Lavender is celebrated for its soothing scent and classic, attractive flowers and foliage. The perennial plant is also popular for its oil used in aromatherapy, alternative medicine, and beauty products. Growing lavender from seed is an economical way to reap the health and beauty benefits that make this plant so beloved. You’ll need to know which types of lavender are best for your yard and use. Lavender requires care that's different from most plants, so understanding its needs will help you cultivate lovely, healthy bushes.
Lavendar needs a warm climate
Lavender typically thrives in a warm, dry climate like its native habitat around the Mediterranean Sea. Spring is an ideal time to plant from seed in many areas, just make sure your soil is warm enough. Most lavender cultivars love the full sun for at least eight hours per day. Species such as Lavandula Angustifolia, Lady, and Munstead do well in cooler areas.
Getting started with lavender seeds
Lavender seeds germinate slowly, taking anywhere from two weeks to three months. Place your seeds in a shallow seed tray, barely covering them with soil. Keep the tray in a warm, sunny location indoors. Use a heat mat to keep seeds warm if you don’t have a warm spot or greenhouse.
Make sure your lavender is ready before transplanting
Once your little lavenders put forth several sets of leaves, it’s about time to plant them in their final location. You should notice growth at the bottom of the stem near the soil and perhaps at the top as well. If you see roots protruding from the bottom of the seed plugs, it's time time to transplant your lavender.Check to see if the roots are strong enough first. Before watering your seedlings, gently tug on one stem. If you feel resistance, your roots are ready. If it feels as if you’re pulling the stem out, stop and test again in another week.
Give your lavender plants enough space
Lavender needs plenty of air movement around and between each plant. Place them to stand 12 inches apart and make rows 12 inches apart. For staggered hedges, position each lavender plant so that the ones on the first row sit halfway between the space separating the plants in the second row.
Make sure soil is well-drained and fertilized
Lavender requires minimal moisture. Grow plants in well-drained areas or raised beds with light, rich soil. Keep them away from wet, moist areas. If you have clay or heavy garden soil, add organic matter. If you’re planting in pots, use terracotta pots with drainage holes.Go easy on fertilizer as well; too many nutrients may kill your lavender or hamper its flower output. Limit fertilizing to the start of the growing season.
Don't over-water your drought-tolerant lavender
Lavender is drought-tolerant; mature plants do well with little water. Overwatering is a common cause of fungal disease because the soil is too moist. Water new plants once or twice weekly until your plants are established. Water mature plants only every two to three weeks until you see buds. Once buds develop, water once or twice a week until harvest.
Prune your plants
Pruning is essential for growing strong, healthy lavender. This frees the plant to channel its energy toward sturdier stems and more leaves. Pruning lets you control the general shape and size of your plant while promoting flowering, too.In early fall, cut back one-third to one-half of the green stem. Be careful not to cut into the woody part. Cut the bush in a mounded shape so that the plant won’t become open and woody in its center as it grows.
Tips for tackling common issues and pests
Prevention is the first and best step for averting many problems with lavender. Provide your plants with ample air circulation and use a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler to help keep the foliage dry. Remove debris from around the plants so that pests cannot hide. Follow these tips to handle common issues:
- Lavender shab: This fungal spore makes the stems twist and turn brown with black spots. Remove and destroy infected plants, but do not place them with your compost pile.
- Froghoppers or spittlebugs: These sap-sucking insects leave unsightly white blobs on stems and leaves. Fortunately, they're easy to hose off with water.
- Root rot: This fungal disease causes leaves to wilt and brown. Cut off and destroy diseased plant parts and roots, and avoid overwatering.
Benefits of and uses for lavender
Lavender imparts an impressive array of benefits for the garden and home. The plant attracts pollinators, including bees and butterflies. Its buds can be dried for potpourri and sachets or crushed to extract lavender oil. Lavender also adds flavor to beverages, desserts, and savory dishes.Harvest lavender buds to make a relaxing herbal tea. Place some dried flowers inside your pillow or sleep mask to help you relax. Include your lavender in floral arrangements and wreaths.
Types of lavender
Lavender comes in over 40 different species with more than 450 varieties, including varieties that haven’t even been classified yet. The most common species in North America are Angustifolia, or English lavender, and Lavandin or French lavender. Other popular cultivars are Buena Vista, Melissa, and Edelweiss. Consider your climate zone, available space, size of the mature plant, and your purpose for growing lavender when selecting a variety.