Lavender is a beautiful flower that can be grown in many different climates. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate drought and heat.
Not only does it smell amazing, but it has a wide variety of uses around the home, such as in aromatherapy, cooking, making soap, making sachets, and more.
Not only that, but it’s relatively low maintenance once you get it established. Toward that end, I’ve written a complete care guide for lavender.
Choosing the Right Type of Lavender
When it comes to lavender, there are many different types to choose from. (Over 450 of them.) However, not all lavenders are created equal. So, which type of lavender should you choose for your needs?
The most popular type of lavender is English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). English lavender is known for its sweet, floral scent and is often used in aromatherapy. It’s also the variety most often used in cooking.
If you live somewhere between zones 5-8 in an area that doesn’t have clay soil and isn’t extremely humid or doesn’t rain too much, this is an excellent variety of lavender to grow.
In fact, this is sort of what people think of when they think of lavender. It’s the most common lavender used for lavender fragrance and oils. Also, if you’re looking to use lavender for cooking, English lavender is the variety you should choose.
Because it has less camphor, it makes for a more pleasant taste in cooking. A lot of other varieties, including Spanish and French don’t make for great culinary lavender. Hidcote and Munstead are the two most prominent varieties of culinary lavender.
English lavender generally blooms for around 4 weeks in the late spring or early summer. (I have a guide on lavender flowering here if you want more information.)
It also lives for 15 years, which is longer than other varieties.
If you live somewhere that gets a bit more rain and humidity, or if you live somewhere that gets hot, English lavender probably isn’t going to work for you. One of the reasons why people in the south have so much trouble growing lavender is because of the English varieties.
This is where Spanish lavender comes in. Spanish lavender does best in warmer regions – particularly in zones 8a-9b where it gets really hot. It also does better in areas with clay soils as long as you properly ammend the soil. (I’ll cover that later.)
Spanish lavender will generally get to be 24-30″ tall by 24-36″ wide and only lives for 5 years. It will also bloom for up to 3 months starting in spring if taken care of properly.
Another variety of lavender is French Lavender. This is commonly called Spanish lavender (and vice versa), but they are 2 different species. For the purpose of this post, French lavender is Lavandula Dentata whereas Spanish Lavender is Lavandula Stoechas.
French lavender is similar to Spanish lavender in a few regards. It’s not as cold hardy as the English variety, preferring to live in zones 7-9. It has a shorter lifespan of only 5 years. It also gets to be around 24-36″ tall, which is only a bit larger than Spanish.
It doesn’t have as strong of a fragrance as English and is said to be a commonly used variety for lavender scented cleaning products due to its higher camphor content giving it a bad taste.
On the up side, it does bloom nearly year round, depending on how cold your winters get.
Lavendin: Lavender X Intermedia
Lavendin is a term for a group of lavender plants that are hybridized between English lavender and a different variety of lavender. There are many varieties of lavendin with various qualities.
The variety of lavendin I’m going to discuss for this section is called Lavender ‘Phenomenal’, because this is the best of the bunch, in my opinion.
If you live in the south – be it Texas, Florida, or somewhere else – phenomenal is the type of lavender you want to grow. It has a better fragrance that Spanish lavender and is a culinary variety, meaning it has a good taste when used in baking.
It will grow in zones 5-9, gets between 24-30″ tall, and tolerates wet soil and disease better than other varieties. (Though if you have clay, you still want to ammend the soil.)
Also, unlike the French and Spanish varieties I discussed above, it lives for up to 15 years as long as it’s properly cared for. Most lavendin varieties bloom for around 2 months during the summer season.
Note: If you’re looking for lavender to grow a lavender hedge, I recommend reading my guide how how to grow a lavender hedge, which includes a section on the best types of lavender for hedges.
Lavender Soil Requirements
Lavender plants thrive in soils that are well drained and slightly alkaline. The soil doesn’t need to be particularly rich and shouldn’t have a high nitrogen content. (i.e. be careful about manure and fertilizer use)
Lavender likes soil in the PH range between 6.5-8, so if you live in an area with soil that’s more acidic than that, you’ll want to ammend your soil with garden lime. This will bring the PH of your soil up into a range that will let your lavender plant take up nutrients more easily.
If you have a sandy soil, you should be able to grow lavender without much (if any) improvement to the soil. In the areas of the Mediterranean where lavender is native to, this is the type of soil that it naturally grows in.
You may still choose to improve the soil a bit my ammending it with some compost. I find that this helps improve drainage with sand that has a tendency to become hydrophobic.
If you have a primarily clay soil, on the other hand, you’re going to be facing an uphill battle.
Growing Lavender in Clay Soil
Clay soil presents a huge issue when trying to grow lavender. The reason for this is drainage. Lavender does not like wet feet, and clay soil does not drain well. Because of this, clay soil often ends up killing lavender plants off.
There are two main ways of tackling clay soil when you are growing lavender. Ammend it, or avoid it.
If you live on a slope, or if part of your property is sloped, you may be able to ammend the soil. The reason for this, again, is drainage. If you’re on flat ground, even if you double dig and ammend the soil deeper than your lavender necessarily needs, you’re essentially making a bowl.
The clay soil beneath what you ammended still isn’t going to drain well.
If you’re on a slope, however, the water can run off to a lower point on your property. This will allow the soil around your lavender plant to drain better. Alternatively, you can dig a french drain to direct excess water away from the area you’re growing your crops in.
In either of these cases, you’ll want to ammend your soil with a generous amount of compost. Adding this to your clay soil is going to allow water to better penetrate the soil and drain away from your plants.
You’re going to want to ammend the soil down and outward at least 18″, and you’ll probably want to add enough organic matter that you have more organic matter than clay.
This is extremely important to get right, otherwise it could lead to root rot killing your plant down the road.
Growing Lavender In Raised Beds & Containers
Alternatively, you can grow lavender in a raised bed or pot. You’ll want to do your research to find out the best variety of lavender for container gardening (though Lavender Phenomenal works great for this).
Lavender roots only grow down to about 10″, so your raised bed doesn’t need to be super tall. A 12″ deep raised bed or container would be more than enough.
When selecting the soil for your container, mix 2/3 of a well draining potting mix (for containers) or raised bed soil with 1/3 perlite (preferred) or coarse sand.
If you’re going to use a container, an air pot or grow bag works best for lavender, as it allows more airflow to your soil and aids in drainage.
Lavender Light Requirements
Lavender plants like a lot of light. Lavender needs at least 8 hours of sunlight per day and should be planted in an area that gets full sun.
If you live somewhere that is paricularly hot, you may want to plant your lavender somewhere that gets afternoon shade.
This will help keep your lavender alive if it’s one of the less heat tolerant varieties.
If your lavender plant doesn’t get enough sun, you’re likely to see the plant start to get leggy and not bloom as much as it should.
When to Plant Lavender
Lavender can be planted in the spring or fall, depending on where you live.
In colder climates (zone 7 and north), you should plant lavender in the spring. Spring planting in colder regions will give your plant spring, summer, and fall to establish so that it has time to prepare itself for the colder winter ahead.
In warmer climates, on the other hand, you’ll want to plant it in fall, after temperatures start to cool down a bit. This will give it the rest of fall, winter, and the first part of spring to establish itself before it has to deal with the scorching hot temperatures that come with summer.
If you’re planting lavender in a pot that’s small enough for you to move, you can take your choice of either, assuming that you’ll bring the plant inside when it gets too cold or too hot. (i.e. put it out in the morning on hot days and bring it in during the afternoon heat and vice versa for cold days)
How to Plant Lavender
The first thing to do is clear your growing area and ammend the soil as I described above.
If you’re growing in the ground, dig a hole twice as wide as your root ball. At this point, do not ammend the soil that you’re going to use to backfill the hole. The ammending you did (or didn’t do) to the entire area should be all of the ammending you do.
Remove your lavender from its pot and massage the root ball. You want to agitate the roots a bit so they aren’t all growing around in a circle. What you want to see is roots pointing out in all directions so that they’ll grow into the soil instead of becoming root bound in the ground.
Place your plant in the hole and fill in the hole with the dirt you dug out of it. Water the area well to make sure any air pockets get filled in.
Avoid using mulch around your lavender plants. One of the main points of using mulch is that it helps the soil retain moisture, and retaining moisture is exactly the opposite of what lavender plants like.
If you must use mulch for aesthetic reasons, use a thin layer of gravel style mulch.
Companion Plants for Lavender
It can be a good idea to grow lavender with plants that like similar conditions to what lavender likes. This will ensure that your plants can work together and aren’t competing for ideal conditions.
Examples of some good plants for growing with lavender include:
- Queen Anne’s Lace
There are also plants that are benefitted by lavender but that don’t provide lavender any benefits. These are mostly plants that have pests that don’t like the smell of lavender, so growing lavender nearby means fewer things will try to eat them. They could also be plants that just benefit from the increased pollinator activity.
These plants you want to plant around your lavender, but plant them far enough away that you can maintain separate soil conditions for the different groups.
Examples of these are:
Finally, there are plants that you just don’t want to grow near lavender. These are plants with different requirements than lavender that don’t really benefit from it in any way, so it’s best to just make sure you don’t grow them nearby.
Mint is one example. Mint likes shady areas, moist soil, and a lot of nutrients. None of these things are particularly good for lavender, so it’s best just to find somewhere else to grow them.
If you want to find some good companion plants for lavender, I’ve written a guide here: 19 Best Companion Plants For Lavender
Watering Your Lavender
After planting, you’ll want to water your lavender plant(s) 1-2 times per week until they’re established.
After they’re established, if you live in an area that gets regular rain, you shouldn’t need to water your plants regularly after that. Lavender doesn’t need a lot of water, so the rain should be able to do it for you.
Otherwise, if you live in a dry area, make sure your lavender gets watered thoroughly every other week after it is established. You can increase watering back to 1-2x per week during flowering season.
This is very important, as watering your lavender too often can cause it to wilt and die. (I have a guide on reasons why lavender wilts you should read.)
If you want more information on when and how to water, check out my guide on watering lavender.
Lavender is a plant that is generally pretty happy without a lot of fertilization. In fact, too much nitrogen can disrupt you’re lavender’s flowering cycle, so it’s best to use a very light touch.
If you want to fertilize, the best time to do it is in the spring, during the start of new growth. This will make sure that you’re helping your plant when its gearing itself up for the season’s new leaf growth and not interrupting bloom season.
I would avoid providing chemical fertilizer for lavender, as it’s easy to overdo it with something that’s concentrated.
Instead, you have two options:
- Top dress your soil around your lavender plant with an inch of compost. This should be more than enough to provide your plant the nutrients it needs without overdoing it.
- Provide a light application of organic granular fertilizer. This generally acts as a slow release fertilizer, as it has to be broken down by microorganisms in the soil, so it isn’t likely to cause issues with your plant as long as you don’t overdo it. Choose a fertilizer for flowering plants, and follow the application instructions on the bag.
One of the things you need to do regularly to keep your lavender plants healthy is pruning them. If you neglect pruning them, they’ll get straggly and won’t bloom as heavily.
Generally, lavender should be pruned twice per year. Lavender needs a light pruning in the spring, and then it needs to be pruned again during mid to late summer or early autumn.
In the spring, your goal is just to do a light cleanup of buds that have already flowered to keep your lavender looking good. It’s not too difficult, and you can mostly play it by eye.
The second prune is where you’re going to hard prune your lavender plant. During this prune, you want to cut your lavender down by around half, up to two thirds. This is what’s going to keep your plants healthy over winter and into the next year.
A word of caution – when pruning, avoid cutting below the green growth into the woody stems. Stems with no growth left on them won’t come back.
Instead, what you want to do is reduce the size of the plant while leaving some growth left on. This will make sure your lavender is able to grow back next year.
Additionally, you’ll want to prune your plant into a natural looking mound or dome shape. This will ensure your plant looks as nice as possible.
Hold onto any shoots you pruned off that didn’t flower. You can use these for propagation.
In this section, we’re going to cover how to propagate your lavender plant from cuttings. This is a relatively easy method that should give you good results consistently.
Taking Cuttings from Your Plant
While you can try to root non-flowering cuttings taken during your normal prunings, the best time to take cuttings specifically for propagation is during spring growth before your plant goes into flowering.
This keeps your cuttings in vegetation mode and geared toward growth.
What you want to look for is new growth just above the woody stems from last year. Cut the new shoots without blooms off just above the woody stem, and set these aside for propagating.
You want to choose shoots with at least three leaf nodes on them.
Preparing Your Cuttings
Once you have all of the cuttings you’re going to use, go back and cut off anything above the third node. Then, strip off all of the lower leaves so you’re left with only the leaves at the top node.
Now, dip all of your cuttings into rooting powder to provide rooting hormone that will help your cuttings grow roots.
Place all of your cuttings into a plant tray filled with sterile seed germination mix or with a 50/50 mix of pearlite and peat. (I’ve also heard people having luck with rooting in 100% vermiculite, so you may experiment with that as well.)
Mist your tray enough to wet the foliage and just barely dampen the top of your soil. You don’t want your soil to be wet, since lavender doesn’t like overly moist conditions. You do want to keep the humidity up, however, so you will want to keep them in a humidity dome.
You’ll want to mist the tray every so often as you see the soil drying out.
If you have a grow light, place them under the grow light and keep the plants inside during propagation.
Wait for Your Cuttings to Root
Now all you need to do is wait for your cuttings to root. If you’ve followed all of the previous steps, you should start seeing some rooting after 2-3 weeks.
Gently tug on your plants every few days to see how the roots are coming along. You want to be very gentle with this, as you’re just seeing whether there are roots anchoring the plant down from the soil.
You don’t want to damage the roots, as they’re going to be very delicate at this phase.
Once you start seeing roots growing, you should reduce your misting and start leaving the humidity dome off for longer periods of time to help wean the plants off of the dome.
Once this is done and you can see some roots starting to fill out the cells in the tray, it is time to transplant them up to small pots so they can grow up to the point that they’re ready to be transplanted out to their final home.
Lavender is a beautiful plant that can be grown in many different climates. It is a hardy plant that can survive in dry conditions. Lavender is also a fragrant plant that can be used to make essential oils.
What’s even better is that it’s such a low maintenance plant once you get it established. All you have to do is give it the occasional pruning and it’ll stay happy.
Getting lavender to the point of being established in the first place, however, is the issue. If you follow this guide, you should be able to do that with no problem, and once you get there, you’re going to be well on your way to successfully growing lavender.