Plant Profile: Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

Lavender is a sub-shrub that is both beautiful and useful. From making soaps and perfumes to flavoring cocktails, lavender’s benefits are many.

That wonderful scent that we are familiar with resides in the flowers. Those same flowers are a huge attraction for all kinds of pollinators to visit your garden.

Lavenders need full sun and good drainage. Picture them growing in their native Mediterranean region and that will give you a clue as to where to place them – specifically, on a slope or edge of a rock wall. The usual cause of death for a lavender plant is that the roots rotted by being kept too wet over the wintertime.

You can increase drainage by adding chicken grit, crushed oyster shells, or gravel to the soil when planting it. There is no need to fertilize lavender, though if you can add a bit of lime to the soil it will be happier.

To keep them healthy, space the plants far enough apart for good air circulation and mulch around them with gravel to prevent infected soils from splattering on the lower leaves.

Lavender should be shaped up in early spring once they have leafed out. Cut just the dead tips off, so you don’t mistakenly go too far back into the woody parts of the stem. After they finish flowering, you can also remove the wiry sticks that remain after the first blooms have faded to keep the plant tidy and to encourage a bit of reblooming later in the summer.  

English lavenders are the hardiest in our area and the varieties ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote” are widely available. The Lavendin hybrids ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’ also do very well in the Mid-Atlantic. More recent introductions to try include ‘Phenomenal’, which was bred by Lloyd Traven at Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA.

The best time to harvest lavender is when just a few of the buds on the stem have bloomed. Try to harvest early in the morning, after the dew has dried.

Allow the stems to dry by hanging them upside down, then remove the dried buds for use in sachets to place in a drawer or under a pillow for a good night’s sleep.

Lavender – You Can Grow That!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.

Visuals by Taylor Calavetinos

Audio by Kathy Jentz

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