Lavender needs dry and sandy soil — it is also an ideal garden plant for dry summer. How to plant and care for the subshrub.
The Romans have used Lavender to prepare fragrant bath essences: The name of this plant is derived from the Latin word lavare, which means, "to wash". The English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) belongs to the Labiatae family (Lamiaceae), which also includes mint and sage. Its numerous varieties are classic summer garden plants.
The subshrub — a dwarf shrub that is woody only at the base — was originally native to the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. Found mainly on dry, warm hillsides. Most of the lavender species are also quite hardy as garden plants in our latitudes.
Out of the 25 known Lavender types, the hardy Lavandula angustifolia is mainly cultivated. However, "hardiness" is a relative term - in the wine-growing climate, lavender usually survives the cold season without any issues, but it needs protection in colder regions.
One of the best ornamental varieties is the Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote Blue”. It was discovered in the 19th century in England in the well-known Hidcote Manor Gardens and has a naturally compact and very dense growth. The popular summer bloomer for containers and balcony boxes Butterfly Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has striking bracts on the inflorescences. Unfortunately, it is not hardy.
Appearance and Growth
Lavender has a compact, pillow-shaped growth with upright, highly branched and wiry shoots. Its needle-shaped, gray green leaves and the most violet-blue, aromatic inflorescences. Multiple, lively arranged rows of flowers that form long, spike-like inflorescences that are up to 3.14 inches in height. Lavender is a perennial plant that can grow from 23.62 to 39.37 inches in height. There are varieties with pink or white blossoms. Flowering period is June to August.
Location and Soil
Lavender needs to be planted in a sunny, warm location in a nutrient-poor and well-drained soil. It is important that it doesn’t get too wet during winter, since it is very sensitive to frost.
Where to plant
You can plant Lavender as flower bed edgings or as rows of plants along walls and pathways. It grows particularly well in front of warm south-facing walls. As a fragrant plant, it enriches sunken gardens and is a popular summer bloomer for rock garden beds. It also fits perfectly with the Mediterranean garden style. Accompanying perennials can be, for example, Bearded Iris or Lamb's-ear. Lavender flowers are like a magnet for bees, butterflies and other insects in summer.
The Lavender is attractive not only because of the spike-shaped violet blooms that appear in July, but also the silver-grey lance-shaped leaves. Which make the Lavender attractive even after it has faded - especially as flower bed edgings where it unfolds its full charm and can also be kept in shape using garden shears.
Rose and Lavender are often planted together in flower beds, however, they don’t complement each other well: Although both are sun worshippers, they complement each other visually perfectly and Lavender also has the reputation of keeping aphids at bay. However, the plants differ significantly in terms of soil requirements: Lavender prefers nutrition-poor and moderately dry mineral soil, while Roses like to grow in humus-rich and loamy fresh soil that is not too low in nutrients. This problem can be solved by maintaining a planting distance of 31.49 inches to 39.37 inches and selectively making the soil lean in places where the Lavender is planted by adding construction sand. If you take the location requirements into consideration Woodland sages (Salvia Nemorosa) or Catmints (Nepeta x Faassenii) are a better choice.
It is possible to integrate the Spanish Lavender in potted plants. It has requirements similar to the English Lavender, but is usually planted as a classic balcony flower. It goes well with ornamental grasses and other structural plants and with white-bloomed balcony flowers. It is perennial like the English Lavender, but frost-free wintering is usually not worthwhile.
Lavender as medicinal and fragrant plant
Southern France in particular is famous for its sprawling Lavender fields - to the writer Jean Giono, Lavender was the "Essence de Provence", the soul of Provence. Only a few know: In France, you will find Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia), in addition to the English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It is a hybrid of English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Portugese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia). This robust hybrid has more panicles and is a high-yield plant.
English Lavender is known since ancient times as an important medicinal plant. The essential oils from flowers and leaves have a calming and harmonizing effect. Lavender blossoms are also used in cooking to refine desserts and sauces. The oils are also used as fragrances in the perfume industry, which is why the plant is grown extensively in Provence and in some regions of England. Lavender should be harvested early in the morning. When the fragrance content is at its highest. Even today, countless products are scented with Lavender: Starting with the lavender soap, continuing with the lavender candle and ending with the famous scented sachets. Lavender is also highly valued as a culinary herb for fish, lamb and salads.
Lavender has been known for ages as an important medicinal plant. The essential oils from flowers and leaves have a calming and harmonizing effect. In the kitchen, Lavender flowers are often used to refine desserts and sauces. The oils are also used as fragrances in the perfume industry, which is why the plant is cultivated extensively in Provence, but also in some regions of England. Harvesting Lavender is recommended early in the morning. This is when the fragrance content is at its highest. Even today, countless products are still perfumed with Lavender: From Lavender Soap to Lavender Candle to the famous scented sachets. Lavender is also highly appreciated as a kitchen spice for fish, lamb and salads.
Jean Valnet, military doctor in the French army, treated numerous burns and other injuries during the Indochina War (1950-1952) using Lavender oil. In his notes, he praised the excellent effects of Lavender oil on wound healing. As of now, over 160 compounds have been identified, which collectively bring out in the astonishing healing capability of Lavender.
Lavender tea is also a well-tried home remedy and soothes a wide range of complaints. Drinking Lavender tea, just before hitting the bed, is relaxing and give you a deep, sound sleep. Lavender tea has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect and can also be used as a natural medicine against sore throat and throat infections. It is easy to prepare. Lavender tea relieves gas, bloating and abdominal cramps — a proven remedy for indigestion.
Lavender tea is easy to prepare: Put two heaped teaspoons of Lavender flowers in a tea ball, brew them with a quarter liter of boiling water and let the tea steep for about 10 minutes. The taste of pure Lavender tea takes some getting used to, but can be improved by adding other herbs such as Valerian or sweet Fennel. If possible, do not drink more than one cup a day, because Lavender tea in large quantities could damage the mucous membranes in the digestive tract.
You need to prune Lavender regularly, otherwise it will rot and disintegrate. The first, light pruning of the plants is done immediately after flowering. In early spring, the Lavender is then aggressively pruned up to the woody parts. The plant will branch out at the intersections, and that way it remains compact and bushy. Since the subshrubs do not always tolerate pruning up to the old wood, well, an annual cut in early spring is important. In the early fall you can remove the withered flower stalks once more.
Additional care tips
Do not use any Fertilizer or compost. Lavender loves mineral soil and too many nutrients adversely affect the growth of the shoots, as the plants fatten and lose their stability. You only need to water your Lavender if dry conditions persist.
The key is a warm location protected from cold east winds and a well-drained soil so that the Lavender can survive the winter even in cooler climates. Winter wetness is particularly troublesome for subshrubs and can lead to them fall through. In fall, you must provide winter protection for the Lavender by mulching it at the stem base and additionally covering it with pine brushwood. Typically, protective measures are not required in the winegrowing regions.
As a potted plant, the English Lavender can remain outdoors all year round if you place the plant along with the pot in a location protected from wind and rain in winter, place the pot in a wooden box and fill it with insulating bark mulch. Water the Lavender on frost-free days only so much that the root ball doesn’t dry out.
In spring, you can propagate Lavender from cuttings. These are a byproduct of pruning and it is best to root them in sand under a plastic wrap. The propagation of cuttings is still possible later in the season. Occasionally Lavender reseeds itself, but the offspring are then not true to variety.
Diseases and pests
Lavender is largely free of diseases and pests. Thanks to its essential oils aphids and avoid other insect pests. Snails don’t come either. The only disease by which the plants are more frequently attacked, in excessively humid locations is the so-called stem rot, which is caused by a fungus of the genus Phytophtora. If an infection is spotted in time, commercially available fungicides can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
When to plant the Lavender?
You can plant Lavender in the garden starting from April.
How does the Lavender grow?
Lavender is a Mediterranean subshrub that grows in the coastal regions around the Mediterranean sea. Lavender prefers a warm and sunny location in the garden with a well-drained and nutrient-poor soil.
How often do you have to water Lavender and how much water does it need?
Normally, it is sufficient to water the Lavender every few days. However, Lavender needs a little more water in the pot than in the flower bed. Check with a finger test whether the substrate is dry. The soil needs to be slightly damp for the first few days only while planting.
When to replant the Lavender?
You can replant Lavender relatively safely in the first three to four years, after which it may become critical. The best time to replant is early spring from mid-February to mid-April. If you replant in fall, the plants definitely need winter protection.
When to prune the Lavender?
It is recommended to prune Lavender in spring as soon as there is no danger of permanent frost, anymore. In summer, prune the Lavender after flowering.
How to prune the Lavender?
Follow the "one-third-two-thirds method": In summer, the withered inflorescences are removed by pruning back the shoots by about one third. In spring, the Lavender is pruned back by about two thirds.
When to harvest Lavender?
If you wish to harvest the Lavender, for example, drying Lavender properly, you should cut the flowers together with the stems, shortly before flowering. You can also use the fresh blossoms.
Which Lavender is hardy?
The English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) is a hardy plant and can survive the winters in mild regions without winter protection. In harsher regions, it should be protected with brushwood or mulch.
Are there white Lavenders?
Yes, there are white Lavenders.
Which Lavender do bees prefer?
All Lavender types and varieties are suitable for bees or attract bees.