How to Grow Lavender

Botanical Name: Lavandula species

If you've ever wondered how to grow lavender plant, you'll be surprised how easy it is. All lavender varieties prefer full sun and a sandy, well-drained soil. Lavender grows well in a container indoors and out.

Did you know...

Dried lavender flower buds are one of the ingredients in herbes de Provence, a popular herb mix used for cooking.

Uses of lavender. Lavender's intoxicating fragrance has made this herb a favorite for perfumes and lavender sachets for centuries. Pure lavender oil is used in aromatherapy products such as candles, pot pourri and soaps. Its soothing scent has a relaxing effect. Lavender crafts such as wreaths or other dried flower arrangements are cherished for their aroma as much as their beauty.

The most common variety is English lavender (L. angustifolia). It has tall spikes of violet flowers and offers several popular cultivars.

gardening lavender

L. x intermedia are hybrids of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia, featuring violet-blue flowers. 'Twickle Purple' is a beautiful, dark-purple cultivar.

French lavender (L. dentata) has finely toothed, grayish-green foliage and pale purple blooms.

Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), shown here, is a species featuring short, thick spikes of deep violet flowers topped with long bracts.

Lavender Plant Care

There's no trick to learn how to grow lavender. However, growing lavender plant indoors can be a challenge if you don't have a sunny spot for it.

Native to the Mediterranean, this sun-loving herb needs as much direct light as possible. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, so moving it outdoors for the summer may be your best option. Don't worry about putting it on a hot porch or patio -- it can take the heat. Just bring it back indoors for the winter. Most lavender varieties are not cold-hardy.

Pruning lavender will keep the plant compact. Cut the plant back by half after the flowering season is over.

Lavender harvesting tip: If you want to preserve the plant for drying, gather lavender just after the flowers open. Cut flower stems at the base.

Countless varieties are available, but the basics for how to grow lavender are the same for all. Provide plenty of sunshine and keep the soil on the dry side.

How to Grow Lavender Indoors

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Origin: Mediterranean

Height: 1-3 ft (30-90 cm), depending on variety

Light: Full sun. Turn plant for even growth because it will tend to grow toward the light source. Growing lavender plant outdoors in the warm months will give it the light it needs.

Water: Water thoroughly spring through fall, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. In winter, water sparingly.

Humidity: Average room humidity.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. English lavender (L. angustifolia) is cold hardy to USDA Zone 5. Other lavender varieties are not cold-hardy. They do, however, make excellent container plants and can be brought indoors for the winter.

Soil: Use a well-drained potting mix such as 2 parts all-purpose potting mix and 1 part sand. Lavender doesn't like heavy, poorly drained soil, which can cause root rot.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring through fall with a 10-20-20 liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Take 3-4 in (7-10 cm) stem cuttings in spring and place in moist potting mix. Pinch off the flowers the first year to encourage strong growth of the plant. Propagating lavender from seed is usually difficult, however, one variety L. angustifolia 'Lady' is easy to start from seed and will bloom the first year. How to grow lavender from seed: Sow in spring, just barely covering the seeds with well-drained soil. Place in full sun.

Green Thumb Tip

Growing lavender plant requires direct sunlight.

If you can't put it in a west- or south-facing window, moving lavender outdoors for the summer will give it the sunlight it needs.

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Buying Tip

Lavandula angustifolia offers a few cultivars that make good house plants. 'Hidcote' lavender is a compact plant with rich purple blooms, and 'Munstead Dwarf' is a prolific bloomer that only reaches 1 ft (30 cm) tall.

'Alba Nana' is even more compact, growing to 6-12 in (15-30 cm) high and is a rare white-flowered variety.

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What's in a Name?

Lavender gets its name from the Latin word lavare, which means to wash. In ancient times, Romans used the aromatic herb to scent their bathwater.

How to Dry Lavender

Cut off the stems as soon as the flowers are fully open, leaving a stem length suitable for a vase, wreath, or whatever flower arrangement you choose. Use a dark, dry, airy room for fast drying. Tie the stems in small bunches, then hang the stems upside down while drying to prevent them from bending.

It will take about a week for the flowers to completely dry.