About This Herb
There are more than 20 species of lavender and each has its own special features. However, the leaves, flowers and seeds of this herb all have a sweet scent. Lavender essential oil, distilled from the fresh flowering tops, is used to make lotions, soaps, body scrubs, room sprays, candles and many other products. Lavender’s antiseptic and analgesic properties treat bee stings, burns, scrapes and poison ivy.
How to Grow Lavender
Lavender is a shrubby Mediterranean perennial plant that grows well in our region. Plants thrive in well-drained soils and can become fairly drought tolerant when established. The flowers are especially fragrant and the nectar is a favorite food source for bees.
Locate a sunny spot in the ornamental garden or use as a border plant along sidewalks or paths. Amend the soil so it is light and will drain well. Lavender is also known for growing in poor, alkaline soils.
Wait for warm weather before planting lavender. Lavender can be planted from seeds, but most gardeners opt for planting transplants. It takes quite a bit of care and patience to start lavender from seeds. Even when planted from transplants, growth can be slow the first few years.
Look for English and French lavenders that are hardy to Zone 5. These plants will be perennial, return each season and grow into short shrubs that can spread several feet in each direction.
The first few seasons, lavender plants will need consistent moisture, but the soil shouldn’t be kept soggy or it will hurt plant roots.
Established lavender plants will freeze in winter and require trimming in spring. As new leaves begin to appear, cut the plant back to the live stems.
As plants grow through the summer, harvest the fresh purple flowers that grow on tall spikes. Use in cooking or let the flowers dry on the stems. Then cut the stalks back to the foliage and flowers may bloom again.
How to use Lavender in the Kitchen
Lavender flowers are used to flavor jams, cookies and even ice cream. Lavender is also an ingredient in herbes de Provence, a traditional blend of dried herbs that are used to season fish or chicken before grilling or to add to vegetable dishes during cooking.
Lavender is also a nice addition to sachets or potpourris and the dried flowers can be used for many different kinds of craft projects.
To add a French flair to meals, grow your own herbes de Provence by planting all the herbs in this traditional spice blend, including lavender. Mix the dried herbs together in equal amounts and use to season fish or chicken before grilling or add to vegetable dishes during cooking.
Companion Plants for Lavender
Plant lavender with these herbes de Provence companions:
- Summer savory
Materials for Lavender Success
- Light soil amendment
- Assorted varieties of lavender transplants
- Organic mulch