Lavender is an instant mood boost. When you smell this fragrant plant, you are instantly calmed as it takes you to a very tranquil place.
If you have ever thought longingly of making your own lavender sachets and potpourri, the first step is to grow it in your own garden.
Planting lavender is an easy task and the plant is a welcome addition to any garden.
When to plant lavender? It’s best to start with small plants instead of seeds, and these can be planted in early to mid-spring, as long as the soil is warm enough and there is no threat to frost.
Once planted, you only need to water lavender every one to two weeks. The most difficult part of caring for your lavender is that you need to remember to prune it annually.
If left alone, lavender plants will become quite woody and bare at the base. To promote growth, cut off a third of the plant in the fall.
Finally, if you live in an area with very cold winters, add an extra layer of protection against freezing temperatures.
Planting Lavender in Different Climates
The warmth of a tropical climate is an asset to growing lavender but the high humidity can lead to too much moisture. Unless the soil can really drain well, root rot can quickly set in.
Because lavender does not require a lot of water once it has been established, there are varieties that do well in a dry climate.
Lavender will grow quite well in a temperate climate. The summers are warm enough and the winters don’t pose any threats. However, because temperate climates can have a lot of rainfall in the spring, take extra care to properly prepare the soil for better drainage.
The hot summers of a continental climate make lavender well-suited for this area. However, the cold winters may be a bit too much for the plant. If your winters are quite cold, be sure to give your lavender extra protection from the cold and wind.
While there are varieties of lavender that are hardy, there are none meant for a polar climate.
Choosing Lavender Seeds
When choosing which lavender variety to purchase it is actually better to start with plants than seeds. Lavender seeds don’t grow very well and it can be quite disappointing if they don’t take. Instead, start with small plants; they grow better and prevent a lot of frustration.
One of the most popular varieties is English lavender. Within this there are actually many varieties, including different colors.
Spanish lavender is also a popular option and recommended if you live in an area where winters are not very cold.
If you are looking for a larger lavender plant with long flower spikes, opt for Portuguese lavender. While it only blooms once a year, it is great for areas with high humidity and won’t succumb to root rot if there is too much moisture.
How to Plant Lavender Seeds
There are two times of the year that you can plant lavender. The first is in the spring, after the threat of frost has eased.
While the soil doesn’t have to be too hot, it should be warm, so aim for mid-May. If you have young lavender plants, then this is the best time to plant them, so that they will have the whole summer to become established.
An alternative growing time is in the fall. Because lavender is a perennial plant, it will come back the next year. However, to give your lavender the best chance of surviving the winter, be sure to only plant mature, established plants in the fall.
Once you have determined when you want to plant your lavender, it’s time to pick a spot. The really nice aspect to lavender is that it grows in soil of all qualities, as it is quite a hardy plant.
The main thing to consider is that your soil should have good drainage. Wet areas where water can pool will lead to root rot.
Check your soil as you can always add to it for better growing conditions. Clay can be quite compact, so break it apart and add organic matter to it, such as compost.
While you may have come across lavender seeds it is actually quite hard to go this route. Instead, save yourself a bit of effort and start with small plants instead. An alternative is if you get cuttings from a mature plant, although this also takes a bit of effort.
Mark out where you want to plant your new lavender plants. Even though they may be small to start, lavender is a bushy plant and needs about 2 to 3 feet of space. Furthermore, expect the plants to grow 2 to 3 feet in height.
After you have planted your lavender, fill in the holes with soil rich in nutrients. Add a layer of mulch to prevent weeds from growing. However, don’t place the mulch too close to the lavender plant as this can cause too much moisture to pool.
If you don’t have bulk mulch, you can also use pea gravel to keep weeds away.
How to Water Lavender
Like most plants, you will want to give your lavender a good watering after it is in the ground. Later in the week, give it another good water.
After that, you don’t have to worry too much about lavender. Simply water every two to three weeks, and then once flowers start to develop, water it once a week.
If it is especially hot out, you can give your plants extra water; just make sure the soil can drain properly so the roots don’t become oversaturated with moisture.
How to Grow Lavender
While lavender is a hardy plant, even in winter it may need a bit of extra protection. If you have very cold winters, consider using a winter mulch or even covering the plants to protect against both freezing temperatures and blistering wind.
You can cover the plants with burlap or even just use evergreen limbs to add a barrier between the cold.
Lavender grows well in pots so this is also an option for planting. Then, come winter simply bring the entire plant indoors; just make sure it is placed in a sunny spot.
Once lavender becomes established it will need some care in the form of pruning. If you live in a warmer climate, then fall is the time for pruning, whereas if you live in a cooler climate prune in the spring.
If lavender isn’t pruned, the bottom part of the branches will become woody and bare, leaving the plant looking a bit scraggly. Pruning encourages the whole plant to grow flowers.
Take your pruning shears and cut back about a third of the top of the plant. However, if part of the plant is already turning to old wood, don’t cut into this as it won’t regrow new shoots.
How to Harvest Lavender?
Once the lavender starts to bloom, you can clip this part of the plant off to create dried lavender or to use it in a flower arrangement.
One of the main reasons to grow lavender is so that you can use the fragrant flower, either in lavender oil or as a potpourri.
Simply take some scissors and cut at the base of a small sprig. You want to cut lavender when about half the flower buds have opened, and if you want the lavender for its oil, morning is best.
Lavender flowers dry quickly, so leave them in a cool, dark area. Place the lavender stems together and use a rubber band to tie them together.
In just a few weeks your lavender will be dried and ready for use. Place the stems in a lidded jar and give it a good shake. This will contain the fallen flowers for other uses.
You can sew the dried lavender into a sachet which will help freshen clothes and towels. Another benefit is that lavender sachets can repel unwanted insects, such as moths.
If you have trouble sleeping, you can place a lavender sachet under your pillow for a calming effect. You can also try and make a homemade lavender oil.
Where is it best to plant lavender?
Lavender loves sunshine and warmth. It should be planted in full sun and the soil should be able to drain properly. However, because it is so hardy, it can be planted in many different locations.
How fast does lavender grow?
After one year of growth you will have plenty of lavender flowers in bloom. Be sure to prune the plant back every year, topping the plant by a third.
This way new growth will be encouraged and the plant won’t become too woody or bare at the base.
With vibrant, fragrant, and purple flowers, lavender is a welcome addition to any backyard or even herb garden. It is easy to grow, will survive most winters, and is easy to dry for a home accent.