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Growing Lavender 101

 
Lavender Facts & Information:
Lavender (Lavandula) is such a wonderfully romantic flower that it should be required that every gardener grow it. This amazing plant is a native of the Mediterranean and a lover of sunny, dry, rocky habitats. Northern California, particularly Whitmore, CA can definitely fit into this category, so we planted a few thousand to see how it would work. Think of ‘Tuscan’, ‘Provence,’ and ‘Grosso’, three of the hardiest and best loved lavender varieties in the West. This is a good place to start a discussion of growing and cultivating the luxurious lavender.

**Below is information and research we have collected from various lavender nurseries, books, and Internet resources**

Choosing a Lavender for you:

You've found a great lavender website but there are so many plant choices.  
These are some questions to think about before purchasing Lavender for your area.

What is my Climate and Zone Like?

If you are unsure of your Climate or Hardiness Zone, ask your State extension service or other gardeners in your area what your local USDA zone is. Or,
CLICK HERE for the National Arboretum USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.  


What do I have room for?

Some lavender plants can surprise you. Some varieties can explode in growth and grow extremely large in height and width, while others stay incredibly small. Here we some estimated plant sizes of common adult lavender and the approximate spacing you may need, to give you an idea of how many plants may fill a space:

Lavandula Angustifolia (True Lavender):
Can grow up to 24” tall x 22” wide (space > 2.5ft.)
Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin):
Can grow up to 36" tall x 36" wide (space at > 3ft.)
Lavandula stoeches (Spanish Lavender)
Can grow up to 24” tall x 36” wide (Space 3-4ft.)
Lavandula ang. x lanata hybrids range in size (space at 2.5-3ft)


What’s your favorite color?

Do you know how many different varieties and colors there are? A lot! It seems that there are so many varieties that are so alike yet so uniquely different. The overall color effect is derived from corolla color, calyx color, and sometimes sterile bracts. When we are selecting a variety for its unique color we research the calyx (this is the fuzzy part commonly used to make sachet). The calyx color is visible before, during, and after the corollas open and this color is what will remain when stems are dried. Lavender calyx colors include snow white, greens, yellows, light and dark pinks, reds, and dark mauve. There are several different shades of blues, violets, and yes, of course a wide range of purples!

What am I going to use my plant for?

Lavender is commonly used for the purposes of ornamental shrubs, oil production, dry and fresh flowers, sachet, fragrant crafts and in cooking. Here are the common uses for some different types of Lavender.

Lavandula Angustifolia (True Lavender) Landscape, low hedges, oil production, fresh cut and dry flowers, sachet, crafting, and it is our favorite for use as a culinary delight.
Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin) Landscape, hedges, oil production, fresh cut flowers, (some work well for dried flowers), sachet, fragrant crafts, often suggested for culinary use but we find it too strong in fragrance and flavor.
Lavandula ang. x lanata (wooly hybrids) Landscape, low hedges, fresh cut flowers
Lavandula stoeches (Spanish Lavender) Landscape, hedges, fresh cut flowers

Typical uses for Essential Oil:

~Aromatherapy:
simply stated, this is the practice of using herbs, flowers, and essential oils extracted from them for healing, relaxing, and balancing the mind, spirit, and body. Smell is one of our most powerful senses. What we smell can have a profound impact on how we feel. Lavender essential oil is extracted from the plant through steam distillation. The flowers, leaves, and stems are steamed, releasing the fragrant oils.

~To scent bath water: add a few drops to the bath to enjoy the relaxing and soothing aromas of this wonderful flower, and delicately scent the skin.

~To soothe skin irritations: such as sunburn, insect bites, eczema, minor cuts and scrapes, even for athletes foot.
Pure lavender essential oil is one of the few essential oils that can be applied undiluted directly to the skin a few drops at a time to soothe the skin and promote healing. (While there are no noted side effects to lavender oil, it is possible some people may have an allergic reaction to lavender oil.)

~To ease headache and tension: apply a few drops to your temples and rest quietly. Lavender eye pillows are also helpful for this purpose.

Lavender sachets will fill your drawers and closets with a fresh clean fragrance, (and repel moths at the same time!) Use lavender as a natural air freshener instead of the chemical-filled products saturating the market today. Walk into your house after a long, hard day and smell the fresh bowl of dried lavender buds on your coffee table. Kick off your shoes, sit back and place a lavender eye pillow over your eyes. Pamper yourself by sleeping with a lavender-filled pillow. Life is so short, enjoy every breath!

Lavender is commonly prescribed by aroma*therapists to help reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia and mild depression. It is often referred to as a mood balancing herb that possesses a sedative and calming effect. It can also have an uplifting, refreshing and rejuvenating effect on the psyche. Lavender pillows, eye pillows, bath salts and floral waters are a wonderfully easy way to enjoy the soothing effects of lavender aromatherapy. All you have to do is relax, breathe in the scent, and enjoy! There is nothing difficult or complicated about it. If you haven't experienced the wonderful effects of the scent of lavender for yourself, get shopping! There really isn't anything like the fresh, potent scent of lavender.

**It is often cautioned that pregnant and nursing women and cancer patients should not consume or use lavender. It is also recommended that people using medications such as tranquilizers and pain killers use caution to avoid extreme drowsiness. While there are many recent and pending studies on the effects of lavender, use of lavender for the prevention or cure of disease has not been approved by the FDA or USDA. The products offered on this website are not intended to cure, treat or prevent any disease. The information on this site is based on historic use of lavender, for general reference, and on our own personal experiences with lavender. **

Cultivation:

Two basic requirements for successful lavender growing are full sun and good drainage. Lavender is a very hardy plant and
will tolerate neglect, but to insure the best results, a lavender plant will flourish best if these two requirements are met. In
return, you will be rewarded with a beautiful, aromatic and bountiful display of flowers during the summer months.
Lavender is native to rocky, Mediterranean regions with alkaline soil and a lot of sun so it's our job to create conditions to
make it feel at home.   And, where better than, Shasta Counties: Whitmore, CA.  
 
If you know or suspect that your soil is leaning toward the acidic side we recommend that you sprinkle a handful of lime (Calcium Carbonate) around the drip line of the plant.  It's recommended to use lime when you transplant as well, mixing it into the surface soil will help the lavender to adjust a bit more easily to its new home. 
 
Lavender needs full sun to grow densely and have bountiful blooms.   In optimal conditions the plant should receive 8+
hours of direct sunlight during its regular growing season.   It is not recommended to limit when it comes to light. Plants
receiving 5 hours or less of direct sunlight will be leggy and bloom will be less than desirable. We highly recommend at
least 6 hours of direct sunlight and in this exposure it is important that the plant is receiving this in the afternoon
(morning and evening light is not as intense) when the sun is directly above.

Drainage is a very big issue. Lavender is a very hardy plant but if there is one thing that can weaken it, it would be poor
drainage. Lavender plants should never be planted in a sloshy or boggy area of your yard.  It’s not recommended to plant
lavender near an outdoor faucet or sprinkler.  If you dig a hole and it fills with water at any time of the year, other than
immediately after a heavy rain, it is a good indication not to plant lavender in this location.  

If you have this type of environment, we recommend building a raised bed or a mound to insure drainage of water away
from the plants roots.   We also recommend using a transplanting fertilizer be added to the soil prior to transplanting.   
Generally, when plants look like they are struggling or have a slight yellowish hue, this could be the result of a lack of
nutrients or not enough water.   In this situation a light fertilizer and/or watering more frequently may be the answer.

When propagating cuttings from strong new growth can be done in spring and late summer or autumn.  Once rooted, plant
them in a well drained, poor soil. Foliage will yellow in poorly drained soil. The bushes tend to look after themselves and
respond to an annual pruning in fall after flowering or in early spring. Bushes tend to straggle as they mature and it is often
necessary to cut back severely in fall to generate strong growth.
*We highly recommend the propagation form of reproduction as opposed to sowing from seeds. Sowing lavender seeds can
be a fruitless, lengthy, and unpredictable battle. You never can really know what you are going to get.  

Transplanting:

When you begin to plant or transplant dig your holes approximately three times the size of the pot size you’re starting
with.  This is the time to mix your soil with lime, or an organic transplanting fertilizer, and to loosen the roots thoroughly,
without breaking too many off.   Be sure to the majority of the roots are pointed downwards when situating the plant in the hole.   It is most important that the woody stem of the plant is not covered with soil (planting too deep can often lead to stem rot).   Water the plant in thoroughly and remember when transplanting lavender during the summer months that it though it may look as if the ground is wet but the plant may have sucked the immediate soil around its roots dry in the first few weeks after transplant.  Keep a watchful eye during the first few weeks and water as needed.   

Pruning Techniques and Tips:  

The most important thing is not to be afraid!  Lavender is a woody shrub so it rarely works to cut the plant off at the ground and expect it to rejuvenate itself from the remaining stem and root tissue.   Plants need to be pruned every year to keep a dense round shape and to ensure a prolific bloom. The only exception to this is the first season growth.  After transplanting, simply cut off the finished flower spikes where it emerges from the leaves of the plant in the fall.   Lavender that has not been maintained will become weak, top heavy, and split (Lovingly nicknamed “Poodle Lavender”).   
 
We often receive questions regarding what to do with these split plants but there is little that can be done after the damage has
occurred.   Shape the plant, as best you can, and live with it or start over with a new plant.   Lavender can be pruned any time of year but I highly recommend Fall pruning.   After plants have finished bloom, this depends on variety and what region you live in, it’s time for pruning.   Pruning right after or during bloom allows the plant to recover and put on some new growth before winter.   
 
Harvesting early on Lavandula Angustifolia (True Lavender) varieties will promote a second bloom in most years.   It's hard to do to a plant in the middle of summer, when everything is at its prime, but doing this early ensures that you don't have to look at a cut back lump of twigs in your yard all winter.   
 
When pruning we recommend that you cut the plant foliage back at least one third each year, being careful not to cut into the old wood. Counting up an individual stem there should be at least three strong individual leaf clusters minimum. It isn't a science but the leaf cluster count should be somewhere between three and six consistently to make a nice round shape. By fall, the leaf clusters will grow into new foliage, hopefully creating beautiful silver mounds for the winter ahead.  

Pruning Lavandula stoeches (Spanish Lavender) can be a challenge in that in some seasons it never stops blooming.   
Dead heading defiantly promotes continuous blooms during the season.  Our best recommendation would be to prune it at
least once a season (Early Fall is best), removing stray growth and shaping the plant back to a manageable size.
Avoid late fall / early winter pruning of Spanish lavender and leave plenty of leaf material.  
If you feel you have a special situation or question we’re always glad to help you through.

A short lavender lesson:

Ultimately, the Genus Lavandula consists of over 30 species of small shrubs or herbs.  Genus Lavandula is dived into six
sections: Section Lavandula (formerly Spica; native to France); Section Stoechas (native to Mediterranean regions); Section
Dentata (native to Mediterranean, Macronesia and Arabia); Section Pterostoechas (native to North Africa and Macronesia);
Section Chaetostachys (native to the Peninsula India);  and Section Subnuda (native to the Arabian Peninsula and adjacent
parts of Africa).  Of these, Section Lavandula contains the most commonly grown and hardiest of the lavender genus.

HARDY LAVENDERS
English Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia, is the most widely cultivated species (synonyms - L. vera, L. latifola, L. officinalis,
L. spica, L. delphinensis). The common narrow-leafed variety grows 1-3 ft high with a short but irregular crooked, much-
branched stem, covered with a yellowish-gray bark, which comes off in flakes and very numerous erect straight, broom-like,
slender, bluntly quadrangular branches, finely pubescent with stellate hairs. The leaves are opposite, sessile, entire, blunt
and linear or lance-shaped. When young, leaves are white with dense stellate hairs on both surfaces with strongly revolute
margins. When full grown, leaves become greener and extend up to 2 1/2 in long, with scattered hairs above, smooth or
finely downy beneath, with the margins only slightly revolute. Flowers are produced in terminating one-half-inch-long
spikes from the young shoots, on long stems. The spikes are composed of whorls or rings of flowers, each composed of six to
ten flowers; the lower whorls becoming more distant from each other. The flowers themselves are very shortly stalked,
three to five together in the axils of rhomboidal, brown, thin, dry bracts. Leaflike bracts are in an opposite arrangement
below each whorl. They are usually shorter than the calyces. According to Tucker and Hensen (1985) lavenders can be
distinguished by their bracts; those of L. angustifolia are ovate-rhombic in outline, with a length/width ratio of 0.83 to 2.20
with bracteoles absent or up to 2.5 mm long. The calyx is tubular and ribbed, with thirteen veins, purple-gray in color, five-
toothed and hairy with shiny oil glands among the hairs visible with a hand lens. The majority of the oil extracted from the
flowers is contained in the glands on the calyx. The 2-lipped corolla is a bluish-violet color. Flowering is generally from mid
to late June to early July.
There are many cultivars of English Lavender including the white dwarf Nana Alba, also pink varieties designated Rosea,
Jean Davis, and Lodden Pink, which may be the same cultivar. Cultivars with dark flowers include Twickle Purple, Dwarf
Blue, Hidcote, Royal Purple, Loddon Blue, Middachten Nana Atropurperea, Mitcham Cray, Munstead, and Summerland
Supreme. Lavender-blue flowered cultivars include Backhouse Purple, Bowles Early, Compacta, Folgate, Graves, Gray Lady,
Gwendolyn Anley, Irene Doyle, and Maillette.
Of the various blue cultivars, Irene Doyle (Tucker, 1984) is considered unique in its ability to flower twice. Its excellent
fragrance and concentrations of essential oil make it suitable for commercial harvest. 'Irene Doyle' was the first recurrent-
blooming lavender discovered by Thomas Debaggio of Earth Works Nursery in Arlington VA. Other recurrent bloomers
introduced by Debaggio are 'W. G. Doyle', which he calls dark supreme lavender, and 'Susan Belsinger.'
Another cultivar, L. Lady, was the 1994 winner of the All-American Selection. Its unique attributes include that it
germinates quickly (14-28 days; 78% germination), it comes true from seed, and blooms the first year (south- 3 months;
north- 5-6 months). This cultivar was developed by the late Ted Torrey, head plant breeder for W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
Lavandin, Lavendula. x intermedia (syn. L. hybrida) is an interspecific hybrid between L. angustifolia and L. latifola and has
intermediate characteristics (angustifolia = narrow; latifola = broad). Lavandin is a sterile hybrid and must be vegetatively
propagated. It has ovate-rhombic bracts like English lavender but the width to length ratio is 1.33 to 3.00 and bracteoles
are always 1-4 mm long. Both leaf size and plant height (3 ft) are larger in lavandin when compared to English lavender.
Typically, lavandin varieties bloom 3-4 weeks later than English lavender and have significantly higher essential oil
concentrations. It is widely cultivated for nursery production and also grown commercially as a source of essential oil.
Commercial lavandin oil- and flower- producing cultivars include, Grosso, Abrialii, Super, Standard, Maime Epis.
Horticultural cultivars include Dutch, Grappenhall, Hidcote Giant, Old English, Provence, Seal, and Silver Gray.

TENDER LAVENDERS:
L. latifolia, or Spike Lavender,
is one of the species that makes up the lavandin hybrid but is not hardy, being a native of
the Mediterranean. It is grown primarily for its essential oil and is rare in the U.S. It can reach 3 feet in height and spread.
L. lanata, wooly lavander, is an exceptional potpourri plant because of its balsam-lavender fragrance.
This plant is a 2-3 foot shrub with fragrant, lilac-colored spikes blooming in midsummer.
L. heterophylla, grows up to 4 feet in height and is suitable for growing in containers.
It is characterized by its irregularly shaped, toothed leaves and unusual gray-green foliage.

French lavender or Fringed lavender (Lavendula dentata) grows up to three feet in height. Leaves are 1 1/4 inch long;
linear-oblong with rounded teeth at margins, grayish in color and covered with soft fuzz. The spikes are up to 1 3/4-inch
long and 1/2 inch diameter. The 1/4 inch wide, purple, oblong to oval-shaped bracts are up to 1/2 inch in length with 3/8-
inch dark purple flowers. This species grows in Spain and warm temperate regions. It is generally treated as an annual and
grown as an ornamental. This species is grown for its rosemary-scented flowers and for potpourri production.

L. stoechas, Spanish lavender, is a woody shrub growing to four feet tall with linear to oblong, lance shaped leaves about
3/4 inch diameter with 3/8 inch, dark purple flowers. Its elegant flowers are often used for dried flower production. Spanish
lavenders tolerate more acid soils than other lavenders but are not hardy and need to be treated as annuals
and are generally grown as ornamentals.

L. multifida, (fern-leaf lavender), L. pinnata, and L. canariensis are characterized by their lacy, finely divided
fern-like leaves with solitary spikes in threes (trident-form). All three adapt well to container growing but are not
widely cultivated in the U.S.
L. canariensis, native to the Canary Islands, has feathery foliage with dark-blue flower spikes with a turpentine scent.
According to Tom DeBaggio, it self sows so prolifically that it can be treated as an annual.

A hybrid cross between L. dentata and L. latifolia, is known as Lavandula x allardii, or giant lavender. It can reach 5 feet in
height and 4 feet in spread with indented or scalloped leaves and very large violet-purple flower heads. L. Sawyers, is
another hybrid (L. angustifolia and L. lanata) which is considered half-hardy. It is characterized by large gray leaves with
flowers ranging from lavender-blue to deep purple. Its flowers are dried for crafting and for use in potpourri.

Recommended Varieties for Northern California:

Lavandula angustifolia (True Lavender or English) Zones 5-8
‘Royal Purple’
beautiful dark velvety purple flowers and a has a sweet fragrance. 7-10” tall.
'Tuckers Early Purple' A Farm favorite. Grows beautiful dark purple flowers. 24" tall
'Hidcote Blue' Culinary favorite, and is the lavender of choice for its deep, dark purple flowers. 24" tall
'Hidcote Pink' is one of my favorite pinks. Wonderful culinary variety. 22" tall
‘Miss Katherine’ produces the darkest pink flower spikes. 18"-20" tall

L. x intermedia (Lavandin Not French) Zones 5-8
'Provence'
dries particularly well and is used as a Culinary variety. 30" tall
'Grosso' is highly disease resistant and fragrant. Widely grown for quantity (not quality)oil production. 30" tall

L. dentata (Fringed Lavender or French) Zones 8-9
In higher elevations it is recommended to cover this plant to protect it from the cold, or plant in a container
and bring in during winter months. This is a bushy, spreading shrub that produces dense purple-blue flower
spikes that are very pretty, but only mildly fragrant. 3' tall

L. stoechas (Spanish Lavender) Zones 8-9
A beautiful Mediterranean native that is compact and bushy with fragrant, dark purple
flowers topped by a feathery purple bract. Good cultivars include: ‘Dark Eyes’ and ‘Silver Frost’.

L. stoechas subsp. pedunculata (Spanish Lavender) Zones 9-10
Bears its flower stalks high above the foliage. In higher elevations it is recommended to cover this plant
to protect it from the cold, or plant in a container and bring in during winter months.
 
 


Final Suggestions from Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens & Lavender Farms from Across the Web:
 
·                             Full sun - Lavender's grey leaves protect it from the intensity of even our summer sun. Anything less than full
sun and your lavender is liable to grow weak and lanky in habit. The only exception to this comes with container
grown plants which can suffer more from drying out if you aren't home to water as often as they need it than they
will from light shade for a few hours.
·                             Good drainage - Lavender can't survive if its roots are wet for any length of time. Chose the location for your
lavender plants with this in mind. A gentle slope or a raised bed make a good home for in-the-ground lavender
plants. The top of a low wall is an ideal spot if lavender's other requirements are also met.
·                             Amend your soil - Heavy red clay isn't exactly lavender's cup of tea. If you are planting directly in the
ground, add generous amounts of compost, and sand and be prepared to lime yearly to help counteract the natural
acidity of the soil. You may even want to consider adding a whole bag of purchased good quality container growing
mix to the area you plan to plant your lavender. Mixed in well, it will also add some volume, creating a slight raised
bed aspect as well as improving drainage, lowering soil ph, etc.
·                             Try containers - While you are trying to find out where lavender will be happiest in your garden (and this
may take a couple of years) plant a few pots of lavender to enjoy on your deck or patio. Lavender usually does very
well in containers in the Southeast. Start with a 4" purchased plant planted in an 8" pot and move it on to a 10" or
12" pot in late summer. Pull the pots up close to the house, put them in a sheltered spot in the garden, or bring them
into a cool sunroom or greenhouse to overwinter.
They will have to survive the winter to be old enough to flower for you the following summer.
·                           Select appropriate varieties - Though many people have good success in our areas with English lavender, your
chances of success will probably be increased if you choose one of the intermediate hybrids. These sterile hybrids
between English lavender and some of the tender spike lavenders offer greater heat resistance while still having the
great fragrance and beautiful. flower spikes of the English. Lavender 'Provence' is one of these newer hybrids.
See the list of recommended varieties below for more.
·                          Good air circulation - We can't do much about the heat or the humidity, but we can do a little to prevent
fungus from attacking the plants in mid-summer. Space plants far enough apart that their branches don't touch. Space
plants 2 to 3 feet apart and the same distance from other herb plants. Remove a few branches from the interior of the
plant to open it up a little. Remove dead leaves from around the base of the plants each spring.
·                             Mulch - Instead of the pine bark or other similar products we are used to mulching our gardens with, try
something different with your lavender plants. I have seen and read of a variety of mulch materials used with good
success on lavender. Light colors are supposed to reflect light back up and into the plants, helping reduce fungal
disease.  
Try clean sand, the small, round landscaping pebbles sold in bags, crushed or powdered oyster shell or even limestone chips.
·                             Adequate water - We tend to think of lavender as being fairly drought tolerant, and mature plants are. But
first year plants are especially susceptible to drying out, so water regularly during dry spells.
·                          Prune - Lightly prune older plants in early spring. This shaping up will stimulate new growth for the coming
season. Don't prune any other time except to remove misshapen branches. Later pruning can result in new, soft
growth that will be susceptible to winter cold, and the whole plant may be weakened or killed back.
·                             Harvest - The joy of even one large lavender plant (not to mention LOTS of large lavender plants!) is in the
hundreds of gorgeous flower spikes that cover the plant when it's in bloom. Ideally you have at least two or three
plants, so you can admire one in the garden and harvest the others. It seems hard to cut off the blossoms just as the
buds are swelling, but if you don't, you won't have any beautiful lavender to admire all winter,
or to use for gifts and crafts later.
·                             Expect losses and take um' in stride - Some varieties of Lavender is often a short-lived (very short
sometimes!). Often the plant will do beautifully the second and sometimes third years, then die. Expect to have to
replant periodically. The best strategy is to plant out a few new ones each year, trying new varieties as they become
available.  That way you will always have some plants in their prime to bloom.

Give Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens a call and let us know what your environment is like.  
For a nominal fee, we can consult and assist you with your ideas and designs for growing the
perfect lavender plant variety in your home or garden.