Home HouseplantsCare & How To A Fragrant Garden Herb: Lavender

A Fragrant Garden Herb: Lavender

by a Friendly Gardener
Lavender flowers

An evergreen perennial shrub, that is somewhat woody and resembles rosemary a bit, Lavender, with its silvery-green pinnate leaves and characteristic purplish blooms, is well-loved for its clean floral scent and the fact that lavender blooms maintain their scent even when dried.

A native of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Lavandula spp. Is a member of the Lamiaceae family that grows in a compact shrub form and makes a fantastic companion crop for both flowers and vegetables. Its fragrance keeps at bay local wildlife like deer for a start.

Bumble bee on levender flower

This aromatic herb can be planted once the risk of frost has passed, and the earth has warmed up a bit. It is a moderate grower that will fill your garden with fragrance and color.

 

Lavender Plant Care

Lavender flowers with sun

As with just about any plant, the success of cultivation will depend on providing the correct environmental growing conditions. Lavender is relatively tolerant but will do better in a warm soil bed with good drainage and lots of sunshine.

Most lavender cultivars can be raised in USDA Hardy zones 5a through 9a and will thrive if Mother Nature is cooperative weather-wise. Should you experience a rough winter or a very wet summer. With proper growing conditions, lavender does not have a long lifespan, rarely exceeding ten years, and often less. By beginning supplemental new plants every year, you can always enjoy their presence in your garden.  Wet soil is a consideration to be constantly aware of.

 

Soil

Lavender loves a well-draining soil bed that is a bit on the dry side. If you decide to cultivate a Lavender plant in a pot, make sure to mix in some sand with your potting mix to guarantee exceptional drainage. Chalky alkaline soil will increase this plant’s fragrance capabilities. Should the soil pH dip below 6.5, your plant risks a very short lifespan.

If the soil is kept lean without amending with organic matter or even fertilizer, this plant will produce a higher concentration of those lovely fragrant oils.

 

Light

Lavender prefers and thrives in full sunlight. Direct sun exposure will encourage blooming and full shrub growth. This herb will not do well in the shade, so it should not be cultivated near larger plants or even trees.

 

Water and Humidity

Once your Lavender has established its residence in your garden bed, it will be relatively tolerant to drought. For new plants, the soil must be kept moist during the first season of growing while in the second year it will be more drought tolerant. Overwatering can lead to fungal infections and root rot.

If your area is subject to high humidity levels, plants should be amply spaced so that airflow and air circulation are good. This together with full sunlight exposure will ward off humidity-related problems.

During the winter season, these plants need to be protected from winds. This can be done if you plant next to a wall, or rock that in some way guarantees a minimum of wind blockage. Winter weather that freezes the ground can be contrasted by providing your lavender plants’ root systems with a layer of mulch after the first freeze.

 

Temperature

Generally speaking, it will not be the temperature that kills or weakens lavender plants, but dampness and high humidity.

 

Fertilizer

When planting for the first time, you can add a fist of compost in the hole where you intend to plant. After this, it’s not necessary to fertilize, as feeding can reduce lavender’s fragrance potency.

 

Pruning Lavender

Lavender is generally pruned through harvesting, but a bit of trimming in the spring will stimulate growth and is recommended to maintain the plant’s shape. The very tall cultivars can be trimmed by as much as a third, while shirt cultivars can be pruned an inch or two. If a cold winter is characteristic of your area, your lavender may experience winter die-back. In this case, avoid pruning until new growth emerges at the plant’s base.

 

Potting or Repotting Lavender

Lavender flowers in a pot

If you cannot grow lavender outdoors in a garden bed, it still can be container cultivated. This will allow you to move it to take full advantage of sunlight exposure and cultivate it indoors in winter.

The root system of lavender is a spreader, but this herb doesn’t mind smaller spaces. Select a container with a good number of drainage holes that is one to two inches larger than the root ball. Because lavender does not like excessive moisture, a pot in clay or terracotta will help with moisture-wicking. Choose a very loose growing medium that is soilless and water your potted plant at its base, and not on foliage, when the growing medium appears dry.

 

Harvesting Lavender

Lavander in a white basket

If you intend to benefit from Lavender’s fragrance capabilities, you will want to harvest your plant when the blooms start opening. Trim stalks and hang them upside down in a warm spot to allow them to dry out. You can hang them upside down inside a paper bag. The space you hang them in must have good air circulation.

Lavender blooms can be eaten. They are sometimes added raw into salads or used for cooking in soups, stews, teas, and even cookies. Use them parsimoniously because very little is needed for flavoring.

Propagating Lavender

Lavender field

It is best to propagate lavender using stem cuttings. This can be done with the softwood cuttings of flexible stems in the spring or with hardwood cuttings using woody stems in the fall. The process is very simple:

  • Cut a three-inch segment of a lavender shoot, below a leaf node. Remove foliage from the lower two inches and scrape the skin from the stem’s bottom on one side.
  • Fill a container with seed starter medium and moisten it.
  • Treat the stripped stem side with rooting hormone, and position it in the growing medium.
  • Cover cutting and pot with plastic in a warm location with dappled light. Roots should form approximately after a month.
  • Once roots have formed, remove the plastic and move your new plant to a position with full sun. feed your new plant weekly with fertilizer diluted to a quarter strength.
  • After approximately twenty days your plants can be transplanted into your garden bed or a permanent container with quality potting soil.

Lavender Toxicity and Pets

The ASPCA – American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists lavender as toxic to cats and dogs. Symptoms of lavender poisoning include lack of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

 

Lavender Problems

This herb is prized for its purple fragrant flowers. If your plant is not producing blooms, there may be a few issues at fault.

  • The soil is too fertile. Or move your plant to another position or amend the soil bed with gravel or coarse sand for better aeration. Soil should not be rich in nutrients.
  • Too little sun. This herb requires six to eight hours daily of full direct sunlight.
  • Lack of pruning. Buds will appear on new growth, so some trimming is necessary for it to bloom.

 

Pests and Diseases

Spittlebugs or froghoppers are known to like lavender. They produce a foamy spit-like substance that may not harm the plant, although stems containing spittle sometimes do die. Wash your lavender with a jet spray of water and treat it with an organic pesticide.

Whiteflies also like lavender. These pests are sapsuckers, and they are a powdery type of insect found most often n leaf undersides. Their honeydew can lead to sooty mold. Try washing your plant with a jet spray of water and treatment with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Reflective mulch may also be an alternative to keeping them away.

Aphids themselves will not harm the plant but are responsible for the spread of the alfalfa mosaic virus which is a common lavender illness. Leaves will have bright yellow splotches and may twist. If a plant is infected, it must be removed and burnt to prevent the spread. Insecticidal soaps and organic neem oil can prevent aphid populations from taking up residence.

Lavender Varieties

Lavender with monarch butterflies

Numerous varieties of lavender are available. Here are several of the most popular.

 

  • Lavandin(Lavandula x intermedia) Grosso avery disease resistant and fragrant cultivar
  • Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) Provence – a popular lavender used for drying
  • Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote – an English lavender renowned for its dark purple blooms
  • Lavandula angustifolia Jean Davis – a more unique lavender with pink flowers
  • Lavandula angustifolia Munstead – and English lavender with bluish-purple blooms
  • Lavandula stoechas– known as French lavender feature strongly fragrant purple blooms.

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