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Three Things You Should Know About Growing Lavender

by Fern on March 4, 2010

in Herbs,How To

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The votes are in, and it looks like I’ll be growing tomatoes and lavender in my Smart Pot comparison test. Many thanks to everyone who voted. I’ll be planting the Smart Pots in the next week or so, but in the meantime I’ve been rereading The Bountiful Container chapters on each plant–it’s my go-to guide on growing anything edible in a pot. Lavender is pretty easy to grow, but I thought I’d share a few tips gleaned from The Bountiful Container. Next Thursday I’ll share what the authors have to say about growing tomatoes.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Lavender

To put it simply, lavender likes a warm (but not hot) spot in the sun, with slightly alkaline soil that is a bit on the dry side. I won’t have a problem providing alkaline soil, because my water has so much calcium in it that neutral soil is turned alkaline within a month. But you can add a little lime to your potting mix if you don’t have the “benefit” of a similar water source.

Get More Lavender Plants for Free

To keep lavender from looking scraggly, you should snip the tips of the leaves back lightly in early spring and late summer. Every few of years, you’ll need to cut the branches back by half in Spring. Save these cuttings and dip the cut end into a little rooting hormone. Poke a hole in evenly moist, sandy potting soil and insert the cutting. In a few weeks it will have rooted and you will have a genetically identical clone of the original plant.

Properly Harvest Your Lavender

The leaves are as fragrant as the flowers, so save the tips that you pinch back twice a year. To harvest the flowers, pick spikes with flowers that have not opened. Snip them off the plant early in the day. Lay the flower spikes on a paper towel in a cool, dry place out of direct sun. After a week the flowers should be completely dry and you can store them in an airtight container until needed, though the color and scent may fade over time.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

melanie watts March 4, 2010 at 8:09 am

Great tips Fern. What are yu going to do with the lavender you are growing?

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jess March 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm

There is a whole lavender subculture here in the PNW (like, lavender farms, many people use it as a landscape plant, etc) but it is something of a mystery to me. I am always baffled by the varieties of lavender – do you know what kinds are best, esp for growing in containers, for culinary versus medicinal versus aromatherapy versus what else do people do with lavender?

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Fern March 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Jess–The Bountiful Container suggests sticking with varieties of Lavandula augustifolia and Lavandula heterophylla. The authors recommend sticking with medium and dwarf sizes. Three specific varieties they mention are ‘Sharon Roberts,’ ‘Buena Vista,’ and ‘Sweet Lavender.’ Though the last one is only if you have room for a plant that can get 3-4 tall.

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Fern March 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Melanie–There is a recipe in The Bountiful Container for making apple jelly infused with lavender and I think I am going to try that. Maybe I’ll also make sachets for my dresser drawers.

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jess March 5, 2010 at 9:58 am

I think the lavender in my yard is L. stoechas, spanish lavender. I went to check after this conversation. It’s too large for the s;pace and apparently good for bathwater, not food. I have an old perennial favorite pine nut lavender shortbread recipe that I wanted to bake again from my own lavender, but I guess the Spanish Lavender won’t work. Oh no, I have to go shopping!

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Bob March 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I think the chances of my lavender returning this spring are about 0% after I mangled it in last fall.
Thankfully a friend sent me some Dwarf Hidcote Lavender seeds to grow this year. Thanks for the reminder about lavender, Fern. I have to stick the packet outside to chill for a few weeks before sowing.

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Teri March 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Bob, I have had success sticking my seeds in the fridge for 6 weeks before planting. I planted them in eggshells with sandy soil and kept them in a see-through clamshell- type egg carton which acted like a greenhouse while they were germinating. It worked beautifully and I wound up with a gazillion beautiful lavender plants. Good luck!

Alexander Roman March 9, 2010 at 1:17 am

Great information, i’m growing lavender this year, purely for the Fragrance that it gives. as far as Culinary purposes go, i like honey infused with lavender as an accompaniment for cheeses.

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