Lavender is an irresistibly fragrant and attractive woody perennial in the garden. The lovely, finely cut, gray-green foliage releases a perfume when you brush against it, and the purple blooms offer color throughout the summer.
As a garden plant, it serves as contrast in herb or rock gardens, and provides a long-lasting display in containers. It is a tough plant, drought-tolerant, thrives in heat and is deer-resistant, too.
Do you need more reasons to love lavender? Let’s see: The purple blooms can be cut and used in bouquets, dried and tucked into sachets, or add fragrance to beauty concoctions like sugar scrubs.
As a culinary herb, it can be mixed with salt for a gourmet finish for fish or chicken. When combined with sugar, it will take your favorite shortbread or pound cake recipe to the next level. It’s the perfect herbal accompaniment to a fancy tea.
Lavender has a lot going for it, but keep in mind that it’s native to the Mediterranean and thrives in arid climates like Texas and New Mexico, where it’s grown as a cash crop. Lavender can be winter hardy to USDA Zone 5, but check plant tags for the variety that will grow best in your area.
In the Garden Center, you’ll find two varieties from Bonnie Plants: Ellagance and Spanish Eyes Fernleaf Lavender. Ellagance is perennial in zones 5 to 7 and grows about 12 to18 inches tall. Spanish Eyes Fernleaf Lavender is the best choice for Southern, humid climates. It’s perennial in zones 7 to 10 and grows 16 to 25 inches tall. Spanish Eyes is a popular choice for containers; just be sure to provide good air circulation around the plants, and add plenty of organic compost to the potting mix for drainage.
For success with lavender, pay attention to the soil. Lavender likes well-draining, alkaline soils. If your soil tends to clay, amend with plenty of organic compost.
This plant prefers an alkaline pH from 6.7 to 7.3. If you think your soil is acidic, get a soil test from the Garden Center or your local Cooperative Extension Service. Amend acid soil with organic dolomite lime to “sweeten the soil” and attain the proper pH.
Lavender doesn’t always grow true from seed. The lavender sold at the Garden Center starts as a cutting, and propagation is still the best way to make more plants. Take cuttings from lavender plants right after they bloom and place in good quality potting mix to root.
Lavender isn’t troubled by pests or diseases, but as with most plants, pay attention in times of drought or heavy rain for signs of stress or mildew. If it’s in a container, you may be able to move it to a more ideal site. Improved air circulation and maybe a repotting will give lavender a boost.
To harvest, pick leaves and stems at any point in the growing season. The color is most intense before buds open, and the fragrance increases as the flowers mature.
Dried lavender will keep its fragrance for months. Stems will stay fresh in water for about a week. Dry or freeze the leaves for longer storage.
Learn More About Lavender in these Garden Club stories: