How To Grow Lavender
A perennial flower that attracts butterflies, bees, and people alike, this plant is easy to grow and adds untold beauty to your garden. It is a deep-scented, bushy plant originally from the Mediterranean. Lavender is commonly used in perfumes and also medicinally to relieve bug bites and as an anti-inflammatory.
Depending on the variety, lavender is hardy in USDA zones 5-10. In colder zones, zone 6 and lower, plan to plant in spring or early summer. In zones 6 and higher, plant in early fall. The plants grow between 1-3 feet, and once established, they don’t need much watering or maintenance. They are drought tolerant and hardy plants overall.
Five Steps To Growing Lavender At Home
Step One: Get An Early Start
Germinating lavender seeds is a bit of a process. Nothing difficult, don’t worry! Lavender needs to be started indoors 3-4 months before the intended outdoor planting time. When exactly this is will depend on what zone or climate you live in.
Step Two: Plant Your Seeds
Choose a good potting soil, one that is meant for seed starting. Fill 4″ pots with the potting soil and water them well before planting. This settles the soil and prevents the seeds from getting totally buried when they are added. Take a small number of seeds and sprinkle them over the top of the soil. Press the seeds in so they are lightly covered by the soil.
Step Three: Cover and Chill
After being planted, place your seed pots on a waterproof tray and cover the whole thing with a plastic trash bag.
To germinate, lavender seeds need to sit in a cold place for six weeks. This is called cold-stratification. Place the whole tray in your refrigerator. And don’t forget about them! They won’t need to be watered because the plastic bag retains the soil moisture.
Step Four: Move To a Sunny Space
After six weeks, take the trays out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic bag. Place the pots in a warm, sunny area. A south-facing window is wonderful. The temperature needs to be between 21C-27C (70F-80F) during the day and around 13C (55F) at night. You may need to get a bottom warming mat to achieve these temperatures. When the soil feels dry to the touch, water it with a spray bottle to not disturb the growing seeds.
In about a week, you should see little seedlings sprouting.
Step Five: Transplanting
When the seedlings are 3 inches tall, they are ready to be transplanted outside. It can take a couple of months to reach this stage from when they first start growing.
Harden off the plants while they are still in their pots by placing them outside for a couple of hours each day to acclimate to the outdoor temperatures. Increase the amount of time they are left outside over a week’s span.
Choose a bright sunny location and plant your seedlings 1-2 feet apart.
Care & Maintenance
During the first year, your growing lavender plants will need water regularly. Let the soil dry out between watering and then give it a good soaking. After the first year, they won’t need this much watering. Lavender doesn’t need fertilizing. After the second year, prune the plants by cutting back the stems by 1/3.
When half the flower buds have opened, cut the stems as long as possible. The morning is best for this because that’s when the oils are concentrated the most. Gather the stems into secured bundles and let them dry in a cool, dark place. Your lavender is now ready to be used! Use it for tea, in cooking, or add to a sachet.
Recommended Lavender Varieties
- English Lavender: Perennial and hardy in Zones 5 to 8. The flowers and leaves have a sweet, floral flavour and are the most commonly used lavender in cooking. It grows compactly and up to 1 to 2 meters tall. The fresh flowers and leaves have many culinary uses and can be used in place of rosemary.
- French Lavender: Perennial and hardy in Zones 8 to 9. Also known as Spanish lavender, it is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 100 cm tall. It is used for its ornamental value, essential oil and potpourris.