Some of the most iconic images of lavender are the rows and rows of purple flowers that stretch on as far as the eye can see.
If you want to bring a little bit of that to your yard – along with the other benefits of the lavender plant – planting a lavender hedge row is the best way to do it.
Before you get out your shovel and start digging, though, you need to do some preparation to make sure your hedge row is able to start off on the right foot.
Choosing the Right Variety
The first step for planning a lavender hedge is choosing a variety of lavender that will look the way you envisioned. For example, munstead stays 18″ or below – which is a bit wimpy for something we’re going to call a hedge.
Hidcote gets a bit bigger, around 24-36″, and makes a better choice for someone living in the northeast or pacific northwest of the US, but English varieties don’t really do well in the more rainy, humid areas of the south.
In my opinion, the best varieties of lavender for hedges are the hybrid Lavender X Intermedia types.
Two of these in particular are Grosso and Phenomenal, which get up to around 32″ tall and can tolerate the more harsh conditions of the south. Phenomenal is my pick for the best lavender in areas with higher humidity and more rain.
Grosso, on the other hand, is hardy up to zone 10, whereas most other varieties only claim to grow up to zone 9.
They are more disease resistant than other varieties, and they’ll give you your best chance of having a lavender hedge if you live somewhere that lavender doesn’t traditionally do well.
They’ll also live up to 15 years, whereas French and Spanish varieties will only live for around 5 years on average.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider when and how long they bloom when selecting a variety.
Note: You should complete the Planning the Site and Preparing the Soil sections before you purchase your lavender. These can take some time, so you don’t want to risk your lavender sitting around in pots and potentially dying before you can plant it.
If you’re propagating your plants from cuttings for your hedge, this doesn’t apply to you.
Planning the Site
Lavender absolutely needs to be in full sun – it doesn’t do well in part or full shade. Therefore, if you’re going to spend the time and money to put in a lavender hedge, you want to make sure your site gets at least 6-8 hours of sun per day.
Consider whether there are any large buildings, trees, or community mailboxes that might shade out your lavender for a significant portion of the day. Also consider whether your site will stay full sun during winter, when the sun is lower in the sky.
Once you’re sure the place you want to put your hedge will work, it’s time to move on to preparing the soil.
Preparing the Soil
Lavender prefers to grow in unimproved sandy soil, so if that’s what you have – you’re golden. If, on the other hand, you have clay soil (like in a lot of areas of Georgia and Alabama), you’re going to need to do some work to make it suitable for growing lavender.
Your best option in clay soil is to prepare a raised bed that’s at least 24″ wide and 1′ tall and fill it with a mix of coarse sand and a little compost. Having a raised bed will allow water to drain off along the surface of the ground – avoiding the issues of clay holding water.
If you want to plant in the ground, planting on a slope or digging a French drain is ideal, to allow water to drain away from your plants.
Heavily amending the soil with compost to improve drainage is the least desirable option in clay, because the clay soil below what you amended is still going to drain poorly. This will essentially create a bowl that your lavender lives in.
If you’re going to go this route, you may at least want to double dig your hedge row, so that the soil will be improved further down.
Before we discuss double digging, however, let’s talk about PH for a minute. Lavender likes soil that has between 6.5 and 8 PH. If your soil is more acidic than this, you’ll need to get some garden lime to raise your PH up to optimal levels.
This should be done at least a few months before you plan to plant your lavender, as it takes time to raise your soil’s PH. Also, you’ll need to do soil PH tests yearly and re-add lime as necessary to keep your soil in check.
Garden lime is not a permanent fix, so don’t just set it and forget it.
Double digging involves removing the top 12″ of soil and setting it aside. Once that’s done, you work compost into the 12″ of soil below that. After amending the bottom 12″, you work compost into the top 12″ that you removed and backfill the trench you just dug with that.
As much as possible, avoid standing in the soil as you backfill, because you want to avoid compacting the soil. Compacted soil won’t drain as well, which defeats the purpose of double digging.
Planting Your Lavender
When planting your lavender, the first thing you need to consider is spacing. If you’re going to grow a variety of lavender that gets around 32″ tall and wide, you should plant your lavender somewhere around 24-30″ apart.
This will allow a little bit of overlap to keep your hedge row solid, but it will put them far enough apart that they won’t compete with each other for nutrition too much.
When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole twice as wide as your pot.
Take your lavender out of its pot and gently massage the roots so that they’re pointing outward instead of being tightly wrapped around the potting soil. This will prevent your plant from becoming root bound after being planted.
Put your plant in the ground where the top of the potting soil is more or less level with the surface of the ground. Now gently push the soil back into the hole around your plant, being careful not to compact the soil too much.
Repeat this step for each of the plants you’re going to plant. Don’t amend the soil any at this step. Whatever improvements you made in “Preparing the Soil” will suffice.
Generously water the soil once all of the plants are completely planted to eliminate any air pockets that might be hiding in the ground.
Watering Your Lavender
You’ll generally want to err on the side of caution when you’re watering your lavender plant, as it’s a lot easier to overwater lavender and kill it than under-water lavender.
That having been said, the best general advise is to water your plants once per week until they establish, and then drop down to watering them every other week if it doesn’t rain. During flowering season, you can go back to watering once per week to increase how many blooms you get.
If you want a more detailed answer, check out my guide on watering lavender.
Maintaining Your Hedge
After you’ve planted your hedge row, the last step is to keep it looking nice. This means that every year you have to prune it at least once per year.
Usually, this will happen in the mid to late summer or early autumn, but you may want to talk to your local extension office to find out when the best time is for your local area.
When pruning, you’ll want to take off between 1/2 and 2/3 of the plant. Don’t go so far down that there isn’t any growth left on the stems, however, because lavender won’t come back from just the woody stems of the plant.
You’ll also want to prune it into a nice dome shape to keep your lavender looking its best.
Doing this will keep your hedge healthy for the next decade or more. If you neglect this, however, your lavender hedge will become woody, won’t bloom as much, and will have to be replaced after 5 years.
Generally speaking, there are a few issues you might run into when growing lavender. Dealing with them is outside of the scope of this post, as you likely won’t run into them for weeks or months after planting your hedge, but I’ll link to guides on fixing each of them that I’ve written in the past.
- Lavender will turn brown (especially at the base of the stems, which is due to excessive moisture)
- Lavender will turn yellow (which may mean not enough sun, nutrient issues, or other things)
- Lavender will start to wilt (a number of different causes for this)
- Lavender doesn’t smell (which could mean you planted the wrong variety or aren’t getting enough sun)
If your lavender plants start looking sickly, you might also want to check out my guide on reviving a dying lavender plant.
Fertilizing Your Hedge
Fertilizer isn’t necessary for lavender, since lavender is used to growing in poor soils. In fact, adding a lot of nitrogen into the soil can harm your lavender and keep it from blooming properly.
If you feel the need to fertilize, top dress the soil with an inch of compost at the beginning of spring after last frost.
That’s all you need to do (just once per year).
There’s nothing that quite looks better than a lavender hedge. That long row of beautiful purple flowers going around your house or garden really adds curb appeal, attracts pollinators (which is great if you’re growing crops), and makes everything smell great.
And what’s better, it’s really easy to do and requires very little upkeep compared to other herbs and crops you can grow.
By the way: If you want some extra information, I also have a guide on growing lavender that has a lot of things I couldn’t fit in this article because they weren’t directly related to growing a hedge.
This guide is enough that you should be able to do everything you need to do to have a healthy, beautiful lavender hedge. If you have any issues, check out my article on what to do when your lavender isn’t looking so great.
If you have any questions, however, remember that your local extension office is full of experts that will be able to give you an answer based on how things work at your individual county level – for free. Don’t be afraid to ask them.
Good luck with planting your hedge.