Lavender, a delicate fragrance of French Provence… and more!

Lavender means summer, and the Mediterranean with its distinctive fragrance.

Key Lavender facts

Name – Lavandula species
Family – Lamiaceae
Type – shrub, sub-shrub

Height – 8 to 32 inches (20 to 80 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary, well drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – June to August

Planting, pruning and caring for them are steps that help enhance blooming and growth of your lavender.

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Planting lavender

Lavender grows everywhere around the Mediterranean and in countries that have a similar hot, dry climate. The important point is to ensure maximum sunlight is provided.

  • We recommend planting them in fall, but you can plant in spring without any problems.

Prepare a place that is well endowed with sunlight and very well drained soil. If your soil is clay, mix gravel and sand into it to make it lighter.

Sometimes, freshly planted lavender dies after a few weeks, because the soil is too moist. That is why it is crucial to have very well drained soil.

To grow a lavender hedge, plant one stem every 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm).

  • More ideas for low hedges

Pruning and caring for lavender

Proper care results in beautiful round lavender mounds.Pruning lavender is possible, but must be exclusively performed on growth that still bears leaves. If you prune dry wood, they won’t grow back…

  • At the end of winter, prune as you wish, but follow the rounded shape of the plant.
    Avoid cutting off old growth, because those branches rarely send out new shoots.
    Favor pruning only on young, tender shoots rather than old, hard wood.
  • If your climate zone has mild winters, you can also prune your lavender bush in fall.
  • After the blooming, cut all floral scapes off to avoid needlessly draining the plant nutrients.
  • More on getting lavender pruning right!

Cut lavender flowers are an excellent way to perfume clothes and laundry.

  • Make ingenious mite-repelling lavender wands with discarded trimmings.

Watering lavender

Lavender must be lightly watered at the beginning, but usually can keep growing without further watering.

Lavender hates excess moisture, so water sparsely to avoid suffocating the roots.

  • Water only when surface soil is dry.
  • Water lightly without flooding the roots.
  • Once well settled in, lavender doesn’t require any watering.

Here is our video advice to prune lavender correctly

Propagating lavender

It’s not too difficult to propagate lavender.

Cuttings

Lavender cuttings are prepared from recent wood. There must still be leaves on the wood. If not, it’s too old.

Crown division

This means dividing the clump. It’s perfectly suited to replacing a dead lavender in a line. Simply split its neighbor and replace it!

Seeds

Lavender seeds, tiny as a speck, in a hand.The solution that requires most patience, but is full of surprises!

Indeed, thanks to flowers cross-pollinizing each other, the child will only inherit a portion of the mother plant’s characteristics.

  • Depending on which other lavender plants are in the area, you might be starting a new hybrid!

Preserving lavender

Lavender flowers and branches can keep for months, even years, if kept in a dry place sheltered from the sun’s rays.

  • Best is to hang floral panicles together in small bunches to dry them before keeping them.
  • Our grandmothers used to prepare small cotton pouches filled with lavender flowers to perfume our laundry in the closet. With beautiful ribbons, you can make fragrant wands.
  • This would also serve as an excellent mite and ant repellent, together with cedar wood.

Varieties of lavender

Three or four dozens of lavender varieties are for sale on the market. Sometimes common names are confusing, but with the scientific name it’s easy to check which is which.

The most common varieties are English lavender, followed closely by French lavender.

When traveling around Europe and the Mediterranean, you’ll encounter many more varieties of lavender, such as Lavandin, Spanish lavender, Egyptian lavender…

Sometimes what you’ll find in the wild or in landscapes will be a mix of different species because of cross-pollination.

  • Lavender cross-pollinates easily, meaning two different varieties will produce children that are a mix of both!

Additionally, each type of lavender occasionally develops sports that lead to new cultivars. When a particularly remarkable one is nurtured, the plant is patented and given a name. Garden centers are then able to offer it for sale for the enjoyment of all!

There are hundreds of registered lavender cultivars and varieties, and certainly many more yet to be classified!

Lavender diseases and pests

When soil and light conditions are right, almost nothing will kill your lavender but old age.

  • Ensure proper drainage on neutral to alkaline soil
  • Give the plant full sun
  • Don’t overwater

Possible diseases include root rot and leaf spot.

Lavender leaf spot

Lavender root rot

  • The most common cause of lavender death: overwatering in poorly draining soil!
  • Lavender evolved to absorb what little water it could find in drought-prone areas. Roots aren’t equipped to deal with too much water and literally drown.
  • This weakens plant roots and makes them vulnerable to root rot fungus.

What to do to heal root rot on lavender

There’s a small chance to save your plant if you:

  • stop watering immediately
  • delicately lift the plant out of the soil (or pot) with a pitchfork or spade to dry the root ball
  • replace soil with a well-draining mix (river sand, expanded clay, gravel…)
  • only water when the soil is really dry deep down. Stick a finger or popsicle stick to 3 or 4 inches (around 10cm) deep. If it smears and stains, it’s still too wet. If it’s dusty, water away!

This will put the plant in a better condition to fight the fungus off and bounce back.

All there is to know about lavender

Lavender past, present and future

Bunches of lavender drying in the shade.Lavender has been grown for thousands of years for its scent, and also for its medicinal properties.

Native to the Mediterranean water basin, lavender was first used by the Romans to protect cloth and to perfume public baths.

It was used in Provence (France) early on to produce perfume and medicine thanks to its health benefits and medicinal properties.

A very engaging plant, this sub-shrub is one of the symbols of French Provence and of the Mediterranean sun, together with the olive tree.

While it was used in olden days to perfume baths and clothes, lavender today serves to beautify our rock beds, flower beds and gardens.

It is still used as an ingredient in perfumes and essential oils, especially in the Grasse region.

Easy to care for, lavender only requires reduced watering in case of high temperatures.

Cooking with lavender

Lavender leaves can be used in exactly the same manner you would rosemary. Add them to your marinades, grills, and even bouquet garni!

Smart tip about lavender

Mulch the base of your lavender plants with cocoa hulls for a very ornamental result. The lavender scent combined with chocolatey cocoa is a real treat!

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Handling lavender by Kat under Pixabay license
Mounding lavender by karsaiatti under Pixabay license
Seeds from the lavender flower by Hans Braxmeier under Pixabay license
Lavender drying in the shade by Germans Aļeņins under Pixabay license