Lavender (angustifolia) is the most common "true" species in cultivation. A wide range of cultivars can be found in shades such as purple, white, and even pink. Other commonly grown ornamental species are L. stoechas, L. dentata, L. multifida, and L. intermedia.
Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are often used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they're placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and as a deterrent to moths. The plant is also grown commercially for extraction of lavender oil from the flowers. This oil is used as an antiseptic and for aromatherapy.
Lavender flowers produce abundant nectar, which yields high-quality honey for beekeepers. Lavender honey is produced primarily in the nations around the Mediterranean and marketed worldwide as a premium product. Lavender flowers can be candied and are sometimes used as cake decorations. Lavender is also used to flavor baked goods and desserts (it pairs especially well with chocolate), as well as make "lavender sugar". Lavender flowers are occasionally sold in a blend with black, green, or herbal tea, adding a fresh, relaxing scent and flavor.
Chefs in and around Provence, France, have been incorporating this herb into their cuisine for centuries, either alone or as an ingredient of "herbes de Provence." Lavender lends a floral, slightly sweet and elegant flavor to most dishes, and pairs beautifully with various sheep's and goat's milk cheeses. For most cooking applications, it's the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) of lavender that are used, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. Only the buds contain the essential oil of lavender.
The French are also known for their lavender syrup, most commonly made from an extract of lavender. In the United States, both French lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make lavender scones.
- Nature Attraction: Lavender attracts butterflies all summer long. Deer- and rabbit-resistant, this variety is durable, disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, and intensely fragrant.
- Key Tips: Lavender is great for edging garden borders and making fresh-cut or dried flowers. They do well in hot, dry spots once established. These like to be sheared back in the spring about two-thirds size.
- Shelf Life: Plant in the garden when night temperatures stay above 35°F.
- Plant Preparation: Cut away any yellow or brown leaves or broken stems that may have occurred. This grooming is completely normal and will take place as the plant grows.
- Potted Plants: Rather than moving lavender to the garden, you can re-pot into large containers. Re-pot the plants separately into 12" pots, or together inside one larger container.
- Soil: They'll actually grow better in poor, gravelly soil rather than rich soil. They're drought-tolerant as well.
- Garden Preparation: Pick a sunny location that can be easily viewed for the flower's beauty. Borders, perimeters, and walkways are a great location. If your soil is clayish, amend it with a standard garden soil for adequate moisture retentiveness.
- Planting Depth & Spacing: Plant separately, spacing them about 12" – 15" apart. Dig holes twice the width of the root ball and about 5" – 6" deep. Place them in their holes. Cover with an inch or two of soil and pack soil firmly around the root.
- Plant Height: They'll grow about 16" – 20" tall with a compact bushy habit.
- Watering: Water thoroughly upon planting and then once a week. They do well in hot, dry spots once established.
- Fertilizer: This helps maintain flower size and count from year to year. For best results, use a flower booster once a month all summer long.
- Lighting: Full sun is preferred.
- Blooming: These plants will bloom early summer through autumn yearly.
- Temperature Zones 5–10: These are hardy down to -20°F.
- Winter Dormancy: After the first heavy frost, plants will harden on the old growth. Foliage remains all year. There's no need to prune back to the ground.
- Pruning: Lavender should be sheared back in the spring to about two thirds of their size. Cut one third of plant away. Do not prune back to the ground. You may cut as much or as little as you like to use for flower arrangements, potpourri, or cooking.
- Cut Flowers: These make wonderful flowers for your cut flower garden. They make superb dried flowers as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should lavender be pruned each year?
A: Lavender should be sheared back in the spring to about two thirds of their size. Cut one third of plant away. Do not prune back to the ground. You may cut as much or as little as you like for flower arrangements, potpourri, or cooking.
Q: How do you winterize them?
A: After the first heavy frost, plants will harden on the old growth. Foliage remains all year. There is no need to prune back until spring. If potted, bring inside if temperatures drop below 0°F.
Q: Can lavender grow in rocky soil?
A: These are excellent plants for rock gardens. In fact, the worse the soil, the more the lavender flourishes.
Q: Do they fade in the sun?
A: The purple flowers will fade to lavender and the light pink flowers to white. Early summer and early autumn flowers don't fade as much as summertime flowers