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Lavandula - Lavender

7/2/2022 5:25 pm


Lavandula - Lavender




Full sun is the first requirement of lavender.  Give it less and it will flop toward the sun as though prostrating itself in prayer.


The second key to growing lavender is excellent drainage. Lavender isn’t fussy about soil; in fact, it is fine without any. Techniques for planting include using a heavy proportion of pea gravel, turkey or chicken grit, or Permatill. These can be mixed with sand and compost or peat or even soil or dirt if you must.  If you can’t alter the ground below the plant, consider mounding upwards instead. Most essentially, if you can keep the base of the plant dry, by putting several inches of stone between it and any soil or dirt, lavender will thank you by sending down deep roots that will lead to a thriving plant.  


Lavender can also be challenged by high humidity. That would explain why English lavenders are rarely successful in Southeastern gardens.


One of the best varieties for our area is a French lavender cultivar, Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal’.  It isn’t as fragile in our heavy rain years as other varieties. Indeed, it shrugs off our humidity admirably. It is also more cold hardy than many other lavenders (Zones 5-9).  L. ‘Phenomenal’ will grow to 3-4’ high and 2-3’ wide in time.


Spanish lavender is not as highly thought of by many as English and French lavenders, but Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’ can be a superb performer here. Frankly, its more subtle fragrance is a plus for those whose sensitive snoots are overstimulated by the stronger scented lavenders.  It also maintains a shrubbier, squatter form which can be desirable.


One English lavender mutation prized for its greater resistance to humidity and crown rot is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Platinum Blonde.” It has performed surprisingly well on a lean slope in my Tucker garden. The pretty cream lined foliage looks good in early spring without blooms. The foliage variegation fades later in summer but who notices, with airy wands of fragrant light purple blooms drawing the eyes upward.  


Lavandula ginginsii ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ has very attractive basal foliage for the species, resembling Russian Sage.  A hybrid related to French lavender, it is reported to do well with humidity in Texas. It’s too soon to pronounce judgment on the two I installed in early Spring 2022. Both are planted in a bed with a 4-6” layer of mixed size pea gravel above poor soil in a concrete surrounded bed along with other dry loving plants like Delosperma and Sinningia that thrive in such conditions. So far, so good. 


Lavender often will rebloom if deadheaded after the first bloom, but heavy pruning is to be avoiding after August. The plants won’t harden for winter.  Wait until spring when new growth begins to emerge before engaging in serious pruning.  


Lavender doesn’t need or react well to fertilizer.  Its nature is to thrive with neglect.  Don’t water it just because it is hot and dry.  Wait for it to let you know it needs water.


Lavender is a favorite of pollinators. Because the blooms last a long time, especially during the summer perennial lull, it is an excellent nectar plant for native bees as well as honey bees.  Hummingbirds are also fans.


You can cut lavender fresh for floral arrangements or air freshener.  You can let lavender blooms dry on the plant (or off it too) and harvest the blooms for baking, sachets for your dresser drawers or for trendy cocktail infusions (1/4 dried blooms steeped 5-10 minutes in a boiling 1 cup H20/ 1 cup sugar simple syrup). 


The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare,” which literally means “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates back to ancient Egypt.  Lavender was used in mummification.  Later, lavender was used in baths throughout ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. These cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.  []

Quite a few scientific studies support medicinal uses of lavender.  Aromatherapy can help with insomnia, headaches and migraines and also ease the side effects of cancer treatment.  Lavender capsules can help with anxiety too.  Topical application of lavender in combination with other essential herb oils was shown to stimulate hair growth in folks suffering from alopecia aerata. []


Submitted by Liane Schleifer