How to Grow Lavender At Home (Beginners Guide)

Kasey Spencer
How to Grow Lavender At Home

Lavender is renowned for its captivating fragrance and striking purple blooms and its versatility in crafts, cooking, and natural remedies. Fortunately, cultivating lavender in your garden is a straightforward process, accessible even to those new to gardening. In this guide, I’ll walk you through five simple steps to plant, nurture, and harvest your lavender, ensuring you can enjoy its myriad benefits right from your backyard.

How to Grow Lavender At Home

Whether you’re looking to enhance your garden’s aesthetic or harness the soothing properties of this beloved herb, starting your lavender journey is easier than you might think.

1. Choosing the Right Variety

Choosing the Right Variety
Image: Envato Elements

Selecting the appropriate variety of lavender is crucial for successful home gardening. The most common types include English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), renowned for its hardiness and sweet fragrance, making it a popular choice for both culinary uses and essential oils.

With its distinctive serrated leaves, French lavender (Lavandula dentata) thrives in warmer climates and is perfect for creating a lasting visual impact in gardens. Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), recognizable by its prominent purple bracts atop the flower heads, offers a unique aesthetic and is best suited for decorative purposes in mild climates.

When sourcing your lavender plants or seeds, choosing reputable nurseries or garden centers is essential. These suppliers often provide high-quality, disease-free plants that are more likely to thrive.

Online gardening forums, local gardening clubs, or trusted websites can also offer valuable insights and recommendations on where to find the best plant materials. Additionally, consider purchasing from local producers to ensure the plants are well-adapted to your specific area’s climate and soil conditions.

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2. Preparing Your Planting Space

Preparing Your Planting Space
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For your lavender to flourish, preparing the planting space correctly is paramount. Lavender thrives in well-draining, slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. This ensures the roots are not waterlogged, which could lead to rot, and that nutrients are efficiently absorbed.

1. Soil Requirements

Start by checking the drainage of your soil. Lavender does not like wet feet, so if your soil retains water, consider raising your garden beds or incorporating generous amounts of organic matter such as compost and perlite to improve aeration and drainage. For those starting a garden afresh, opting for a sandy or gravelly mix can also promote better drainage.

2. Ideal Planting Locations

Lavender requires full sun, with at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. When selecting a spot in your garden, look for an area that receives ample sun throughout the day. Space the plants about 18 to 24 inches apart to ensure adequate airflow, which is crucial for preventing fungal diseases. This spacing also gives each plant enough room to grow to its full size, which can be up to 24 inches in height and width.

3. Amending the Soil

If your soil test indicates acidity, you can amend it by incorporating crushed limestone or dolomite into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil to gently raise the pH. Always retest the soil pH after amending to ensure it is within the optimal range for growing lavender. Adding a layer of mulch around the plants can help retain moisture during dry spells and keep weed growth in check, all while maintaining the soil’s ideal conditions.

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3. Planting Your Lavender

Planting Your Lavender
Image: Envato Elements

Proper planting is essential to get your lavender off to the best start. Whether starting from seeds or transplanting seedlings, the right approach can make a significant difference in the growth and health of your plants. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you plant your lavender successfully:

1. Starting from Seeds

  1. Timing: Start lavender seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Lavender seeds can be slow to germinate and require some patience.
  2. Sowing: Use a light, well-draining seed starting mix. Place the seeds on top of the soil and press them in gently; do not cover them as they need light to germinate. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
  3. Germination: Place the seed tray in a warm spot with plenty of sunlight or under a grow light. Germination can take 2-4 weeks, so patience is key.

2. Transplanting Seedlings or Planting Nursery Plants

  1. Timing: The best time to plant lavender outdoors is in the spring as the soil warms up or in early fall, allowing the plants to establish before winter.
  2. Planting: Dig a hole that is just as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of the plant. Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the roots gently. Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  3. Spacing: Plant lavender 18 to 24 inches apart. This spacing allows ample air circulation and room for growth, reducing the risk of disease.

3. Planting Depth and Considerations

  1. Lavender should be planted so the top of the root ball is flush with the soil surface. Avoid burying the stem as this can lead to rot.
  2. After planting, water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Thereafter, water only when the soil feels dry to the touch to avoid overwatering.

4. Caring for Your Lavender

Caring for Your Lavender
Image: Envato Elements

Lavender is relatively low-maintenance once established, but appropriate care is crucial to ensure vibrant growth and prolific blooming. Here’s how you can best care for your lavender plants:

1. Watering Requirements

  1. Frequency: Lavender is drought-tolerant, requiring minimal watering once established. During the first growing season, water the plants once or twice a week to help establish roots. After they are established, water only during extended periods of dry weather.
  2. Amount: Ensure the soil is slightly moist but never soggy. Overwatering is a common issue with lavender and can lead to root rot, so it’s crucial to let the soil dry out between watering sessions.

2. Fertilizing

  1. Lavender generally does not require regular fertilizing, especially if planted in good soil. Over-fertilizing can stimulate excessive leaf growth at the expense of flowers and fragrance.
  2. If growth seems sluggish or the soil is very poor, a light application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring can help.

3. Pruning Tips

  1. Timing: Prune lavender in early spring or after the first flowering to promote vigorous growth and prevent the plant from becoming woody and sparse. In climates with mild winters, a second, lighter prune can be done in late summer after the last flush of blooms.
  2. Technique: Cut back about a third of the plant, shaping it into a mound. This encourages new growth from the base and helps maintain a compact, attractive shape. Be careful not to cut into the old wood where there are no leaves, as this part of the plant may not regenerate.
  3. Maintenance: Regularly deadheading, or removing spent flowers, will encourage plants to produce more blooms and extend the flowering period.

5. Harvesting and Using Your Lavender

Lavender
Image: Envato Elements

Harvesting your lavender at the right time not only maximizes its fragrance and longevity but also ensures you can enjoy it for a variety of uses. Here’s how to harvest lavender and some creative ways to use it:

1. When and How to Harvest

  1. Timing: The best time to harvest lavender is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun is at its hottest. This is when the oils are most concentrated, giving the strongest fragrance.
  2. Method: Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut the flower stems. Snip them close to the foliage base, but be sure not to cut into the woody part of the stem, as this can damage the plant.

2. Ideas for Using Harvested Lavender

Crafts

  1. Lavender Sachets: Fill small cloth bags with dried lavender to create natural air fresheners for drawers or closets.
  2. Wreaths and Decorations: Intertwine dried lavender stems into wreaths or bouquets for a rustic, fragrant home decor.

Cooking

  1. Baking: Incorporate dried lavender into baking recipes like scones, shortbread, or cakes for a subtle floral flavor.
  2. Beverages: Brew dried lavender into teas or infuse it into lemonades or cocktails for a refreshing twist.

Aromatherapy

  1. Essential Oils: Use dried lavender to make homemade essential oils or water infusions for use in aromatherapy. Its calming properties are ideal for stress relief and relaxation.
  2. Bath Products: Add lavender to bath salts, soaps, or bath bombs for a soothing, spa-like experience at home.

Medicinal Uses

  1. Sleep Aids: Place lavender sachets near your bed or use lavender essential oils in a diffuser to promote a restful night’s sleep.
  2. Natural Remedies: Apply lavender oil to soothe minor burns, cuts, or bug bites due to its natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

With these suggestions, you can make the most out of your harvested lavender, enhancing your home, kitchen, and well-being with its lovely scent and myriad benefits.

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