Lavender (Lavandula) is one of the best herbs to grow and quickly will become a favorite in your garden. The fragrant flower stems (and leaves) attract bees and butterflies. You’ll also enjoy the scent as you brush by the plants or even from a light breeze. Take a few steps to select the variety and planting spot, and you should enjoy your lavender for years.
Choose the Right Variety
Lavender can survive frosts, and most varieties are hardy in zones 5 through 8. The most cold-hardy varieties are English lavenders. Spanish lavender varieties (also called French lavender) tend to do better in hotter, more humid climates. Their flower stalks are a little different, but still fragrant and attractive. A popular Spanish lavender is ‘Anouk’.
So, be sure to research how well your lavender can handle cold, heat and humidity when choosing the best plant for your yard or container. There are plenty of choices, and you are certain to find one that will work for you.
Choose the Best Planting Spot
Just about the only way to kill lavender is to let its roots set in cool, damp soil, which leads to root rot. No matter what variety you choose, make sure to plant your new lavender in soil that drains well and that the plant gets nearly a full day of sun.
One of the best ways to ensure survival of your lavender if you live in a rainy or humid climate is to plant it on a slight hill. This helps some of the water run off, keeping the roots a little drier. This also is a great way to grow drought-tolerant lavender in a bed with other plants that need more water. Raise your lavender at least six inches above the other plants, using a well-draining soil.
Caring for Lavender
Lavender is a perfect xeric plant; once established (usually after a year), the plants need little watering. When you water lavender, especially in the first year, water slowly and deeply at the bottom of the plant, not with sprinklers or a quick pour from a pail. Try to water lavender only in the mornings or at least in time for the ground to dry before cool evenings.
If you want to mulch your lavender bed to look more attractive, avoid mulches that hold water (like barks) and instead choose a light gravel. In the Southwest, many xeric landscapes have a light layer of crusher fine (decomposed granite). Or mulch with several inches of light-colored pebbles around your lavender to cut weeds and keep your plant nice and warm with the reflected heat.
Prune your lavender in spring by removing remaining dead flower stems and shaping the plant into a rounded mound. Avoid cutting into the larger, woody branches.
Start by choosing the best lavender variety for your garden and you’ll fall in love with this easy-to-grow plant.