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Lavender is one of the most popular flowering herbs. In the right conditions, this drought tolerant plant really stands out in the garden with its fragrant flowers that dry beautifully. Additionally, a lavender plant can deter pests such as flies and mosquitoes from the garden.
Growing lavender is actually quite easy. Follow these steps to plant, grow and care for lavender.
The first step to successfully growing lavender is choosing and preparing your soil. This perennial plant prefers at least 6 hours of direct sun per day and grows best in alkaline soil with a pH between 7 and 8. If your soil runs on the acidic side, adding lime can help to maintain optimal pH levels.
Make sure your soil has sufficient drainage, as lavender prefers dry conditions above and below ground. To prep your soil, dig a hole and create a mound that is just wide enough for the roots. Place approximately two handfuls of 1" round stones into the hole, which will enable the soil to drain properly.
After getting your soil set up, it's time to give your lavender a home. Set up these plants in a sunny, hot spot with excellent drainage. Lavender is drought tolerant once established.
To transplant lavender, dig a hole with a Fiskars® garden shovel that can accommodate the plant's large root system. In the pot, gently loosen the soil with a Fiskars transplanter and gently knock the plant from its container. Spread the roots and plant in your garden.
To focus the plant on growing a strong root system, cut back the flowers to promote further blooming during the warm season. The lavender plant may not flower any more that year, but it will develop into a stronger plant in years to come.
Most lavender plants are hardy and thrive in zones 5 to 9, but Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas), shown above, is only hardy in zones 7 to 9. Spanish lavender, however, seems to tolerate hot, humid weather better than other types. Southern gardeners, this is a good lavender choice for you!
Pruning lavender is essential for helping these plants flourish. Aim to prune lavender bushes at least once per year, in early spring and at harvest time, to encourage new growth and keep the plants from getting too woody. Start by pruning about one-third of the plant using pruning shears. Be sure to not over-prune, as this can inhibit new growth entirely.
Making sure your lavender plants are properly hydrated is key to successful growth. Once your lavender is effectively planted in the garden, water deeply (approximately 1" of rainfall) every week to two weeks for the first two years. Be sure not to over-water your lavender, as this can cause the roots to die.
This step is essential to getting the most out of your lavender plants. The best time to harvest lavender is when the bottom flowers of each stem on the lavender plants just begin to open. This is when the plant is at its peak for s cent and color. Cut the plant at the base of the stems near the foliage and bundle them together.
Use dried lavender in everlasting flower arrangements, potpourri or aromatic sachets to keep clothes smelling fresh. When the scent eventually fades, refresh it with a few drops of pure lavender essential oil.
Lavender tends to grow best in sites that are hot and dry such as along a stone wall, on sidewalks, on a slope or poolside.
Lavender can grow up to 3 to 4 feet high and wide, depending on the variety.
While lavender isn't traditionally meant to be grown inside, there are methods you can use to plant, grow and care for lavender indoors. The location of the lavender is key—ideally next to a south-facing window that receives direct sunlight. Also, be sure to rotate the container every few days to make sure the plant is getting equal amounts of sun exposure.