All About Growing Lavender

Calico Fields Lavender
All About Lavender
All About Lavender

Growing Lavender

Lavender (Lavandula) is a genus of plants in the mint family and is native to the Mediterranean region.  Around the world, people have been growing lavender for centuries.  Dating back to Greek and Roman times, this herb has long been used for its cleansing & healing properties.

Lavender Plant Care

The two most important requirements for successfully growing lavender are:

WELL DRAINED soil & FULL sun!

Lavender Soil Conditions:

The best soil for growing lavender is sandy, soil with good drainage and a pH between 6.0 and 8.0.  Lavender does not like to have it’s roots wet, so good drainage is imperative.

Watering:

Typically, lavender fatalities occur when the plants are over-watered.  Lavender is  drought-tolerant, which means mature plants don’t need to be watered all the time like your other garden plants.  Too much water can leave them susceptible to root rot and fungal disease.  Young, newly planted lavender does need regular watering until established (either by irrigation or adequate rainfall).  We typically water new plantings if there is not sufficient rainfall for the first few weeks.  After that, our lavender is only watered by mother nature.  Determining how much water to give, really depends on observing your local climate and the environment that the lavender is growing in.

Climate:

Lavender needs lots of sun (6 hours or more).  Many cultivars are relatively tolerant to cold & snow, but others are not hardy in colder regions.  It’s important to read plant labels to make sure they do well in your area.  Many lavenders will tolerate some humidity, but it can be a problem.  Here in Maryland, we have very humid summers, so it’s important to maintain good air flow.  We allow extra space between plants and between rows so that that there is adequate air movement between and around plants.

Pruning:

Annual pruning is a must for maintaining a healthy, vigorous bush. In Autumn, well before frost, the plants can be cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 of the green stem.  Do not cut into the woody part of the stems, as they may not grow back.  As you are cutting, try and maintain a mounded shape to the bush.  This helps prevent them from becoming open and woody in the center as they get older.

Best Lavender Varieties

We are often asked what is the best lavender to grow in our area. There are many cultivars to choose from. Some kinds of lavender do well in one climate, not so well in others. We grow the following species:

Lavandula angustifolia:

Often called “English Lavender”, this lavender is the most cold hardy species of lavender. They generally have a sweeter scent and are often used in cooking.  English lavenders typically have shorter flower stems and are the first to bloom in the summer.  The essential oil can be used in aromatherapy and the dried buds are nice in sachets.  ‘Hidcote’, ‘Buena Vista’, SuperBlue’ and ‘Martha Roderick’ are a few of the varieties we’ve grown.

Lavandula x intermedia:

Often called “French Lavender” or Lavandin, this lavender species is often hardy to zone 5.  The flowers, which have a more camphorous fragrance, are widely used for essential oil because the plants can yield up to 5 times more oil than the angustifolia varieties.  The plants grow much larger and the stems are longer.  They are often used for long stemmed bundles, sachets, wands and other crafts.  Lavandins are also more resistant to the hot, humid Maryland summers than the “English” varieties.  Most of the lavender we grow are french lavenders, including ‘Super’, ‘Grosso’, ‘Phenomenal’, ‘Edelweiss’ (a white flower), ‘Gros Bleu’ & ‘Provence’.