Lavender makes a wonderful addition to the herb garden, or the flower garden. There are so many varieties of lavender to grow that you could have it in several places easily!
Lavender is a favourite for the bees and has many medicinal uses as well.
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The scientific name of Lavender is Lavendula, a genus of flowering plants with more than 30 species of evergreen shrubs belonging to the family of mint.
The leaves and bluish-purple flowers have scented oil glands. Most lavender species are native to the Mediterranean region, the Atlantic region, Asia Minor, and India.
However, they are cultivated worldwide and widely used for its fresh, clean scent in perfumery and aromatherapy. The fragrant flowers and narrow leaves are often dried and used in potpourris sachets.
In ancient Egypt, stills were used to produce essential oils from lavender for use in mummification rituals.
Benefits of Lavender
As one of the most useful herbs in all of nature, some benefits attributed to lavender include:
– Anxiety and stress reduction
– Mood lifter
– Sleep enhancer
– Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal remedy
– Headache and migraine treatment
– Treatment for motion sickness
– As a treatment for chest and nasal congestion
– For soothing bug bites
– Soothing skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis
As a home remedy, lavender is wonderfully calming in teas, adds a lovely delicate scent to baking, and fills the home with a lovely fragrance when used in aromatherapy.
How Easy is it to Grow Lavender?
Lavender is relatively easy to grow if a few factors are taken into consideration.
Being a Mediterranean plant, it prefers full sunshine, well-draining soil, and can be quite tolerant of heat and drought.
However, it does not like over-watering or humid conditions.
Growing lavender in pots with good drainage is ideal; however, if the potting soil is too fertile, it may grow mostly stems and leaves rather than flowering.
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Where to Plant Lavender
Lavender plants prefer at least 50% full sun for about 8 hours a day, good air circulation, good soil drainage, and lots of room to grow.
Ideal spacing is about 40 cm apart and a mature bush can grow up to 60 centimeters wide. Rows should be planted 35cm apart with a minimum of 50 cm gaps between rows.
Being a woody herb, lavender likes ‘dry feet’ so should not be over watered and they don’t like any form of mulch after they have matured. The soil can be amended with pebbles or sand to aid drainage and should have a pH of around 6.5 to 7.5.
Beyond annual topdressing with rich compost in the spring, feeding is generally not needed.
Try different strains to find the right type of lavender for your climate.
How to grow Lavender from Seeds or Cuttings
In frost areas, seeds can be started off indoors during early spring.
In frost-free areas, seeds can be sown outside in beds or trays.
Certain lavender strains can only be propagated from rooted cuttings.
Water well while the plants are establishing, then reduce the amount and frequency of water, especially during rainy periods.
Water at root level as overhead sprinklers can cause hot humid conditions that lavender plants dislike.
During the first year of growth, the flower buds should be removed to encourage more bushy growth and about one-third of the entire bush should be pruned before fall or by early spring.
Pruning after flowering will prevent the plants from getting too woody and can add to longevity, although most types need to be replaced after three years of growth, especially in areas with summer rainfall.
Pruning should be done into semi-hardwood with small shoots visible below the cut.
How Long does it take from Sowing to Harvesting Lavender Flowers?
Seedlings planted in a very light soil mix that drains well will germinate in about two weeks.
Make sure they have sufficient water and are placed in full sunlight. Once the small lavender plants have established themselves in the ground they will grow slowly during the first year but most will bloom.
During the second year there will be an abundance of blooms from the fully matured plants.
Growing Lavender in Containers
Select a container with enough room for growth with holes and small stones to aid drainage. Use a sandy potting soil and add a tablespoon of lime to the mix.
Fill the pot three quarters full, add the lavender plant and fill to about two inches from the top. Firm the soil down with at least two centimeters of the crown sticking out above the soil.
Water thoroughly and add a 5 cm layer of mulch to help retain moisture during the early growth period.
Place the container in sunny position, sheltered from wind, where the lavender will get at least 6 hours of sunshine every day.
Water when the soil becomes dry and ensure the container is drained well. Potted lavender can be stored inside during winter.
During periods of dormancy between over winter the plants will need very little water and no fertilizer.
Pruning twice a year will prevent the shrubs from turning to wood.
Make a cut into the green parts about two-leaf sets above the woody part to encourage a more stable, healthy looking and thicker plant.
Drying Lavender for Later Use
The blooms should be cut in the early morning to avoid the oils in the buds from evaporating in the hot midday sun.
The best time to cut blooms for drying is when they are one-third to one-half open. When laid flat or hung out in a cool, dark place, they will dry in about three days.