by David Salman
How to Grow and Care for Lavender
Lavender thrives in hot weather and grows well in a wide range of soils, as long as they are well drained. Learn how to plant, prune, and feed lavender plants.
The genus Lavandula is a favorite group of ornamental herbs native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. These sun-loving plants thrive in hot weather and grow well in the West in a wide range of soils, even compost-enriched garden loams, as long as they are well drained. Heavy, poorly-drained clay soils can be fatal. Lavender plants will be taller and wider in mild winter, hot summer climates. The same varieties when grown in cold (zone 5-6) winter climates tend to be more compact. Lavender plants require two-to-three growing seasons to reach mature size. Lavenders are a great addition to any garden because they are rabbit and deer resistant.
Pruning Established Plants
Prune Lavender in spring as needed. When plants begin to show signs of new growth, cut back the old stems by no more than a third to re-invigorate the plant and encourage more flowers. Harvesting the flowers each year helps maintain plant vigor.
Lavender must be planted in full-sun locations with good air circulation and fast-draining, alkaline soil. Sandy and sandy-loams are a "must" in the eastern US and Midwest! Lavender will tolerate clay and clay-loam in dry climates. Ample coarse-textured compost can be added at planting time to "open-up" heavier soils. Add lime in acidic soils. In wetter climates, plant on a slope or in raised bed to facilitate faster drainage.
Two inches of very coarse sand or small diameter gravel around the base of the plant keep the crown drier and promotes healthy plants in all climates. Water deeply but infrequently after their 2nd growing season. Take care not to over-water established plants.
Cold-Hardy Lavender Varieties
Lavandula angustifolia cultivars are among the most cold-hardy, and they bloom in late spring. They have compact flowering spikes on short-to-medium stems. 'Hidcote Superior' and 'Mitcham Gray' have the darkest flowers while 'Buena Vista' blooms twice, in spring and fall.
Lavandin (French hybrid) types:
Lavandin or Lavandula x intermedia cultivars (hybrids between English lavender and L. latifolia) are among the tallest growers with elongated flowering spikes on long stems. 'Provence' and 'Hidcote Giant' are deliciously aromatic and are used for oil production and sachets. 'Grosso' is one of the best for use in crafts and as a dried flower.
'Silver Frost' has incredible silver foliage and a powerful fragrance. 'English' is compact and very fragrant. Both are exceptionally heat-tolerant in low- humidity areas.
Culinary use: Lavander has become popular as an herb for cooking. 'Provence' is an excellent variety for this use.