What’s not to like about lavender? This aromatic herb with the vibrant purple flowers has something for everyone. Savvy gardeners plant them as a living border, use them as decorative shrubs, or place them in among other plants as a deer repellent. Others use the edible flowers in salads, soups, stews, and yes, even cookies.
But it’s those who mix its dried leaves into an essential oil who sing its praises the loudest. While crediting the oil with being a natural antiseptic, a muscle relaxant, and stress reliever, lavender’s proponents also claim that many of the oil’s benefits are yet to be discovered. Got your interest? With planting season mere weeks away, here are six tips to help you grow this beautiful, fragrant, and versatile herb.
1. Not much space? Plant your lavender in a container.
Choose a pot that’s only slightly larger than your root ball. Both the container and the soil must drain well. Start with gravel and add a sandy soil mix on top. Add the plant and water it lightly. Remember, lavender likes to have dry roots and prefers about 8 hours of sun each day.
2. Choose seedlings over seeds
Lavender seeds germinate slowly, so buying seedling plants gets you off to a much quicker start. Plant the seedlings 12” to 18” apart for the best air circulation around them.
3. Lavender loves sun and well-drained soil
Lavender can tolerate almost any growing conditions, but since it’s a native of the Mediterranean, it should come as no surprise that it thrives best under warm, sunny conditions in well-drained soil.
4. Easy on the water
Many gardeners tend to over-water, but that can be the kiss of death for your lavender. Root rot destroys more lavender plants than cold weather does, so with the exception of a good watering immediately after planting your lavender, ease off on the watering can and help your plant survive.
5. Do some spring pruning
Although your plants will get regularly pruned when you harvest the flowers, a pruning in the spring will give them an attractive shape and encourage growth. After you see new green growth at the base of the plant, cut your taller varieties by one-third and the low growers to within a few inches of the base.
6. Skip all the mulch and most of the fertilizer
Don’t mulch near your lavender plants. The idea of mulch is to retain moisture around plants, but lavender does not tolerate the moist or overly wet conditions that traditional mulches provide. Lavender is not an overly hungry plant, either, and it doesn’t do well with nitrogen-based fertilizers.