How to Grow and Care for Lavender
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. Lavender is 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. Ahead, we share more of Martha's tips—and another expert's insights—for growing lavender that will flourish in your garden and home.
A General Care Guide
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 five, or shorter Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), which grows best in warmer regions (zones seven to nine) and can handle some humidity," our founder has previously said. "But take heed if you're in a zone colder than five: 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, check that the area you plant to place it in has well-drained soil and proper sunlight. Deborah Miuccio, the product research and testing coordinator at the Gardener's Supply Company, says that lavender thrives in neutral to slightly alkaline soil types. "[It] won't tolerate saturated soils, especially in winter," she notes. "One solution is to grow lavender in a raised bed, because raised beds tend to have better drainage than in-ground gardens. Using a free-draining soil mix to fill the bed is added insurance that your lavender plants won't suffer from root rot." Martha adds that a spot in your garden with great lighting will make for successful growth, too: "Pick a spot that receives six to eight hours of sunshine. 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 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."
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. 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," she adds. "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? Miuccio notes that the flowers will begin to open, and they are at their most fragrant at that point. "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," she says. "Display the dried stems in a vase or remove the flowers for use in sachets and more. Harvesting the flowers often stimulates the plants to produce a second flush of booms." To make sure that your lavender continuously thrives, the garden expert adds that, particularly after the first growing season, regular watering is crucial and pruning can help encourage new growth.