How to grow lavender, according to a gardening expert
Not only is lavender popular for its beautiful appearance and calming aroma, it’s also super easy to grow, making it the perfect plant for beginners in the garden.
“Lavender’s a relatively easy plant because its perennial, meaning that it lives forever, so once you’ve planted it you get to enjoy it for years after and you don’t have to regrow it,” say horticulturalist Hannah Grows.
April or May is the best time to start planting as lavender will begin to flower in the summer. Keen to get going before spring is over? This is what you'll need to know...
How to grow lavender: Best varieties
You can get many different varieties of English, French, Spanish and hybrid lavenders, but when it comes to choosing which type you’d like to grow it’s really down to personal choice.
“I’d recommend starting with an English variety, like Hidcote lavender, as it will give you lots of lovely purple flowers, a great aroma and it's really good for our bees over here," says Hannah. "You can also get a giant version of it as well which can grow up to a metre high.
“French lavender is a bit smaller and less hardy, so if you live somewhere where you get really hard frost or a lot of snow in the winter, you’ll need to take a bit more care to protect it.
“If you want to try something new you can even get an English white lavender variety called Nana Alba which is a dwarf lavender, so it’s just smaller and won’t grow as high or wide. Or there’s a French lavender called Kew Red, which produces a dark red flower.”
Where does lavender grow best?
As lavender originates from the Mediterranean, hot, dry weather is what this plant craves.
“It needs really good exposure to sunlight so avoid any shady spaces in your garden,” advised Hannah. “If you put it in damp, wet, shady conditions it will cause the plant to become unhealthy and possibly die.
How to grow lavender in a pot
“If you’re not planting your lavender into the ground I would recommend a terracotta pot because it's porous, so it can dry out and your plant won’t be sitting with water around it. Whereas in a plastic container the water can't escape as easily and it might be prone to water-logging.”
One thing Hannah doesn’t recommend is growing lavender indoors.
“Lavender thrives in good air circulation and really good access to light and an indoor environment could prevent this. You could probably have it indoors for a few months, but ultimately, you're not going to sustain a healthy plant indoors.”
How to grow lavender: Care advice
A well-drained soil is key for growing lavender so that doesn’t become too wet and rot.
“A sandy, chalky soil is a good option, or you can add grit or a compost to your soil to improve drainage. As it prefers this dryer kind of soil you don’t need to worry about refreshing it either," Hannah said.
The most important time to water lavender is when it’s newly planted, but after that it requires very little maintenance and definitely shouldn’t be overwatered.
“If it’s newly planted you should water it regularly during its first summer, because whenever you're moving plants it's a bit of a shock for them, so they're more vulnerable.
“Once your lavender is established it's quite drought tolerant though. In dry periods I’d recommend watering it twice a week and then not as often in the winter because it’s generally wet.
“Some people will also give their lavender a small amount of potash fertiliser, like a seaweed feed to help with the flowering, but overall lavender doesn’t really need a fertiliser.”
How to long does lavender take to grow?
You can expect to see your lavender flower two to three months after you plant it, so it should be set for the summer months.
Hannah recommends pruning your lavender it as soon as it’s flowered to help maintain a nice shape and stop it from becoming too big.
“Once your lavender has flowered and it feels drier to touch, I’d clip off the flowering stem with a good pair of secateurs. Then you can put your lavender either into vases or, I often tie string around the bottom of the bunch and hang it because it's got a lovely smell. Some people pop it into their drawers and will use it in cooking too.
“You don't really need to do anything through the winter. Then, when you get into spring, you can clip away any frost damage growth and make your plant a nicer shape and that's it, it's a really low maintenance plant.”
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