Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. But today it is grown wherever climate conditions are similar to those in the Mediterranean. Where the climate isn’t ideal, many people grow their lavender in pots.
Even though lavender is a small Mediterranean shrub or subshrub, gardeners grow it in other climates as tender perennial or even annual lavender flowers. There are different types of lavender, but generally, it grows best in hot, dry climates, and even in arid parts of the U.S. English types don’t do well in hot, humid climates, though French and Spanish lavenders will thrive.
Where does lavender grow naturally?
Most lavender species originate from the Mediterranean, although different types can be traced to more specific regions. For example, Lavandula angustifolia, known as the true English lavender, is from the mountainous parts of the Mediterranean.
Lavandula stoechas is known as French lavender but is native to Spain, and is sometimes called Spanish lavender. The so-called French fringed lavender, Lavandula Dentata, is also native to Spain.
Lavandula latifolia, a broadleaved species known as Portuguese or spike lavender is native to the western Mediterranean region, which doesn’t experience frost. It still grows wild from central Portugal to northern Italy through Spain and southern France.
True lavender, which grows naturally in mountainous regions, grows as high as 5,578 ft (1,700 m) above sea level. Spike lavender only grows in areas between about 656-2,296 ft (200-700 m) above sea level.
Production Areas for commercial lavender
Lavender is grown commercially all over the world for its essential oils. Generally, oil yields increase with altitude. So, the higher the region is above sea level, and the cooler it is, the higher the oil yield will be.
The major producers of essential oils extracted from lavender include France, Spain, Italy, and England. Additionally, major producing areas of lavender oil are Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, the USSR, and Yugoslavia.
Lavandin, which is a hybrid of Lavandula angustifolia and Latifolia, thrives in areas between 2,296 and 3,280 ft (700-1,000 m) above sea level. It is harder than other lavender plants and it produces more essential oils.
Lavandin is cultivated mostly in Spain, France, Italy, Bulgaria, the Balkan Peninsula, Australia, and Tasmania.
Spike lavender prefers warmer areas and lower regions than true lavender and Lavandin. It is grown commercially throughout Spain.
Where is the best place to plant lavender?
It stands to reason that the best place to plant lavender will be a location that mirrors its natural habitat. It should also be obvious from the previous section that different types of lavender prefer slightly different conditions.
There are at least 48 different lavender species, with hundreds of different genotypes that define the characteristics of each type. This means that you’re likely to find a type of lavender that will grow in just about any USDA climatic zone from cold to subtropical. But don’t expect to find every species or genotype where you live!
The most important growing requirements relate to:
- Soil requirements
While true lavenders are cold-hardy and tolerate both drought and frost, spike lavender doesn’t do well in areas that experience frost. High summer temperatures negatively affect essential oils.
Nevertheless, lavender should be grown in full sun. But be aware that all types of lavender are sensitive to high humidity.
The University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science offers some tips on which USDA planting zones are suitable for different types of lavender. For example, they state that English lavenders are hardy to USDA zone 5 but may be grown in colder zones if there is enough snow cover.
Non-English types like the Spanish lavenders and French fringed lavender are only hardy in warmer zones 7-9. Lavandins will grow in zone 5 but will also do well in hot climates.
Lavender grows well in areas where the annual rainfall ranges from about 12-55 inches (300-1,400 mm).
If you are growing lavender of any sort in your herb garden, let the soil dry thoroughly between watering. Don’t overwater it. If the soil is too moist, lavender won’t thrive – it might even die.
The best place to plant lavender in well-drained soil that is sandy, light and contains a good amount of loam or gravel. There should also be good air circulation around the roots of the plant.
The pH of the soil should be anything between 5.8 and 8,3. But this represents a very broad range. Just remember that English-type lavender-like soil to be more alkaline while Lavandin prefers slightly more acidic soil.
You can use a simple soil pH kit to measure the pH. If it is neutral, the pH value will be between 6.5 and 7.5. Anything less than 6.5 is acidic while an alkaline soil will have a pH over 7.5.
How to Choose the Best Spot to Grow Lavender
First and foremost, the growing conditions preferred by lavender start with full sun. Most types prefer alkaline soil with very little organic matter so that it drains easily and doesn’t get soggy and waterlogged.
All you have to do is identify a spot in your garden, or maybe your designated herb garden, which meets these needs. If you opt for raised beds, you can control the soil, but will still need to be sure that the beds get enough full sun every day.
A bonus will be if your chosen spot is somewhere close to bees. Attracting pollinators is relatively easy with lavender because bees adore lavender when it’s in bloom.
So, how do you choose the best spot for your lavender bed?
Step 1: Sunlight
Identify a site where your lavender will get full sun for at least six hours a day.
Step 2: Avoid Wind
Check the wind conditions. You don’t want it to be in the path of prevailing winds that could destroy your lavender flowers.
Step 3: The Right Soil
Check the soil in your chosen spot. If it isn’t suitable, ask yourself if you can amend it to make it suitable.
If you can’t find a spot where the soil can be amended, you can always grow your lavender in containers in a light but a fertile potting mix.
Tips to Grow Lavender
Here are 10 tips to help ensure you grow lavender successfully:
Make sure your lavender plants get at least six hours of full sun every day.
Plant your lavender with other plants that are resistant to drought.
Be sure that you don’t overwater your lavender plants. Once it is established (after 2 years) it will survive in dry conditions. Then, you only need to water when the top two inches of soil are dry.
If your garden doesn’t have naturally well-drained soil, consider growing your lavender in raised beds. If your soil contains too much organic matter, add fine gravel to improve drainage.
If you opt to grow lavender in pots, you can usually get away with using a good-quality potting mix.
Make sure there is good air circulation around your lavender plants especially if you have high humidity.
You don’t need to mulch lavender plants to conserve the moisture in the soil. Mulch tends to bring moisture to the top and too much moisture can lead to root rot. If you need to mulch, use pea gravel or small-sized bark.
It isn’t necessary to fertilize lavender plants though a little water-soluble plant food will promote vibrant lavender flowers.
When you harvest lavender for dried flowers, sachets, and potpourri, don’t ever harvest more than one-third of the plant at any one time. The best time to harvest is when the flower spikes have formed but before the buds are fully open.
Prune your lavender plants in late fall and remove the woody stems.
Is lavender an easy plant to grow?
Given the right conditions, lavender is very easy to grow. You can grow all types of lavender in garden beds and in pots.
It does take a little bit of effort to get lavender plants established. But then all types of lavender are usually low-maintenance plants.
Whether you grow lavender in your herb garden, as a border alongside garden paths, or in pots, it’s a rewarding garden plant that is easy to care for.
If you live in an area with a climate similar to the Mediterranean region, lavender is going to thrive with no effort at all. But there are so many different species that you can choose from, wherever you live you are likely to find a type that will suit your climatic needs.
These garden tips are filled with information that will help you choose what kind of lavender to plant somewhere in your garden. How can you resist?