Lavender is an easy-care perennial for garden beds or containers. Grow it for fresh cut flowers, sachets, potpourri, cooking, cleaning, or fragrance.
Lavender plant growing tips include full sun, a soil that drains well, and the right pruning techniques. It tolerates drought but dislikes cold. Lavender plants planted from seed or cuttings benefit from a good start in the fall after overnight temperatures remain above 50°F.
Lavender plants need good, well-draining soil. In addition, soil should be slightly alkaline with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3.
The proportions of sand, silt and clay in soil determine its texture. The size of soil particles determines aeration, which can be determined by using a simple test. Stick your finger into the soil and see if it easily goes in without resistance. If not, add soil amendments to improve aeration.
If growing lavender in garden beds, install tile drainage to help remove excess water after rainfall or snow melt. A slope also helps. If you live in a cold climate, mulching the bed with wood chips or shredded bark in fall will help keep lavender plants warm through the winter and prevent frost damage to flowers. If growing lavender in pots, use a porous mulch such as pea gravel or lava rock to reduce moisture buildup over time.
Lavender plants are tolerant of drought once established, but they should be watered regularly during the first growing season to ensure vigorous establishment. After that, they are reliably drought tolerant.
Water is essential for the movement of nutrients and sugars throughout a plant, so lavender needs fast-draining soil. It also plays an important role in maintaining turgor pressure, the force that keeps plant cells rigid and upright. Without this, the plants become limp.
When planting lavender in garden beds, select sandy or gravelly soil. Lavenders prefer alkaline soil, but they will grow well in a neutral to slightly acidic soil. If you are planting lavender in containers, choose a succulent potting soil mix.
When propagating lavender from seed, start seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before the expected last frost date for your region. A heat mat and grow lights can help encourage germination. Once the danger of frost has passed, transplant to garden beds or large containers.
Lavender plants require full sunlight to thrive and produce their much-coveted essential oils. They can withstand some shade in warmer climates, but light shade significantly slows the plant’s growth and flower production.
In a garden, lavender grows well with other full sun perennials like echinacea (coneflower), tarragon, sage and rosemary. It also pairs well with old fashion heirloom rose varieties to create an unforgettable flower display.
During the growing season, water lavender plants frequently to keep the soil moist but not overly wet. The roots cannot tolerate boggy conditions and rot will set in quickly. Lavender is not a greedy plant and will do fine in lean, low-nutrient soils, but the best results are achieved when planted into a loose, fast-draining potting mix.
In early fall, take stem cuttings from lavender plants that have been blooming all summer. Fill plastic pots with peat-free multi-purpose compost and press the cut stems into the mix about 1cm below the surface. Place pots in a warm location and cover with a clear plastic bag to hold in the moisture. The cuttings will be ready to transplant in spring after the danger of frost has passed and overnight temperatures remain consistently above 50degF.
The delicate, soft-green flowers and leaves of lavender provide an intense fragrance when cut and dried. Regular pruning of lavender plants promotes a dense, mounded form and helps prevent leggy stems. Prune in the spring or fall, removing flower stems and an inch of foliage to tidy plants.
Light pruning is essential for many varieties of lavender. In the case of tender and semi-hardy types like French (L. dentata) and Spanish (L. stoechas) species, and lavandin hybrids, prune lightly after flowering, snipping above the ground to remove flower stems and foliage tips. Deadhead reblooming flowers throughout the summer as well.
Hardy varieties benefit from a heavier pruning in the fall. Aim to remove up to one-third of the growth on English lavenders and up to a half on lavandin hybrids, leaving enough green foliage to grow next year. It’s also a good time to reduce the number of woody stems to help the plant withstand winter.