Growing lavender is one of the most popular herb garden activities throughout the world and this plant has been grown for centuries. One of the first recorded uses is from the ancient Egyptians who used it as a central ingredient in incense. They even used it in embalming the dead.
But if we assume you don’t want to use it for this purpose, but rather grow it in your garden what are the basic things you need to know.
Lavender on a drying ra
Lavender Growing Conditions
Here are the three things you must pay attention to in growing lavender.
- Full sunlight is essential to grow a great smelling lavender plant. The more shade you give it – the softer and leggier the plant will be. Soft leggy plants do not have nearly the same perfume intensity as their sun-garden counterparts.
- Well drained soils are essential. You can grow lavender in almost any soil that is well-drained. Particularly if well-drained during the winter months. This means that clay soils will pretty much kill lavenders because they hold too much moisture during the winter.
- Feeding is pretty much optional. I generally try to give mine a shovel of compost in the spring but that’s about it. Like many herbs, the tougher you grow them, the more concentrated the essential oil in the leaves, and this is what we want.
I’m a massive fan of this plant. When I had my nursery, I grew upwards of 20 different varieties. Most of the unusual varieties (the variegated etc) were grown in very large pots for the summer, cuttings were taken and the pots overwintering in a frost-free but cold area. During the summer, I lined the pots up along the entrance pathway to the house so I could brush against the plants and get a touch of lavender fragrance.
I also note that two fragrances are supposed to be aphrodisiacs for men. The first is lavender and the second chocolate doughnuts. I have no comment on either.
Good Lavender Varieties
Is there such a thing as a bad one ? 🙂 You can see some of those currently on offer via mail order here.
L. angustifolia – the English lavenders – are some of the hardiest and easiest to overwinter. Examples of these would be ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’. These are usually hardy into USDA 4 if grown well.
L. x intermedia is a cross between L. angustifolia and the more tender L. latifolia. These are excellent growing plants but are marginally hardy in USDA zone 5-6. Examples would be ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’
L. stoechas is the French lavender and it is quite tender – hardy into USDA 7 / 9 but a tender annual in the north. New varieties are stunningly beautiful and the reds of ‘Kew Red’ or grey leaves of ‘Goodwin Creek Gray’ live only in my warm-spot overwintered containers.
Those are the basics of growing lavender in the home garden.