Caring for Your Lavender Plants
Lavender plants grow hardy down to USDA zone 5, and its gray-green leaves and purple flowers are beautiful and fragrant when fresh or dried. The scent is believed to encourage relaxation and is often used in potpourri or aromatherapy, dried or pressed into an oil.
Lavender will produce healthier growth if it is planted in soil with an alkaline pH level. Test your soil first to find out its current pH levels. Below 7 is alkaline, above 7 is acidic. If your soil is too acidic, there’s a good chance your plant leaves will become limp and yellow. Acidic soil can be neutralized by adding lime to the soil gradually.
Your soil may also need to be treated with sand to create a well-draining soil. If your soil doesn’t drain water properly, the roots of the lavender will sit in water which can cause the roots to mildew and rot. Adding sand to your soil—especially if it has a lot of clay—will make sure that after heavy rains, the water won’t give your lavender plants “wet feet.” Growing lavender in a well-draining pot may help you control the levels of standing water under your lavender plants.
Lavender needs at least 4 hours of sunlight a day, preferably getting closer to 8 hours. If your garden gets quite a bit of shade, plant lavender in containers so that you can move it around to follow the sun.
Lavender will produce new growth for about 5 years and up to 10 years, although the amount of growth will probably decrease dramatically after 5 years. Lavender should be pruned at least once a year in the spring to keep it looking neat. Cut off new growth constantly for the first year, so that by the time it blooms it has grown full and green. Lavender can spread out quickly, often appearing scraggly if it is left to grow untended. When your lavender plant starts producing growth with heavy bark, trim off these branches.
If you decide to replant lavender from pot to garden or garden to pot you don’t have to dig up the entire plant. Instead, cut off a healthy sprig of the lavender for replanting. Make a narrow hole about the width of a finger and 1½ inches deep. Press the lavender cutting into the hole. Make sure to water daily after transplanting to help the new lavender plant adjust and grow strong roots.
To dry lavender for use as potpourri, pick after the blooms open. Dry in a cool place that gets plenty of air circulation.
During the hot months of summer, water weekly, especially for young plants. Lavender is somewhat drought-resistant, but try to water twice weekly for the first two years during the summer, and once weekly after that. After your lavender plant is fully established, watering will be unnecessary. Water at the soil level; watering too high may cause damage to the fragile leaves and flowers.