From its Mediterranean origins to its place in international gardens, lavender is a highly adaptable plant which needs only a sunny, dry location and gravelly or sandy soil to thrive.
Lavender plants begin as tiny, hard seeds and the process of starting them this way is very time-consuming. Generally it's only the most determined and dedicated gardeners who undertake this challenge - it is much less work to purchase the plants at a later, more mature stage of development from a nursery. But for those of you who are up to it, we'll go through the entire process...
Lavender from Seed
Place each seed into a mixture of 1/3 peat, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 coarse sand in trays or pots. Press the seeds just into the soil mixture and cover lightly. Gently tap the soil to remove the air before sprinkling lightly with water. Finally, cover the trays or pots with a greenhouse dome.
The seeds like bottom heat and this heat will create condensation within the dome, keeping them at just the right moistness.
Check every day to make certain the soil is not dry – if it is, give a little bit more water.
In about 2-6 weeks you will see tiny green leaves popping above the soil. Once they are uniformly up, remove the cover during the day and replace it at night.
The First Year:
When the seedlings are looking strong and healthy, prick them out of the trays and plant into a larger pot where they will continue to grow for the rest of their first year. Keep your pots together in frames to protect them from the elements...being diligent at this stage pays off in the long run!
Your plants will begin to throw up blooms which should be cut off throughout the first year to encourage the development of a good, strong root system. Deep roots will protect the plant from natural hazards, be it drought conditions, cold weather, or strong winds.
It is an excellent sign when the plant fills the pot and roots come through the bottom – this means it is healthy and on its way to becoming a beautiful addition to the garden!
Into the Garden
When we plant our healthy lavenders, we space them according to the mature size we expect them to reach. This varies from 50cm apart for dwarf plants to 2.5m apart for large, long-stemmed cultivars.
Gardens which do not have the ideal conditions for growing lavender can have their soil amended by digging down 20-30cm and filling the hole two-thirds full with a sandy mix, then place your plant in the hole, cover with more of the sandy mix and mound up about 10 centimeters around the base of the plant.
Lavender is the perfect plant for a xeriscape garden as it prefers hot, dry conditions. Excessive overhead watering will cause it yellow and eventually die out as root rot sets in. Any water requirements are best served by drip irrigation to give lavender the conditions it prefers. If it is impossible for your lavenders to avoid being hit by overhead watering, you can simply take cuttings from healthy stock when your plants start to yellow and propagate new plants when you require them.
Lavender roots easily from cuttings as long as you take your cutting with a small leg on one side, dip it in rooting hormone and start it in a mixture of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 sand.
Prune each plant into a compact dense mound when you put your garden to bed each autumn and you will be rewarded with lovely, healthy growth and beautiful, fragrant blooms for about 10 years!