tips for growing lavender
Harvesting fragrant stems of English lavender is a pleasurable garden task. Even the bees are slower and linger quietly on this glorious plant. Although it’s easy to grow English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in dry climates, it’s a challenge in much of North America — the crowns tend to rot in the winter. Here’s a planting method that’s sure to give you success.
BRIGHT LIGHT, DRY FEET — To start, choose a spot in full sun and dig your planting hole about 8 in. deeper and 12 in. wider than the pot you’re planting. To make the soil a bit alkaline and encourage good drainage, place a layer of limestone gravel in the bottom of the planting hole. Then layer soil and turkey grit. Plant the rootball so the plant’s crown sticks up about an inch above the rest of the soil.
MULCH AND GIVE PLANTS SOME ROOM — After your plant is set, mulch with 2 in. of large granite turkey grit or white landscape stone. If you live near a farm supply store, look for turkey grit there. Otherwise, buy white landscaping stone at a garden center. The light-colored stone reflects the sun under the plant and allows stems to dry out quickly after rain or watering, which prevents rot. And stone, rather than organic mulch, promotes that all-important good drainage, also to prevent root rot. Another thing that can cause fungal problems is poor air circulation. Space plants 24 in. apart to prevent this.
ROOT WATCH — Young lavender plants are usually slow to take off, so it’s best to buy plants that have some root growth. When looking at plants in the nursery, carefully turn the pot over and gently tap it, allowing the plant to slip out of the container. If you can see a few roots poking out of the soil, you know the lavender is established and ready to jump up and grow.
WARM SOIL START — Wait to plant until late spring or early summer when soil temperatures are warm. It’s hard to be patient, but young plants are more likely to rot during a cold, wet spring. If you’ve been frustrated with this charming plant, give this method a try. You’ll soon be harvesting fragrant wands a few times each summer!