Lavender (Lavandula spp.) belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It can grow 2-3 feet in length and 2-4 feet in width. Lavender is a well-known perennial herb and is well known for its scent. Lavender can easily thrive for about 15 years in the gardens and can be easily grown both from seeds and cuttings. Its longevity, growth, health, and development can be optimized by the right management and control. Lavender is a great choice for the gardens because it can be used as fragrant cut flowers, culinary herbs, natural ingredients for beauty, and crafting material. Lavender is an attractive and low-maintenance plant and can be easily planted in containers, hedges, swaths, gardens, and lawns.
Lavender has been reported to be used as a holy herb in ancient times. While some studies have also shown its significance for air freshening and adding scents to the gifts and personal items. Nowadays it is commonly used across the globe due to its therapeutic and medicinal benefits. Results of scientific studies conducted by the leading researchers have reported that regular and optimized use of lavender helps to improve sleep, skin texture, skin health, heart health, hair growth. Other than improving overall health and wellness it is also helpful to treat fungus growth, hot flashes, menstrual pain, blood pressure, and skin blemishes. Lavender has antioxidant properties and helps to accelerate the wound healing process. Levander oil is a rich source of linalool, and linalyl acetate so it also offers excellent inflammatory properties. Some studies have also shown that lavender aromatherapy is helpful to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain associated with different mental and medical conditions.
Lavender Growing Tips and Guide
Lavender plants can easily tolerate various growing conditions and surrounding temperatures, but their best growth and production can be observed in the full sun and warm conditions. Most of the lavender species are considered hardy and are categorized between 5-8 in the USDA zones. Realistically plant can grow well in these zones but their growth and quality are affected in the presence of unfavorable growing conditions.
Lavender is an extremely drought tolerant plant and can grow well with limited water application. However regular watering is required for starting the lavender plants. After the initial development growing plants can easily tolerate extended drought conditions. Overwatering must be avoided because it can cause root rotting and disease development. Growers must check the moisture contents in the soil by hand or sensors before the next watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Lavender can easily tolerate temperature fluctuations, but its growth and production are greatly affected by dampness. Dampness is more dangerous for the lavender than the cold so damp environmental conditions must be avoided. Wetting in the rhizosphere soil is a major reason for dampness in the lavender plants in the winter months. While it can lead to high humidity in the summer conditions. So appropriate irrigation scheduling can help to resolve this problem.
Leaving enough space between individual plants helps proper airflow and this circulation greatly reduces the higher humidity levels. Lavender plants can be protected from the harsh cold temperature and winter winds by planting these plants next to brick or stone walls. These walls are not only important for protection but also provide heat to the plants by absorbing radiation from sunlight and radiating it at night. Mulch layering is beneficial to protect lavender plants from freezing temperatures in the areas where freezing and thawing are most common.
Lavender plants grow well in the full sun conditions so growing plants must be placed at a point where these plants can get six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Lavender cannot grow well in the presence of filtered sunlight so unfiltered sunlight must be preferred. However, there are no requirements for continuous exposure to sunlight. Any specific area getting about three to four hours of sunlight a day and three to fours hours of sunlight in the evening or late afternoon is also considered a full sunny condition for lavender. More exposure to lavender to the sunny hours is also important to improve the overall health and growth of plants.
There are different ways and practices to improve the exposure of sunlight with the gardening plants. Pruning trees in the backyard, vines, and tall shrubs helps to improve the sunlight in the growing spaces. The use of straw, white rocks, and light-colored mulch help to reflect more sunlight on lavender. If growers are growing lavender near the fence, they must paint the fence with white color. Hanging aluminum foil sheets on or near the fence is helpful to improve more sunlight on the plants. Growers must plant lavender in lightweight containers and pots so that they can easily move the plants in sunny conditions according to requirements.
Lavender grows well in the loamy and well-drained soil. The addition of organic matter and compost is essentially helpful to improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil. Growers can also add limestone, dolomite lime, and nitrogen fertilizers to improve soil fertility before growing lavender plants.
Lavender plants grow best at the optimal soil pH so management of pH around 6 is a good approach. Gowers can use soil testing kits to check the soil pH levels. Moreover, they can also visit any nearby soil testing laboratory for detailed analysis and testing of soil. If soil pH is too high or low it can be corrected by the addition of recommended amendments. Cover the soil with mulch, and organic material to protect soil from erosion. Furthermore, it will also protect the soil from freezing temperature and high humidity.
Pest and Diseases
Lavender has significant susceptibility towards insect pests and diseases and thus it requires proper monitoring and care. Root rotting and four-lined plant bugs are major issues for growing lavenders. These bugs are dependent on the chlorophyll of the lavender leaves and can be identified by their specific greenish-yellow and bright color with various black strips on their backs.
These pests can be controlled by using insecticides but as the use of synthetic chemicals is not a good approach so biological, physical, and mechanical methods should be preferred for their elimination. The use of insecticidal soaps is also a good choice because it does not cause any toxicity hazards to the soil, plants, and environment. Root rotting can be avoided by optimized irrigation scheduling, drainage, and fertilization. Avoiding root rotting is greatly important to save plants from death and quality losses.
Common Varieties of Lavender
Spanish Lavender (stoechas)
It is also known as Fringed or French lavender. French lavender is a Mediterranean variety and produces dark purple and fragrant flowers with busy and compact foliage. While fringed lavender is a spreading and bushy shrub that produces purple-blue dense flowering spikes with a mild fragrance.
Lavandins( x intermedia)
It is a hybrid of Portuguese and English lavender. These plants have a larger size than other plant species and bloom only once a year (late summer). It has good resistance against humidity and heat-related stresses. Thus, foliar diseases and root rotting are not major issues for this variety. Moreover, it is well known for producing long flowering spikes.
English lavender(Lavandula angustifolia)
English lavender is the most commonly used variety of lavender. There are further many varieties of English lavender that are well known for producing different sizes and colors of lavender flowers. It produces two blossoms in a season and growers can even harvest lavender twice a year. Hidcote English lavender produces silver to gray colored compact foliage and compact and deep, purple-colored flowers.
How to Prune Lavender
Pruning and harvesting methods are different for different plants so careful pruning and harvesting is essentially important to get good quality yield. Improper pruning can cause stress on the plants so growers must follow instructions to get good results. Two leaf sets of lavender should be carefully pruned above the woody growing point. This practice significantly reduces the stress on the growing lavender plant. Any mishandling during the cutting can cause the root rotting of lavender plants. Moreover, leaving the two specific leaf sets also helps to stabilize the growth and allows healthier and thicker development of leaves.
However, there are different practices for pruning winter lavender as aggressive trimming is required at this time. This practice involves the removal of wooden branches down to the root hedges and tops. The plants may look like dying soon after the trimming and this condition will stay evident till summer. However, normal growth and developmental activities can be resumed by fertilization and right irrigation practices. Growers can harvest good quality and quantity of lavender within a few months after complete trimming.
Growers must remove all buds on new lavender plants soon after the emergence of green little buds. Removal of flowering buds is essentially important to keep the plant in the vegetative state that encourages hardy, and larger lavender plants. Pruning in the first growing season is essentially important to improve the plant vigor for tolerating the cold stress. No pruning in the first growing year causes compromised growth and production. Moreover, it can also cause reduced yields and low-quality products in the second and third years of the lavender life cycle.
Typically, growers must practice pruning during lavender harvesting as it helps to minimize the loss of valuable buds and saves the time associated with separate harvesting and pruning practices. The early spring season is also a good time for pruning. Growers must carefully remove the dead branches in the downward direction towards the hedge bottom. Early season spring pruning followed by nitrogen fertilization significantly improves the vegetative growth of lavender plants. Shooting up and formation of sporadic buds can be observed after the initial harvesting. Tall stems with bloomed flowers should also be removed.
How to Harvest Lavender
Growers can easily harvest and dry the lavender flowers at home. Harvest lavender soon after the opening of the lowest flowers on the stems. It is important to cut the flowers above the first leaf sets. Cut the stems as first work in the morning because there is the strongest fragrance at this time. Properly hang the harvested lavender in the form of bundles in the upside downward directions. It is important to dry the lavender plants in a dark and cool place as intensive sunlight can reduce their scent and color. Proper harvesting of lavender helps to produce vigorous and quality yields.
How to Dry Lavender
Drying Lavender Using a Dehydrator
Although growers can dry lavender in a cool, dry, and open place but open-air drying can promote contamination and quality losses. Use of food dehydrator is significantly important for better, efficient, even, and quick-drying of lavender leaves. Immediate trimming of stems before drying is essentially important to get good results. The selection of full lavender blossoms helps to get good quality. Shriveled, discolored, and diseased flowers should be removed. The collection of lavender stems in the clean and contaminant-free basket is essentially important practice.
Growers must check all leaves, flowers, and stems for insects and diseases. Removal of diseased parts and insect pests is important to reduce the further spread of the problem. Washing lavender flowers are not a good choice because it can cause direct shedding of flower parts. Evenly spread the flowering stems in a single layer in the dehydrator trays. Carefully stack these trays in the dehydrator and adjust the dehydrator to 80-100 degrees.
Turn on the dehydrator and leave it running for about two hours. Check the moisture level in the lavender with the hands and if the stems and flowers feel dry these are ready for further processing. However, if flowers and stems feel moist these should be placed in the dehydrator for one more hour. Carefully remove lavender from the dehydrator and cool the stems in the same trays. Place the dried lavender stems in plastic bags or containers. Tightly seal these bags or use the airtight lid to protect the dried lavender from environmental impurities. Over drying of the stems should be avoided as it can cause complete disintegration of the stems even by the light touch. Thus, these over-dried lavender stems cannot be used in designing and creative projects.
Drying Lavender Using the Microwave
Preheat the microwave at 100 degrees Celsius and lay harvested lavender on a baking sheet. Overlapping of lavender stalks should be avoided as it can cause uneven drying. Usually, high heat is sufficient to dry lavender in one minute only.
Drying Lavender Using an Oven
The process of lavender drying in the oven is almost similar to microwave drying. Overheating should be avoided as it can cause the disintegration of blossoms.
Drying Lavender on the Countertop
Countertop drying is the easiest process for drying lavender. This practice involves placing stalks on a dry table or countertop. Newspaper and dry racks can also be used for spreading the harvested lavender. The brittle appearance of dried lavender is evidence of good drying. However, cleanliness should be maintained to avoid contamination and disease development.
Cut a bunch of specific lavender stalks. Group 15-25 stalks and tie them properly with any rope or elastic band. This band helps the stalks to stay stick while getting dried. It can also be decorated with beautiful ribbons to give prettier looks. Hang these bundles in a dry, warm, and dark place like a cellar or basement. It is important to hang it in the upside-down direction to retain the shape of blossoms. However appropriate space should be allowed between the individual stalks to allow the circulation of air. Metal hook, wall pegs, clothing hangers can also be used for dry bunching.
How to Store Dried Lavender
Lavender must be stored in the cool, dark, and dry space, because the exposure of dried lavender with the humidity, heat, and light can reduce its quality. Light will cause color fading of the lavender buds and heat will cause fragrance fading. While the presence of moisture and humidity will cause rotting and mold attack. Lavender can be stored in airtight jars and these jars can be placed in cool, dark, and dry spaces. The use of a colored jar is also a good approach to prevent the interaction of sunlight with dried lavender.
Only completely dried lavender is suitable for storage because the presence of little moisture can also cause mold attacks and quality losses. Removal of stalks from the blooms is also an important practice for lavender storage. It can be easily done by rubbing dried lavender stalks with the hands. However, care is required because some stems are sharp and may hurt the hands.
How To Grow Lavender from seed
Lavender can be easily grown from the seeds but the use of good quality, contaminant-free, and nutrient-rich soil help for better germination. Sterile soil mix and potting mix can also be used for seed sowing and germination. The use of organic material is also a good choice for starting the seedlings because organic matter is a good source of nutrients and helps to retain more water than soil.
Appropriate watering is also helpful to keep the soil moist to support seed germination and plant development. Growers must place the seeds on the top layer of soil. There is no need to cover the seeds with the soil as covering seeds with the soils reduces the chances of seedling emergence and germination. Growers must maintain the right irrigation schedule to avoid moisture stress as it can directly kill the growing plants. Seed starting trays or any container can be used for good quality seed germination. Growers must ensure ventilation holes in the trays and containers for effective drainage.
Proper germination can be ensured by placing the seed containing trays or containers in the proper sunlight. The seeds can be grown in both indoor and outdoor conditions. However, maintenance of indoor growing conditions is greatly important to get better results. The use of grow lights is a good choice to provide light to the indoor germinating seeds.
How to Grow Lavender from Cuttings or Propagation
Lavender can be easily grown both from softwood and hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are thicker than soft cuttings and are resistant to bending. While softwood cuttings are obtained from pliable and soft tips of newer cuttings. The selection of the right cutting is also dependent on the time of years and specific seasons. Softwood cuttings are abundant in the spring season and can be easily obtained without damaging the parent plant. Softwood cuttings can easily develop new roots but are less reliable than hardwood cuttings.
Hardwood cuttings are available throughout the year and help to produce a good quality product than softwood cuttings. Irrespective of the cutting type, growers must select straight growing, healthy, and disease-free stems for rooting. Some lavender plants offer free blooming so offers difficulty for selecting the bloom-free stems. Blossoms use significant energy of plants and thus the capacity of stems to produce roots is reduced.
Growers must select the stems with no buds and good color. The use of a sharp knife is important to take both softwood and hardwood cuttings. Ideally, these cuttings should have 3-4 inches length to support good growth. Remove all leaves from the lower 5cm of stems and gently scrape the skin from the bottom portion with a knife. The cuttings can also be treated with hormones to facilitate strong and quick root development.
Stick the lower 5cm of cuttings in the well-prepared and good-quality soil. Firm the soil around this cutting so that it can easily stand in the upward direction. In the colder regions or unfavorable environmental conditions, these cuttings can also be covered with a plastic sheet to provide a greenhouse-type environment. However, direct contact and full wrapping of these cuttings with the plastic sheets should be avoided.
Can you grow lavender in a pot?
Growers can easily grow lavender in containers and pots. The use of good quality soil, organic material, potting mix, and compost in the pots and containers helps to boost growth by multiple times. The use of well-draining soil is significantly important to reduce the moisture stress and probability of diseases. The use of containers and pots with the drainage wholes is also important to improve drainage for better growth. The addition of one tablespoon of dolomite is also important to improve drainage in the pots and containers.
Mic peat, compost, and organic material in the soil to be used in the pots and containers. Properly mix all the components to provide an efficient and steady source of nutrients for the growing lavender plants. Heavy pruning must be practiced for the lavender growing in the pots so because the removal of damaged and dead plant parts helps to improve the rooting system of the growing plants. Lavender plants must be placed in the sunny spots, but these can also be moved to the partial shade in the presence of intensive sunlight and scorching heat.
The use of artificial grow light and fluorescent lights are also important to provide light to the growing plants in indoor conditions. The intensity of grow lights can be adjusted according to the requirements of lavender plants. However direct contact or touch between grow lights and plant foliage should be avoided as it can cause foliage burning. Schedule irrigation according to the requirements of the plants and when the upper two to three inches of soil are getting dried. Growers can also check the moisture contents in the soil by the finger touch method.
The use of organic fertilizers is essentially important to get maximum growth and production. Inorganic fertilizers are not good for the potting mix as these contain salts as carrier material and the presence of these salts greatly affects the soil properties. Thus, plants will not be able to perform normal tasks because plants have to use extra energy to utilize water and nutrients.
Some lavender species can easily tolerate biotic and abiotic stresses, but some species are not resistant to the stresses. So, the selection of the right species, and variety is essentially important to get maximum growth, development, and production. Meanwhile, the maintenance and management of moisture, humidity, nutrients, light, and aeration are also important for better growth.
Can You Grow Lavender Indoors?
Lavender can be easily grown in indoor conditions followed by the right care and management. Lavender is not a traditional houseplant so its growth and production in indoor conditions require more care. However, selection of right watering scheduling, using good quality organic fertilizers, grow lights, aeration and temperature management, and humidity control is important for creating the right growing conditions. While growing requirements and management practices remain the same for both indoor and outdoor growing but plants can get benefit from natural conditions in the outdoor environment. Whereas plants in the indoor conditions are only dependent on the provided conditions so any mismanagement or mishandling can directly kill the plants.