With its numerous varieties of beautiful foliage and uses, lavender is a favorite of many gardeners. This hardy perennial is best known for its soothing floral fragrance and beautiful purple blooms.
If you are hoping to add lavender plants to your garden or landscape, need information on how to care for existing lavender plants, or need to know how to harvest and utilize your lavender this article will answer all your questions.
Starting Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Lavender container plants can be started from seed, bought from plant nurseries, or started from cuttings. Since there are so many lavender varieties, it is best to do a bit of research and determine which variety grows best in your area.
Some types of lavender are more tolerant of frost, while others are more tolerant of less-than-ideal soil conditions and yet others tolerate humidity better. Selecting the best variety for your area will make your lavender growing efforts more successful.
Starting lavender from seeds can be difficult, and is not for the impatient. There are several potential drawbacks to growing from seed. First, it may be difficult to even find good lavender seeds locally!
Thanks to the internet, just about anything is available to be shipped, and it may require an internet search to find the perfect lavender species for your area and your preferences. Second, lavender seeds go bad quickly. This means that the seeds sitting on the shelves at your local garden store may no longer be good, and will not grow! Getting fresh seeds is critical.
Third, lavender plants are very slow to get started and slow to grow.
Buying a plant for you home garden from a local nursery is a great way to skip the hassle of trying to propagate seeds. Many of the plants are already quite mature, and may even be mature enough to bloom the first year you have them.
The cost of nursery-bought plants can be prohibitive though, especially if you want to have a large number of lavenders in your garden. Again, the selection may also be quite limited.
One of the easiest and most economical ways to propagate lavender is to take cuttings from a healthy ‘mother’ bush. The cuttings will root easily in sandy, well-drained garden soil and before you know it each cutting will be a fully functional bush with a healthy root system that is ready to be transplanted into your garden.
Finding someone to share cuttings with you may be difficult, but if you find someone willing this is often the best and least expensive way to acquire new plants. It’s also an excellent way to multiply your existing plants and ensure that you will have a continuous supply of new plants to replace older plants as they die.
Growing Conditions For The Varieties Of Lavender
Lavender plants like lots of full sun, and sandy well-drained soil. Soil pH should be balanced and in the range of 6.5 to 7.5. Lavender plants in a garden should be planted so that they receive lots of sun light and plenty of good air circulation. Humidity and excess moisture is extremely bad for lavender and will result in root rot and death of the plant.
It is generally not necessary to fertilize lavender plants. A bit of compost used as mulch around the base of the plant is usually enough to produce healthy growth. Plants should be watered only when the soil is dry. New growth plants should be pruned each fall by about 1/3. This will result in healthier, fuller plants and more blooms.
- If your lavender plants are wilting, dying, or diseased there are a few common culprits.
- Excess moisture is at the root of most plant problems. Avoid heavy soils, excess water, and too much humidity.
- A good idea is to check the surrounding soil pH and augment as needed to balance.
- Prune your plants! Although it may seem harsh, pruning actually helps promote healthier plants. Plants that have been neglected will become woody stems, overgrown, and will not bloom well.
- If your lavender is potted, it may need a bigger pot with the best potting soil! Potted lavenders should be repotted every early spring in a larger pot with fertile soil so they have room to grow.
Harvesting Lavender Flowers
The ideal time to harvest your lavender flowers is when the blooms have burst forth from their protective covers and are brightly colored. The long, tall stalks of lavender blooms should be hand snipped at their base.
Harvest the flowers while it’s cool and dry to preserve their fragrance. Gather small groups of clippings together, and hang them upside down indoors to dry. For floral arrangements, lavender should be used immediately while it’s still soft and easy to work with, and then allowed to dry within the arrangement.
Uses of Lavender
There are so many ways to use lavender flowers the list is almost endless! Lavender is renowned for its wonderful smell, the many uses of its oil, and even as a flavoring for cooking and culinary uses!
A Few Uses Of Dried Flowers Include:
- Drawer & linen closet sachets (for the wonderful smell, and to help repel moths!)
- Rice or flax seed pillows that are heated are used to relieve aches and pains
- Hung in small clusters around a room to scent the air
- Added to soaps and lotions
- Used in cooking for flavor and color
- Added to finished food dishes as a garnish
- A few uses of lavender oil include:
- Medicinal uses such as easing headaches, and tension
- Antiseptic used in laundry and cleansers
- As a scent in toiletries
Lavender is a beautiful, multi-purpose plant that will grow in many areas and climates if it is properly cared for providing years of enjoyment.
The Best Kind Of Soil For Lavender Plants
Lavender is a hearty and colorful plant for many gardens. It’s useful in a variety of situations, from complementing flower bouquets to harvesting essential oils for use in aromatherapy.
Lavender can grow in many indoor or outdoor environments, but it often grows best in hot, dry climates. So long as your plant has plenty of sunlight and the best soil mix, it should yield you many happy growing seasons. A certain quality of soil texture is essential to ensure proper growth and healthy blooms when growing lavender.
Lavender plants thrive in dry, sandy soil with perfect drainage. Acidic or wetter soils, such as those designed for starting seeds or designed for tropical plants, may cause the plants to absorb too much moisture, which can stunt growth.
If sandy soil is not available, try mixing pebbles into the mix to better aerate the soil. Add lime to the soil to make it more alkaline than acidic. The ideal pH level of a soil test range is 6.5 to 7.5.
In most cases, dry soil is better than wet. Your lavender plants need water to grow, but too much can cause the lavender to rot or mildew. In humid climates, water manually less frequently. Lavender grows well in plant hardiness zones 4 through 10, but the less humid the environment the easier they are to maintain.
One way to prevent too much water and moisture from damaging your lavender plants is to use well-drained soil. Proper drainage will keep the plants from developing what is known as “wet feet,” which can lead to water-logged, moldy soil. The right planters are key if you’re using containers.
Be sure the planters feature holes at the bottom for water to run through. If planting in the ground, till your good soil before planting. Loosen up the roots before transplanting the lavender.
Fertilizer And Organic Materials
Fertilizer is rarely if ever necessary for lavender plants. In fact, too much fertilizing can cause the plants to lose their natural aroma by stimulating the growth of more leaves than fragrant flowers. If you choose to use fertilizers, avoid those with harsh chemicals.
Instead, combine organic matter such as broken-down fruit peels and lawn clippings into the soil. Use time-release fertilizer when transplanting the woody plants of lavender.
The temperature of the soil is a factor in maintaining healthy lavender plants. Lavender plants thrive in hot, sunny areas. Check the temperature of the soil, not just the air, to ensure it is at a healthy heat level. If you grow your lavender in a container, the temperature of the soil will often be cooler than ground soil, so provide adequate lighting for the plants’ growth.