Lavender is one of the most beautiful and useful plants in the garden. It is a beloved plant that offers a trifecta of fragrance, medicinal benefits, and beautiful blue-purple flowers. In short, many gardeners want to know how to grow lavender plants.
A stunning addition to perennial borders and informal hedging, lavender has plenty of devoted fans and garden lovers. Lavender plants offer a large selection of bloom times, colors, flower forms, and sizes. Truly, you can find a lavender plant suited for just about any garden situation.
Lavender is a compact shrub-like perennial that is evergreen and deer proof. No wonder it finds its way into so many gardens and landscape designs.
Growing lavender plants every year is essential to my garden. Contrary to popular belief, lavender flowers come in not only lavender-purple hues, but also shades of pink, white, and even yellow. I find many uses for the fresh and dried flowers, from culinary to sachets, lavender wands, potpourris, and wreaths. For a guide to using lavender flowers in medicinal, culinary and household uses, read Top 10 Uses for Homegrown Lavender.
Types of Lavender Plants
Lavender plants are classified into five major categories. Each of these categories is described below.
Lavender is difficult to grow from seed, so most gardeners buy starter plants. Two good online sources for lavender plants for gardeners are High Country Gardens and Nature Hills Nursery.
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is probably the best-known and most common variety of lavender plants. It is cold hardy in USDA zones 5-8/9, and it is easy to grow in my garden in the mid-Atlantic region. It reaches a mature size of up to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
To grow English lavender plants, treat them like short-lived perennials that will survive for 8-10 years. Surviving the winter can sometimes be tricky with the freeze/thaw cycles at my home in Maryland. But locating the plant in warmer microclimates of the yard is a good way to ensure it will overwinter. English Lavender plants look great planted along a walkway or grouped together in a garden bed. One of the most popular varieties is Munstead English Lavender.
French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is a highly fragrant lavender that is associated with the famous purple lavender fields of Provence. French lavender is used to make the world-famous lavender oil from that region.
Native to the Mediterranean, this plant needs the conditions of sandy poor soil that is common there. The flower colors vary from blue-purple, lavender, violet-blue, white, and pink, and have an intense fragrance. Now widely grown and distilled for oil around the globe, French lavender has universal appeal and uses. Zones 5-10.
More Lavender Plants
Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) is also known as broadleaved lavender or spike lavender. It is native from central Portugal to northern Italy. This variety produces highly scented flowers with more camphor than English Lavender.
Portuguese lavender plants typically flower from June to September, depending on growing zone. It will grow up to 30 inches tall in zones 5-9.
Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is less cold tolerant than other lavender plants. It grows best in USDA zones 7-10, and it can handle more humid growing conditions than other lavender species.
The plant has silvery leaves and boasts larger flowers than other lavenders. The flowers are quite stunning, and they have a strong eucalyptus fragrance.
Lavandin Hybrids (Lavandula x intermedia) are English lavender hybrids that combine the cold-hardiness of English lavender plants and the heat tolerance of Portuguese lavender plants. The plants are much taller than English lavender– up to 36 inches tall at maturity!
Hybrids such as Grosso Lavender and Provence Lavender are fast growers, but they bloom later than species lavender plants. The flowers are highly fragrant, and they are well suited for making lavender wands and lavender wreaths. The plants grow well in zones 5-10.
Planting and Growing Lavender Plants
Lavender is such a wonderful herb with so many uses. If you have a well-drained location in full sun with low to moderate fertility, you can be successful in growing lavender plants.
Lavender plants love blazing hot sun, good air circulation and perfect drainage. Many people grow lavender in soil mixed with lots of gravel and grit. Because these plants require excellent drainage, they are often planted slightly above grade level.
No fertilizing is necessary. A lavender plants’ resistance to heat, drought, and deer makes it the perfect plant for mid-summer beauty. The fragrant flowers attract many pollinators, too.
Pruning and Harvesting Lavender Plants
Harvest the flowers in June when they are still in bud and show good color but have not opened up all the way. Give plants a second clipping in late summer to maintain a neat appearance.
To harvest the flowers, grab a bunch of lavender flower stems and chop off the stems at the base. Be careful not to cut into the woody part of the lavender plant. Use a rubber band to secure the bundle. Then, hang the bundle upside down to dry in a dark, well-ventilated place. The flowers should be dry and ready to use in about 10 days.
Lavender plants are available at local garden centers and online plant retailers. Click here to check availability of lavender plants on Amazon.
If you are interested in learning more about another great family of flowering plants, read Debunking Clematis Myths.
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