Lavendula angustifolia is a great perennial herb known for its deep blue/lavender flowers and silvery/gray foliage. Given the right conditions lavender is an easy, drought resistant, low maintenance plant to grow.
A native to the Mediterranean, it tolerates heat and drought and usually blooms in July-September. The English (Vicenza Blue) Hidcote, Mumstead varieties are USDA hardy in zones 5-9, Heat zone 2-7. They can be grown as perennials in these zones but in colder regions should be treated as an annual.
Three things to remember when growing lavender.
Sweet soil, excellent drainage and winter protection against heaving.
How to grow it
Plant in well-drained to dry soil in full to part sun. Lavender prefers alkaline soil with a ph of 7.0 or more. Maintain the plant on the dry side-too much water will kill the roots, especially in winter. Pick the flower spikes to encourage more blooms during the growing season.
In mid-Spring cut back 1/3 of your lavender plant and trim out any winter-damaged stems. After a few years of growth the shrubby herb will look bare at the base. Cut the plant back down to 8 inches to maintain a tidier plant and encourage new growth.
Harvesting and drying
Pick in mid-day when flowers are dry and when the top half of flowers are opened. Hang small bunches in a dark, dry area.
This plant has more qualities than meets the eye. Lavender has many uses;
- Known for its natural relaxing properties, a warm bath in lavender water will calm and relax your nerves and help with insomnia.
- It also helps relieve dizziness, headaches, muscle pain, nausea, swelling, soreness, inflammation and has anti-fungal properties. Use on insect bites and burns.
- Lavender is also used to flavor jams, vinegar, oils and teas. Flowers are edible and crystalized for decoration. The essential oils are more prominent in L. angustifolia and L. stoechas
- The fragrant flowers can be dried with a scent that will remain for years. Use in potpourri or place the dried flowers in sachets . The dried aromatic flowers deter pests, moths and ants in the garden as well as indoors.
Use lavender in border gardens, as low growing accent plants and in containers. It also attracts bees and butterflies.
English lavender is highly prized for its fragrance.
French lavender (L. dentata) has finely toothed gray/green foliage and pale purple flowers.
Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas) narrow silvery foliage has plump dark purple flowers with elongated petals.