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How to Grow Lavender Plants: The Complete Guide

Lavender flower close up in a field in Provence France against a blue sky background.
Photo Credit
Lynn Yeh/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Lavandula angustifolia
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color
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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Lavender Flowers

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Lovely lavender adds aroma and soft beauty to the garden and has culinary and medicinal uses. Learn how to propagate lavender, care for your plants, and harvest the flowers.

About Lavender Plants

The commonly cultivated lavender is the common or English lavender Lavandula angustifolia (formerly named L. officinalis), which is hardy to USDA Zone 5. A bushy perennial, lavender grows from 1 to 3 feet tall, bearing small blue-violet flowers on spikes with blue-green needle-like foliage. The oils in the flowers give the herb its distinctive balsam-like fragrance.

Called “English” lavender because it proliferates in the English climate, this plant’s main requirements are lots of sun and good drainage. It is not fussy about soil, and its presence lures bees, butterflies, and pollinators to the garden. Plant lavender along a walkway or near a seating area.

Interestingly, the name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means “to wash,” because it was used in baths to purify the body and spirit. Today, it’s often used in soaps and shampoos. 

In addition, lavender has proven medicinal uses. When the essential oils are inhaled, lavender has calming properties that reduce anxiety; it’s also a gentle sedative for insomnia. In ancient times, lavender flowers were sewn into sachets to aid with sleeplessness. 

Lavender is even useful in the kitchen in baking and in drink recipes! Learn more below.

Planting

As mentioned above, lavender thrives in most soil qualities, from poor to moderately fertile. Lavender makes only one demand for the soil: It must drain well. Standing water and wet areas could encourage root rot. Amend compacted or clay soil with compost or aged manure to improve drainage. Plant lavender in a spot with at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day (“full sun”). 

When to Plant Lavender

  • Lavender is best planted as a young plant starting in the spring after the soil has warmed up to at least 60°F (15°C) and the threat of frost has passed.
  • If planting in the fall, choose larger, more established plants to ensure their survival through the winter.

How to Plant Lavender

  • Lavender is challenging to grow from seed; we recommend purchasing small starter plants from a garden nursery or taking a softwood cutting from an existing plant. Seeds may take up to three months to germinate, and seedlings must be overwintered indoors in cool climates. 
  • Plant lavender 2 to 3 feet apart. Plants typically reach between 1 and 3 feet in height.
  • Add mulch (rock or pea gravel work particularly well) to keep weeds minimal. Keep the mulch away from the crown of the lavender plant, however, to prevent excess moisture and root rot.

Check out this video to learn how to plant lavender:

Growing

How to Care for Lavender

  • Water once or twice a week after planting until plants are established. Water mature plants every 2 to 3 weeks until buds form, then once or twice weekly until harvest. (Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering.)
  • In colder growing areas, plants may need extra winter protection. Cover the plants with a winter mulch of evergreen boughs or straw, insulating them from freezing winds and temperatures. Read more about winter care of lavender plants.
    • Another option for cold areas is to grow lavender in a pot, keeping it outdoors in the summer and indoors in winter. While indoors, place the pot in a south-facing window with as much light as possible—water sparingly, as the plant will be dormant at this time.

girl in a lavender garden on a pathway

Pruning Lavender

In cooler climates: Prune established plants in spring when green leaves start to emerge from the base. Remove about one-third of the top to keep the plant from becoming leggy and bare at the base, but do not cut back into old wood, as it will not regrow.

In warm climates: All pruning can be carried out in autumn.

The flowering stems can be harvested while in bloom or snipped off after the flowers fade to keep the plant tidy.

Harvesting

How to Grow New Lavender from Cuttings

  • Cut following the plant’s bloom. Choose side shoots for cuttings that have no buds.
  • Cut very low near the root, getting several inches of stem. Gently scrape the skin off the bottom portion of the stem on one side with a knife. Remove foliage on the bottom 2 inches of the stem.
  • Fill a small pot (4 inches or so) with potting mix. Optional: Dip each cutting in the rooting hormone first.
  • Insert bare stem into potting soil. Firm the soil and water in. Cover the whole pot with clear plastic or a polythene bag to create humidity. Place pots in a warm, shaded area.
  • Allow about 3 weeks for roots to appear. (If you tug gently, the root shouldn’t move.) Then, remove the bag.
  • Water when soil is dry an inch down; feed with 1/4-strength liquid plant fertilizer once a week.
  • After a few weeks, transplant it into a larger pot.

harvested lavender in a wooden crate

Harvesting Lavender Flowers

Lavender is a wonderful herb for drying. Here’s how to harvest it:

  • Harvest in the morning hours when the oils are the most concentrated.
  • Snip off stems when about half of the flower buds have opened, cutting the stems as long as possible.
  • Gather them into bundles and secure them with rubber bands.
  • Dry the bundles of lavender by hanging them in a sheltered, cool, dark place with good air circulation.
  • After a few weeks, the flowers will have dried fully and can be shaken gently from the stems into a lidded jar. Store the flowers in a cool, dark place.

Use your dried lavender to make lavender sachets—a lovely gift. Lavender sachets can help to keep your sheets or towels smelling sweet, repel moths and insects, and even promote a restful night’s sleep. 

Storing Lavender

Store lavender flowers in a lidded jar somewhere cool and dark, or pop them straight into a sachet to keep towels, sheets, or clothes smelling sweet and to repel moths. If you suffer from insomnia, try inserting the sachets into a pillow so the calming scent can help you drift off to a restful slumber.

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Wit and Wisdom

  • Ancient Egyptians used lavender in the embalming process. They wrapped the dead in shrouds that had been soaked in lavender water.
  • The Romans, all the way back in A.D. 77, are documented to have used lavender to repel insects and soothe insect bites. Add a lavender sachet to your towels, sheets, or clothes to repel moths.
  • The herb is also known for its calming effects. If you suffer from insomnia, try slipping a lavender sachet into your pillow. Lavender oil is used to naturally induce sleep.

Learn more about the health benefits of lavender!

Pests/Diseases

Lavender Pests and Diseases
Pest/DiseaseTypeSymptomsControl/Prevention
AphidsInsectMisshapen/yellow leaves; distorted flowers; leaf drop; sticky “honeydew” (excretion) on leaves; sooty, black moldKnock off with water spray; apply insecticidal soap; inspect new plants carefully; use slow-release fertilizers; avoid excess nitrogen; encourage lacewings, lady beetles/bugs, spiders
Fusarium wiltFungusPlants wilt (sometimes one-sided) in daytime; later, entire plant wilts/dies; stunting; yellow leaves; poor flowering; roots rot; stem cross-section reveals brown discolorationDestroy infected plants/ roots/surrounding soil (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; resistant varieties; avoid excess nitrogen; in acidic soils, raise pH to 7.0; weed; 3- to 5-year rotation
Leaf spot (bacterial)BacteriaVaries; water-soaked rust/black leaf spots between veins later dry/fall out, leaving holes; leaves yellow/distort/wilt/die; stem cankersDestroy infected parts/severely infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; prevent plant stress/injury; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Phytophthora crown and root rotOomyceteLeaves discolor/wilt; dieback; oozing cankers near base; reddish brown discoloration of inner bark/wood; roots rot; plants slow-growing/ stunted/dieDestroy infected plants/surrounding soil (do not compost); prune out branch cankers; for woody plants, remove soil near infected crown to dry tissue/replace afterward; remove plant debris regularly; resistant varieties; prevent plant stress/injury; provide good drainage/do not overwater
Pythium root and stem rotOomycetePlants stunted/yellow/may wilt in day but recover at night/die; dieback; stem bases brown/blacken; crown rot; root tips die; outer root tissue easily pulls offDestroy infected parts/ plants/surrounding soil (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; solarize soil; avoid overhead watering; provide good drainage/do not overwater
Rhizoctonia root and stem rotFungusYellow/brown leaves; reddish brown lesions/sunken cankers on lower stem/roots; roots rot; plants wilt in day and recover at night/stunted/dieDestroy infected plants (do not compost); good air circulation; prevent plant stress/injury; provide good drainage
Root-knot nematodesNematodeTypically, roots “knotty” or galled; plants stunted/yellow/ wilted/weakened; leaves and other parts may distort or die; poor floweringDestroy infested plant debris after flowering season, including roots (do not compost); disinfect tools; choose resistant varieties; solarize soil, if possible; plant French marigolds as a trap crop
ThripsInsectStunted plant growth; stippling; leaf dropKnock off with water spray; use sticky traps; shake foliage/flowers; clip off unopened/infested buds and shoot tips; submerge in mixture of 7 parts water to 1 part isopropyl alcohol and discard; plant resistant cultivars and those adapted to local conditions; water adequately, avoid excess nitrogen; deadhead flowers
VirusesVirusVaries; leaves with yellow/light green mottling or rings; distorted leaves/stems/flowers; flowers streaked; stuntingDestroy infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; resistant varieties/certified virus-free plants; control sap-sucking insects; weed
WhitefliesInsectAll stages suck sap on leaf undersides; leave sticky “honeydew” (excrement), sooty, black mold; yellow/silver areas on leaves; wilted/stunted plants; adults fly if disturbed; some species transmit virusesRemove infested leaves/ plants; use handheld vacuum to remove pests; knock off leaf undersides with water spray in morning/evening; set yellow sticky traps; apply insecticidal soap; invite beneficial insects and hummingbirds with native plants; weed; reflective mulch

Cooking Notes

Although edible, lavender is little used in recipes. It’s occasionally included as a constituent of herbes de Provence mixes, and leaves can be chopped and added sparingly to some sauces or used in shortbread biscuits. 

See our recipe for lavender scones and honey-lavender syrup, as well as a recipe for making your own lavender-herb tea.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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