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How to Care for and Harvest Lavender Plants

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful garden plants. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

Lavender is a gorgeous (and gorgeous-smelling!) plant to grow in your garden.

Lavender is a gorgeous (and gorgeous-smelling!) plant to grow in your garden.

Basic Facts About the Lavender Plant

Known for its vibrantly colored bloom, bushy structure, and fragrant aroma, the lavender plant is quite a distinctive addition to a garden. Although it is most commonly associated with the classic color purple, there are actually three primary types of lavender: tall English lavender, Spanish lavender, and French lavender.

All lavender types require full sun, prefer well-draining soil, and are winter-hardy in milder climates. The strong-scented flowers produce a variety of blooms, such as white or pale purple to bluish-purple, depending upon the variety. The needle-like leaves are frequently a greyish-green color.

How to Care for Lavender in a Container

In addition to growing naturally in the garden, lavender grows great in large containers too. Since the plant can grow quite large, consider starting off with a large pot, at least 12 to 16 inches wide, in order to accommodate fierce growth.

Here are some basic tips for caring for a potted lavender plant:

  1. Fill the bottom two inches of the pot with packing peanuts. Not only will this expedite drainage, but it will also keep your pot from getting too heavy. (This is especially important if you decide to have a statement pot in your garden with a large cluster of lavender.)
  2. Combine potting soil with a lime, following package directions for the proper ratio of lime to soil. Add enough soil to that container so that the potted lavender will sit about one inch about the soil line.
  3. Add additional soil to the pot as necessary, and add some fertilizer pellets to the remaining topsoil.
  4. Layer the soil with white landscaping pebbles, which reflect light and aid plant growth.
  5. Place potted lavender plants in a full-sun area that will receive at least eight hours of sun per day.
  6. Water when the soil is noticeably dry.

How to Grow Lavender From a Cutting

Like other herbs, lavender can be propagated from a cutting successfully, here are the basic steps:

  1. Cut off a 3- to 5-inch piece with at least two nodes, making sure to cut below where the leaf and stem join together.
  2. Remove the lower leaves by hand or with sharp scissors.
  3. Dip the cutting into a rooting compound, according to package instructions.
  4. Insert the cutting into new potting soil past the first node.
  5. Keep the potting soil slightly warm, and moist until the cutting has rooted, usually three to six weeks.

Care Guide for Grown Plants

Once your lavender plant is three to four years old, it will reach full maturity. When properly tended, lavender plants will live about 10 years.

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To keep your lavender stalks standing tall and perky, follow the basic tips below:

  • If your lavender looks to be in poor health, consider checking the drainage and amount of space between plants. Lavender prefers good air circulation and doesn’t like to overly wet soil conditions.
  • Regularly add soil amendments such as sand or gravel, in addition to native soil, to help the plant drain better.
  • When weather is cool to cold, consider moving potted lavender on top of concrete, which raises the temperature of the plant. Add white pebbles to the top layer of soil to help reflect light and increase the plant's internal temperature.

When to Harvest Lavender

Although many people enjoy the look- and scent- lavender in the garden, they also appreciate harvesting it for things such as floral arrangements, drying, or adding it to essential oils. Knowing how and when to harvest your lavender is crucial.

Cut back lavender plants in the spring when new growth appears. Country Living suggests harvesting lavender when about 1/3 to 1/2 of the spike is in bloom. Harvest in the morning when the plant is dry and the sun is not too intense; this preserves essential oils in the blooms.

Since lavender spikes have the strongest scent when the bloom on the stem just starts to open, this is the best time to harvest stems for cuttings.

When the blooms on the spikes are just starting to open, they will have the strongest scent.

When the blooms on the spikes are just starting to open, they will have the strongest scent.

Drying Tips

Dry lavender upside down in small bunches in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. Darkness helps preserve the color, and hanging it upside down helps retain the overall shape of the stock.

Dried lavender is a nice addition to a kitchen and can be used in potpourris.

Dried lavender is a nice addition to a kitchen and can be used in potpourris.

Helpful Resources

UGA Extension: Herbs in Southern Gardens

University of Illinois Extension: Herb Gardening- English Lavender

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Diane Lockridge

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