How To: Grow Lavender Plants

http://www.motherearthliving.com/In-the-Garden/how-to-grow-lavender-plants.aspx

Patsy Bell HobsonPatsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it's a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at http://patsybell.blogspot.com/ and read her travel writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-1948-Ozarks-Travel-Examiner. 

Lavender attracts butterflies, is drought and heat tolerant and grows well in gardens and containers. Both flowers and foliage are fragrant. The blue-purple flowers on silver foliage make this a must-have plant in a white- and silver-themed garden, or a blue- and purple-themed garden. Its upright habit make lavender a good choice for butterfly- and cutting-gardens. Lavender is a good choice in most any herb garden.

3-23-2010-1
Attract birds, butterflies and pollinators to your garden with lavender.
Photo by DayBreak Lavender Farm

Jody Byrne, founder of DayBreak Lavender Farm says “Lavender is the Swiss Army Knife of herbs. It can be used in crafting, cosmetics, fragrance, cooking, healing and homekeeping.”

“We couldn't say that about oregano, for example. No offense oregano! Lavender is truly the most beloved herb in the world. Its scent is pure and clean, neither masculine nor feminine. And it grows nearly all over the world. Not at the ice caps. Not in the humid jungles. But most everywhere else ... and it grows wild. Which gives you a clue that it is no diva in the garden,” says Byrne.

Like any new plant, you need to give lavender plenty of water and attention until its roots are well established. Herbs in containers will be dependent on you to provide plenty of water year round. Once lavender is established in your herb garden, plants will need to be pruned every year.

3-23-2010-3
Lavender gives height to containers of mixed plants.
Photo by Provern Winners

'Goodwin Creek' lavender (Lavandula heterophylla) has light grey, deeply toothed foliage and small, deep purple flowers. This 'Proven Winners' lavender is an annual (except in Zone 8 and above) making it an excellent choice for mixed plants in a single large container.

Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery, says “I would in particular recommend 'Sharon Roberts' lavender (Lavender angustifolia) both for hardiness and repeat flowering. However, in Zone 6 you must also deal with fungal diseases, so you should consider planting 'Sweet' lavender (Lavender heterophylla), which blooms steadily through the summer, is disease resistant and a stunning container plant.”

“I should mention a very nice 'Lavender Lady' (L. angustifolia), which was a 1994 All-America Selections winner. It grows easily from seed and, if started in February, will have a fast growing attractive blooming plant the first summer,” advises McGee. “This will sail through most winters but the economy of seed allows those in climates too hot or too cold to have an affordable abundance of lavender plants that can be treated as an annual.”

3-23-2010-2
Lavender shouldn't grow in Ohio, tell that to Jody Byrne.
Photo by DayBreak Lavender Farm

Like me, many beginning gardeners have no luck with seeds or plants in their first attempts. I finally ordered three different types of lavender plants for the garden. Only one was a hardy surviver. It has grown faithfully in my Zone 6 humid summers and freezing winters for six years.

“There are so many choices in with lavenders that there is one suitable for just about anywhere,” says McGee.

If you've been hesitant to try lavender in your garden either for the first time or again, remember Jody Byrne's simple rules:

3-23-2010-4
Lavender fields ready for harvest in Ohio.
Photo by DayBreak Lavender Farm

“Lavender only wants three things, but on these she is adamant:

• Blazing sunlight 6 to 8 hours per day.
• Well-drained soil. More lavender dies from wet roots than any other cause.
• Sweet soil. (Alkaline soil.) I recommend crushed oyster shell. It's slow release, 100% natural and lightens heavy or clay soil”, said Byrne. “Lavender is a sturdy soldier and gives so much, asking very little in return.”

So, if your first attempt at growing lavender was less than successful, try again this spring. Whether you treat lavender like an annual or perennial depends on your location, both the zone and garden placement. Consider planting lavender in a container that you can shelter from the wettest and coldest days.

Find your zone using your zip code. 

Resources:

• Jody Byrne, founder of DayBreak Lavender Farm
• Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery