How to Grow and Care for Lavender, One of Martha's Favorite Perennial Plants
Lavender is known for its soothing scent and healing properties for hair, skin, and more. And thanks to its drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow qualities, this perennial shrub also makes for a beautiful addition to your garden.
The lavender plant is also one of Martha's favorite blooms—she grows it in her Bedford gardens and recommends harvesting the stems as they begin to open to gently scent your home. We share more of Martha's tips ahead—and another expert's insights—on how to grow lavender plants that will flourish in your backyard and home.
How to Grow Lavender Outdoors
Cultivars by Hardiness Zone
According to our founder, you should start by sourcing a lavender cultivar that will grow well in your area. "Choose the variety with the color and height that's best suited for your location, such as tall English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), which is cold-hardy to zone 5, or shorter Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), which grows best in warmer regions (zones 7 to 9) and can handle some humidity," says our founder. "But take heed if you're in a zone colder than 5: Plants may not survive the frigid temperatures."
Other than assessing your region, there are other things you need to do to ensure your lavender prospers—namely, checking that the area you plan to place it in has well-drained soil. Deborah Miuccio, the product research and testing coordinator at the Gardener's Supply Company, explains that lavender thrives in neutral to slightly alkaline soil types. "[It] won't tolerate saturated soils, especially in winter," she says.
One solution, adds Miuccio, is to grow lavender in a raised bed. "Raised beds tend to have better drainage than in-ground gardens," she says. "Using a free-draining soil mix to fill the bed is added insurance that your lavender plants won't suffer from root rot."
Sunlight, Water, and Fertilizer
Martha notes that providing your lavender plant with the correct amount of sunlight is also crucial to your plant's success—as is hydration and fertilization. "Pick a spot that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunshine," she says. "Water deeply but infrequently during dry spells, and add a thin layer of compost each spring."
How to Grow Lavender Indoors
For those who simply want to grow lavender inside, you're in luck. The plant will sprout well under grow lights so long as you provide the correct light conditions, Miuccio notes. "You can also place a pot in a sunny south window where it will receive as much light as possible," she says. "In low light, growth may become weak and spindly and the plant will cease flowering. Rotate the pot weekly for uniform growth."
Temperature and Air Flow
The most ideal temperatures to grow your lavender inside would be 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, she adds. Good air circulation is also key, Miuccio continues, but make sure to avoid a direct flow of hot air.
Soil, Water, and Fertilizer Requirements
Additionally, keep the soil wet by drenching it in water and allowing the pot to drain thoroughly. "Allow the soil to become somewhat dry between watering. Over- or under-watering may cause leaves to turn yellow or wilt," says Miuccio. "Fertilize with half-strength houseplant fertilizer once a month."
How to Harvest Lavender
After about one to three months, lavender is typically ready for harvest. As for how to know when this perennial herb is ready to be plucked? Both Martha and Miuccio say to watch the flowers: When they begin to open, they are at their most fragrant. "If you're planning to dry the flowers, harvest them by cutting long stems, gather them into loose bunches, and hang them to dry out of direct sun," Miuccio says. "Display the dried stems in a vase or remove the flowers for use in sachets and more."
Harvesting the flowers, she adds, often stimulates the plants to produce a second flush of booms. To make sure that your lavender continuously thrives—particularly after the first growing cycle— regular watering is crucial; pruning can also encourage new growth, says Miuccio.