Tips for Growing Lavender in Your Garden
We think growing lavender is easy -- but then we've spent time reading and doing research, and we are continually learning from our mistakes! Below are answers to some common questions we receive. Want an answer to a question not posted here? Or information more specific to your growing location/plant? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What are the best varieties of lavender to grow?
The region where you live will affect the types of lavenders that are best suited. Here at the farm (near Hamilton, Ontario), we have grow lavenders from the Lavandula Angustifolia (also known as English or lavender) family and from the Lavendula Intermedia (also known as French or lavandin) family. The Angustifolia varieties are considered the hardiest and the Intermedias less hardy. Another family which is grown solely as an annual in Ontario is called Lavendula Stoechas (also known as Spanish or spike lavender). Note there are a few other families that are associated with "lavender". True lavender is the English lavender (Angustifolia). The Intermedias (French) are hybrids -- a cross between Angustifolias (English) and usually the Stoechas (Spanish). New to the area is an Intermedia that has been tested to be more winter hardy than most intermedias -- called Phenomenal ... it is a new plant that is under patent and only available from licensed growers/farms. Weir's Lane began selling Phenomenal in 2015.
2. I've been to Provence and I loved the fields there -- where can I find the plants grown in France?
This is where folks tend to confuse what is called "French" lavender with what is grown in France! Both Angustifolias and Intermedias are grown in France. The Angustifolias in Ontario will bloom in June and sometimes again in September. At maturity they are 1.5 feet high and wide. Intermedias are 2.5 feet high and wide and bloom in July. Angustifolia varieties tend to range from white to pink to light purple to dark purple. Intermedias also come in a range of colours but it is generally more difficult to achieve a dark purple.
3. What are the best growing conditions for lavender?
Lots of sun, space, limited watering, and good drainage. You want a soil with a high pH. If you plop your plant in a clay based soil, do not expect it to be happy. If you have clay based soil, consider amending the soil with sand and rocks. Once your plant is established in the ground, you do not want to over-water the plant -- it is an excellent drought resistant plant. Give your plant space -- it hates being crowded. Also, it likes to avoid moisture -- with space the morning dew can more easily dry off. And sun -- it thrives in sunny spots.
4. Should I prune my lavender?
Absolutely - at least once a year and up to twice a year. If you do not prune, the lavender will become leggy and woody and eventually you will get few blooms. Prune option #1: in the spring after the lavender wakes up. Wait until the lavender has signs of new growth (do not worry if it takes a while to wake up). Prune option #2: in the fall around early October. The rule of thumb in pruning is 1/3 of the plant or about 2 inches above the wood. If you prune into the wood you run the risk of the plant not coming back.
5. Should I fertilize my lavender?
The general rule is that fertilizer is not needed. When you initially put the lavender in the ground, a bit of fertilizer is good. After that you should not need it. Some folks, however, will use fertilizer once a year.
6. When is the best time to harvest my lavender?
If you are looking to enjoy the lavender for its flowers and bloom, then cut after it flowers and use as a fresh cut flower. If you want to use the lavender as buds (for sachets, cooking buds) or as dried stems, then you want to harvest the lavender after the buds are out but before it flowers.
7. How should I prepare my lavender for winter?
As indicated above you can prune in late September to early October (first week). In the winter lavender hates wind and moisture. If you cover your plant then you run the risk of moisture accumulating around the plant. If you do not cover your plant then you run the risk of the plant being exposed to harsh winter winds. Of course if you have trees (especially evergreens), bushes, and other plants near your lavender, they will help protect it in the winter.
8. Where can I find lavender seeds?
You can find seeds for a couple of the Lavendula Angustifolia varieties. We do not, however, recommend starting the plants from seed. Lavender is a slow growing plant and the germination rate from seed is low. It is better to grow as an established plant.
9. I want to create a hedge of lavender -- can this be done in Ontario?
Typically not. Ontario summers are typically humid. Lavender plants do not like moisture. If you plant your lavender too close then you run the risk that the moisture will become trapped and destroy the plant. We recommend spacing Angustifolias 1.5 to 2 feet apart (centre to centre) and Intermedias 2.5 to 3 feet apart (centre to centre).