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how to grow Lavender

How to grow Lavender

At some point, almost every gardener will get the urge to grow Lavender! Despite its Mediterranean origins, this irresistible herb has become a stalwart of the English Cottage Garden - well loved for both its fragrance and appearance.

Lavender plants are easy to grow, but it’s worth knowing a little about them to get the best displays and prevent them becoming thin and straggly. Read on to learn how to grow Lavender plants. Take a look at our range of Lavender plants for sale online and buy some today, to enjoy these fabulous evergreen plants in your own garden.

Types of Lavender

There are many species of Lavender with countless varieties and cultivars, from traditional purple forms to white lavender plants and dwarf lavender cultivars. The most commonly available varieties can generally be broken into 3 main groups, English Lavender, French Lavender and Lavandin hybrids.

Type Latin name Flowering period Characteristics Hardiness in UK Favourite cultivars
English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia June/ July A single flush of flowers on long stems. Fully hardy Lavender 'Hidcote', Lavender 'Munstead'
French Lavender Lavandula stoechas May to September if deadheaded Showy flowers topped with distinctive bracts, carried on short stems Borderline coping with short periods between -5°C and -10°C (14-23°F) Lavender 'Fathead', Lavender 'Bandera'
Lavandin Sterile Lavandula hybrids July/ August Vigorous plants flowering on very long stems Less hardy than English Lavender but hardy to -10°C (14°F) Lavender x intermedia 'Edelweiss'

Growing Lavender from seed

sow lavender

Most people prefer to buy pre-grown lavender plants, but if you are on a budget or enjoy a challenge then you can grow your own Lavender plants from seed.

  • Sow Lavender seeds from February to July on the surface of moist seed compost.
  • Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of vermiculite or finely sieved compost.
  • Place the seed tray in a propagator at 21-25°C (70-75°F) or seal it inside a clear polythene bag until germination, which can be up to 21 days.
  • Keep the compost damp but not wet and do not exclude light as this helps germination.
  • When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into 7.5cm (3") pots and grow lavender plants on in cooler conditions until they are well established.
  • When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise young Lavender plants to outdoor conditions over 7 - 10 days before planting outdoors.

Growing Lavender plants

lavender pathway

Given its Mediterranean origins it should come as no surprise that Lavender plants enjoy a free draining soil in full sun. Lavenders tolerate chalky soils well, and cope reasonably well with dry conditions once established. They make useful shrubs for coastal positions and hot, dry gravel gardens. You can even plant a Lavender hedge for a lovely informal edging that will attract plenty of pollinating insects to the garden.

Avoid planting Lavender in wet ground as this will cause the plants to rot. Heavy soil conditions can be improved with the addition of coarse grit or sharp sand prior to planting.

Alternatively, grow Lavender in containers, using a well drained soil based compost such as John Innes No. 3. Mix in some slow release fertiliser prior to planting to get your plants off to the best start. Each Lavender plant will need a container measuring at least 30cm (12") diameter.

After planting Lavender it is important to water them regularly during their first growing season until they are fully established. This is especially important during periods of hot, dry weather. Once established, Lavender is reasonably drought tolerant.

Pruning Lavender

Lavender plants will need pruning each year in order to prevent them becoming sparse and woody. After flowering, in late summer, prune lavender plants back to within 2cm (1") of the previous year's growth to maintain a compact, well shaped plant. It is important to leave some of the current year’s growth on each stem as Lavender tends to be slow to regrow from old wood. Neglected, woody plants are best replaced.

lavender pots

How to use Lavender

In the kitchen, Lavender makes an interesting flavouring for cakes and other recipes. You can even make delicious lavender sugar for adding to biscuits, sorbets, jams or jellies. Add Lavender flowers to vegetable stock and create a tasty sauce for duck, chicken or lamb dishes. If you are a keen Bee keeper then lavender is well worth growing for making lavender honey.

Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties and can be used to make home-made soaps and bath oils that will help you unwind for a good night’s sleep.

Common problems

Lavender is easy to grow but does suffer from root rot when grown in wet conditions. This can often be avoided by improving the soil prior to planting.

One of the major pests of Lavender is the Rosemary Beetle. This is shiny metallic looking beetle is quite striking in its appearance, but will quickly decimate the foliage of the plant. Most of the damage occurs between late summer and spring, leaving the plants looking distinctly tatty.

Rosemary Beetle is best controlled by removing the beetles and grubs by hand. Pesticides can be effective, but these should be avoided if you intend to use the lavender for making edible products. Avoid spraying when the plants are in flower as this will kill beneficial pollinating insects too.

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Sue Sanderson

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.