climates. The same varieties when grown in cold (zone 5-6) winter climates tend to be more compact. Lavender plants require two-to-three growing seasons to reach mature size.
These perennials are a superb choice for the drought-resistant garden, doing best in the drier parts of the US like the Great Plains, Intermountain West and West Coast (which has a true Mediterranean climate (wet winters and dry summers). In the Mid-West and Eastern US, sandy soils are a must, and planting on a slope or in a raised bed provides optimum drainage. For the southern US with hot, humid heat, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is the best choice. For large growing Lavender, we recommend French Lavender or hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) varieties. The key is to make sure you choose a variety with sufficient winter cold hardiness for your region. (‘Vera’ and ‘Pastor’s Pride’ are among the most cold hardy.) Yet with proper soil preparation, and planting site selection, Lavender can also thrive in moister, more humid climates like the Mid-West, East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states. Lavender Phenomenal does particularly well in areas with more moisture and humidity.
- Plant in full sun with good air circulation.
- Plant into well drained soil. Compost-enriched garden loam is alright in drier climates, sandy or gravel soil is best in moister climates. Heavy, poorly-drained clay soils will be fatal.
- Select a raised or sloped bed, or a planting site against a hot wall or along a cement/asphalt walk or driveway where the reflected heat keeps growing conditions hotter and drier.
- New transplants need regular watering. Don’t let the plants get too dry. Supplemental watering can be greatly reduced the second growing season as the plants become established.
- When using drip irrigation, place the emitter off to the side of the plant, not right on the root ball to avoid overwatering of mature plants.
- Fertilize once annually in the fall with a top dressing of Yum Yum Mix.
- Mulch with gravel or pine needles in arid climates. In moister climates mulching with gravel will protect the crown from excessive moisture and soil splashed onto the foliage.
More in-depth guidance for growing and maintaining Lavender plants: Growing Lavender, Lavender Bliss, A History of Lavender, The Bold and the Beautiful: New and Recent Lavender Introductions and Lavender: An Old World Herb That Has It All.
In both the traditional purple Spanish Lavender above and the more uncommon pink, or Kew Red Spanish Lavender on the left, it is easy to see why this plant is sometimes called Rabbit Ears and the bloom is described as a pineapple. The colorful “ears” are actually sterile bracts. The flowers are tiny, dark purple in the traditional Spanish Lavender and dark pink in Kew Red Spanish Lavender.
The early spring purple flower heads look great with, and bloom at the same time as Rockroses. Add a few Golden Sage plants for a show-stopping contrast. Loved by bees, Spanish Lavender will make your garden hum with life.
Spanish Lavender blooms profusely in the spring and when it finishes it needs a good pruning. The result will be an attractive, fragrant, gray-green shrub throughout the rest of the year.
Native to the Mediterranean region and North Africa, Spanish Lavender seems to be a more suitable lavender choice for those who garden in hot humid climates. The antiseptic, piney fragrance of Spanish Lavender makes it an exceptionally fragrant landscape plant but not the first choice for use in cooking. English Lavenders, both Lavandula angustifolias and Lavandula x intermedias, are preferred in the kitchen.
Spanish Lavender Plants – How To Grow Spanish Lavender In The Garden
When you think of lavender, it is probably English and French lavender that come to mind. But did you know there is also a Spanish lavender? Spanish lavender plants can give you the same aroma and delicate flowers as the English variety, but they are better able to tolerate hot climates.
Spanish Lavender Information
Spanish lavender, or Lavendula stoechas, is just one of about 40 varieties of this fragrant herb. It is native to the hot, dry climate of the Mediterranean region, and so it thrives in warmer climates and is hardy to zone 8. Growing Spanish lavender is a good alternative to the more common English lavender if you live in a warmer climate.
In appearance, Spanish lavender is similar to other varieties, growing in small shrubs that make great low hedges or bed borders. They have the same silvery-green leaves, but one unique characteristic is how it flowers. The top of each flowering stem grows larger, upright bracts that resemble rabbit ears. Flowers may be purple or pink, depending on the cultivar:
- Ann’s Purple. This cultivar is larger than others, and it will grow about 30 inches (76 cm.) all around.
- Purple Ribbon. Purple ribbon produces dark purple flowers and is a little bit cold hardier than other cultivars.
- Kew Red. This cultivar is one of the few to produce pink flowers, in a dark raspberry shade.
- Winter Bees. This one will start blooming before other cultivars or varieties of lavender, beginning in late winter in warm climates.
- Lutsko’s Dwarf. This dwarf cultivar grows out to about 12 inches (30 cm.) and makes a good option for container growing.
How to Grow Spanish Lavender
Spanish lavender care is similar to other varieties of lavender, although compared to English lavender it can tolerate more heat and doesn’t require any cold to produce flowers.
Find a spot with full sun for your Spanish lavender plants or consider growing them in containers; these plants take well to pots. Make sure the soil is light and drains well. Your Spanish lavender will not need a lot of water and will tolerate droughts well.
Growing Spanish lavender is a great choice for hot and dry climates, but it also works for containers that can be brought indoors. In addition to adding a lovely fragrance to your beds or home, this lavender will also attract pollinators to your garden.
Planting, Growing & Enjoying Lavender Plants
Step 5: Harvesting Lavender
This step is essential to getting the most out of your lavender plants. The best time to harvest lavender is when the bottom flowers of each stem on the lavender plants just begin to open. This is when the plant is at its peak for s cent and color. Cut the plant at the base of the stems near the foliage and bundle them together.
Additional Lavender Plant FAQs
What are the uses of lavender?
Use dried lavender in everlasting flower arrangements, potpourri or aromatic sachets to keep clothes smelling fresh. When the scent eventually fades, refresh it with a few drops of pure lavender essential oil.
Where does lavender grow best?
Lavender tends to grow best in sites that are hot and dry such as along a stone wall, on sidewalks, on a slope or poolside.
How big do lavender plants get?
Lavender can grow up to 3 to 4 feet high and wide, depending on the variety.
Can you grow lavender inside?
While lavender isn’t traditionally meant to be grown inside, there are methods you can use to plant, grow and care for lavender indoors. The location of the lavender is key—ideally next to a south-facing window that receives direct sunlight. Also, be sure to rotate the container every few days to make sure the plant is getting equal amounts of sun exposure.