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Lavender Grow Guide: How to Plant Grow and Harvest Lavender

Lavender Grow Guide: How to Plant Grow and Harvest Lavender

Lavender, the very name conjures images of vibrant purple fields swaying gently in the breeze, filling the air with a sweet, calming fragrance. It's a plant that has captured the hearts and minds of people for centuries, finding its way into gardens, kitchens, medicine cabinets, and even poetry. It's a bridge between the culinary arts and natural healing, a plant that offers both flavor and therapy.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the world of lavender, walking you through the entire process of growing this wonderful herb, from planting seeds to harvesting and preserving. 

Varieties of Lavender

Understanding the variety that suits your needs, climate, and garden style is key to growing lavender. Lavender is not a one-size-fits-all plant. There are several varieties, each with its unique characteristics, growing requirements, and uses. Here's a closer look:

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Known for its sweet fragrance, this variety is often used in cooking and baking as well as medicinally. A favorite in the garden for pollinators and other beneficial insects, this evergreen shrub grows to 12-36 inches (30-90 cm) both tall and wide. It's hardy and suitable for warm to cooler climates and is the most commonly cultivated type of lavender. English lavender bouquet in a lavender field

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) French lavender, reaching a height of up to 36 inches (90 cm), is characterized by its gray-green foliage. The leaves are lance-shaped, featuring toothed edges, thus the name dentata. They have a lightly woolly texture, adding to the plant's unique aesthetic appeal. French lavender is a favorite in ornamental gardens.
French lavender growing in the garden

Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): This variety is known for its  distinctive "rabbit ear" petals and pinkish purple cone-like blooms. This lavender grows in a bush mound, reaching a height of 24-30 inches (60-90 cm).  Spanish lavender is celebrated for its robust and sweet aroma, making it a highly sought-after choice for perfumery, aromatherapy, and essential oil production.Spanish lavender growing in the garden

Hybrid Lavenders: These are crosses between different species, offering a range of colors, scents, and growth habits.

    Growing Lavender

    The journey of growing lavender begins with a tiny seed. It's a process that requires patience, care, and a bit of knowledge. For the greatest success, it's best to start your seeds indoors, rather than directly sowing outdoors. Follow these steps to get your lavender off to the best start:

    Starting Seeds: Plant seeds in late winter, 10-12 weeks before your last spring frost. This will give them time to get established and ready to be transplanted into the garden by early spring. Use a seed tray or small pots with organic seed starting mix such as our Organic Compress Potting Soil.

    Planting Depth and Light Requirements: Plant 3 seeds per cell at a depth of 1/8”, barely covering them as they need light to germinate. For best results, use a grow light to ensure your seeds/seedlings receive enough light. Read this article for information on grow lights

    Germination: Lavender seeds can be slow to germinate, taking anywhere from 21 to 30 days. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and provide plenty of light to enhance their growth.

    Transplanting: Once seedlings are 2-4 inches and the ground is no longer frozen, transplant to their final location, whether in the garden or containers. In our Pacific Northwest climate (zone 8b) we can safely transplant in late spring. In a more mild climate you can transplant outdoors much earlier. In colder climates you may need to wait until early summer before transplanting. 

    Transplanting lavender seedlings into the garden

    Climate and Soil Conditions

    Lavender's natural habitat is the Mediterranean region, and it thrives in conditions that mimic this environment. Therefore, the plant has specific sunlight, watering, and fertilization requirements for better growth. Here's what you need to know:

    Sunlight: Lavender is a sun-loving plant. A hot, sunny location with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight is ideal.

    Soil Type: Well-drained soil is crucial. Lavender doesn't like 'wet feet,' and waterlogged soil can lead to root rot. That is the main reason why sandy or gravelly soil works well for this plant.

    pH Level: A slightly alkaline soil pH of 6.7 to 7.1 is preferred. You can test your soil and amend it with lime if needed.

    Watering: Once established, lavender is quite drought-tolerant. Water regularly until the plant is established, then only when the soil becomes dry to an inch deep.

    Feeding: Lavender doesn't require much in the way of fertilization. Amend your soil with compost when initially transplanting and use a slow-release organic fertilizer in spring and summer such as our Organic Fruit and Flower Fertilizer. In hot summer regions, a light surface mulch of compost can help retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

    Container Growing: Consider growing lavender in containers if your soil or climate isn't ideal. Choose a pot at least 8 inches deep and wide, and use a well-draining potting mix.

      Pruning Lavender

      Pruning is an essential part of lavender care. It's not just about shaping the plant but encouraging new growth and preventing woody stems. Pruning is an art. With a little practice, you can keep your lavender healthy and vibrant. Here's how to do it:

      When to Prune: The best time to prune is after flowering or when green leaves emerge. This usually happens in late summer or early fall.

      How to Prune: Use sharp, clean shears to cut back one-third to one-half of the plant's height. Focus on removing spent flowers and shaping the plant. Remember, different varieties may require specific pruning techniques. 

      Woman pruning lavender
      Winter Care: In colder climates, avoid late-fall pruning, as it may leave the plant vulnerable to winter damage.

      How Often To Prune: Pruning once or twice per year is enough. When pruning, only get rid of one-third of the top and never cut into the old wood as it does not grow back, making the plant vulnerable.

        Harvesting Lavender

        Harvesting lavender is a sensory delight, filling the air with its soothing scent and providing versatile ingredients for cooking, crafting, and more. In fact, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of growing lavender. 

        Freshly harvested lavender being made into a bundle for drying

        When to Harvest: Early morning, when the oils are most concentrated, is the best time. Harvest just as the flowers begin to open for the most intense fragrance.

        How to Harvest: Use garden pruners to snip the stems, cutting just above the leaves. Collect the stems in bunches for easy handling.

        Drying Lavender: If you plan to dry your lavender, hang the bunches upside down in a dark, airy place or use a food dehydrator.

        Storing Lavender: Once dried, store lavender in airtight containers away from direct sunlight to preserve the color and fragrance.

          Pests and Diseases

          Understanding common issues and how to address them will keep your lavender thriving. Regular inspection, proper spacing, and good basic care generally are all your lavender needs. However, lavender can also be susceptible to certain pests and diseases like all plants. Here's what to watch for:

          Pests: Leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and spider mites can be a problem. The simplest way to get rid of these pests is to wash them off your plants with a strong blast of water. A garden hose is perfect for this job. If they persist, make a homemade organic soap solution to spray on the affected areas. To make the solution use 1 tablespoon of organic soap (I use Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castile soap) to one quart of warm water.

          Diseases: Root rot can occur in poorly drained soil. Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering.

            Lavender in the Kitchen

            Lavender's culinary applications are as diverse as they are delightful. Its floral and slightly sweet flavor with balsamic undertones can transform ordinary dishes into gourmet experiences. Here's how you can use lavender in the kitchen:

            Lavender teacakes and hot tea

            • From cakes and cookies to muffins and jellies, lavender adds a unique twist. Try it in custards, flans, ice cream, or even as a flavoring in black tea.
            • Create lavender-infused syrups for cocktails or desserts, or make lavender vinegar for salad dressings.
            • Lavender pairs beautifully with fruits, eggs, and even meats. You can experiment with lavender marinades for chicken or lamb.

            How To Propagate Lavender

            Propagation techniques offer an exciting way to expand your lavender garden or share plants with friends and family. Growing new lavender plants doesn't always require seeds if you have already grown these plants in your garden. Here's how to propagate lavender:

            Cuttings: It is a faster way to start new plants. Take cuttings from healthy plants, remove the lower leaves, and plant in well-draining soil.
            Propagating lavender
             Layering: Bend a low-growing branch to the ground, cover part of it with soil, and anchor it in place. Roots will form at the bend, and you can cut and transplant the new plant.

             Dividing Plants: Mature lavender plants can be divided in spring or early fall. However, you must carefully separate the root ball and replant.

              Companion Plants for Lavender and What Not to Plant

              Companion planting with lavender offers a harmonious blend of aesthetics, functionality, and ecology. By thoughtfully pairing lavender with compatible plants, gardeners can create a more resilient and beautiful garden ecosystem. 

              Benefits of Companion Planting with Lavender

              Pest Control: Lavender's scent repels many common garden pests, including aphids, whiteflies, and moths.

              Attracting Pollinators: Bees and butterflies are drawn to lavender's blooms, benefiting the entire garden.

                Whether enhancing flavors in the vegetable garden, adding color and texture among flowers, or supporting the health of fruit trees, lavender's companions contribute to all that. Here's a closer look at lavender's best companions and how they help:

                Lavender growing in a flower garden


                Rosemary: Both rosemary and lavender thrive in similar soil and sunlight conditions, making them ideal companions. They also share Mediterranean origins.

                Thyme: Thyme's low-growing habit complements lavender's taller stems, and both enjoy well-drained soil and full sun.

                Sage: Sage and lavender create a fragrant and visually appealing combination, and they share similar growing requirements.


                  Cabbage and Kale: Lavender's scent repels cabbage moths, protecting these leafy greens.

                  Tomatoes: Planting lavender near tomatoes can help deter aphids and other pests.


                    Echinacea: The bold colors of echinacea (coneflower) contrast beautifully with lavender's soft hues, attracting pollinators.

                    Yarrow: Yarrow's feathery foliage and bright flowers pair well with lavender's structure, and both are drought-tolerant.

                    Germander: This low-growing shrub offers a beautiful contrast to lavender's tall spikes and shares similar growing conditions.

                      Fruit Trees

                      Apple and Pear Trees: Lavender can help deter pests that often plague these fruit trees, such as codling moths.

                        Remember to ensure proper spacing between lavender and companion plants to avoid competition for nutrients and water. 

                        What Not to Plant Near Lavender

                        Lavender prefers dry and sunny conditions, so avoid planting it near plants that require frequent watering and shade. Here are a few plants to avoid: mint, lemon balm, ferns, hostas, rhubarb, and asparagus. 

                        Final Thoughts

                        Lavender invites us to slow down, breathe deeply, and savor life's simple pleasures. It's a reminder that beauty and joy can be found in the smallest things and that the garden is a place of wonder and healing.

                        Enjoy your lavender growing journey. If you have questions, need advice, or want to share your success, I'd love to hear from you!

                        Happy Growing!

                           Ana signature