English lavenders, Spanish lavenders, and other varieties of lavender plants make great additions to herb gardens and garden beds. The colorful lavender flowers fill the air with purple blooms and a rich fragrance. Lavender plants thrive in warmer climates with a mild winter but can be grown all over the world in US hardiness zones as low as 5.
There are many popular varieties of the fragrant lavender plant, and depending on the type of lavender, it can be grown in pots, in the garden, and planted throughout the year. For the best result getting lavender in pots or herb gardens to grow, you should plant at the right time for your climate and choose mature plants in cold climates. Below is all the information you will need to know whether you should plant lavender in the fall, spring, or another season altogether.
When to Plant lavender?
Most lavender farmers grow lavender from seed in the spring and transplant lavender from cuttings or young plants in the late summer and early fall. The main thing that kills lavender in spring is a late frost, whereas early temperature drops in the fall can wipe out new transplants just as easily. Choose the time of year that will give you at least 10 weeks before winter cold or excessive heat in warm climates.
Planting Lavender in the spring is useful if you have a short fall season and an early frost. Lavender farmers that have lost a fall harvest will be best off starting plants in the spring to avoid deadly conditions in colder climates. English climates and temperate climates are most suited to spring lavender plantings.
The benefits of early planting of lavender are steady growth from root to leaf development over the first several months of the season. In most cases, there will be little chance of late frost, and if a cold snap occurs, mulch can prevent root freezing if added before the frost conditions. There are several months for lavender to grow before summer heat and drought make soil conditions more fragile.
In most cooler climates where spring planting is most likely, there will be ample moisture for new plants. Snow melt and spring showers should saturate the soil enough that supplemental watering shouldn’t be needed after root establishment. Soft soil is easier to plant in, and the spring season is the best time to do landscape work while plants are actively growing.
There are a few drawbacks to planting lavender in the spring that can be difficult to manage. Competition with weeds and other garden plants can be difficult, and overall lawn and garden health may suffer. A slow germination and growth start due to cool temperatures can be expected, especially if there is excessive shade or low points in your lawn. Some lavender plants may be lost to onion snow or other temperature-related issues.
Spring is also when pests emerge from the soil and other overwintering locations and start hunting for meals. Although lavender offers superb pest protection, once flower spikes are in full bloom, seedlings just starting out and vulnerable cuttings may not survive a pest infestation. The wet conditions of spring can also lead to root rot, a common condition in soggy soil that can prove fatal in lavender plants.
In areas where summer stretches on and mild winters are expected, fall planting has plenty of benefits. Lavender can be planted anytime from late summer to mid-fall and still have enough time to develop roots strong enough to survive the winter. Most annual weeds are dying off, and turf will be actively growing, making it a good time for lavender growth in the garden. This is a great time to fertilize and prepare your yard with lavender cuttings and transplants.
Lavender planted in fall has far fewer weeds and pests to deal with. Most pests and invasive plants have finished actively growing and are winding down in their annual life cycle. The warm soil temperature of fall encourages fast root growth and easier growing conditions than the cold spring soil.
Fall tends to have more moisture than hot summers and dry winters, and ample sun keeps soil temperature high for active growth. Lavender planted in the fall will have a huge head start in the spring when the air warms up, resulting in purple blooms much earlier in the summer. The cooling temperatures in fall aid root growth instead of leaf growth which may not be helpful to survive a cold winter frost.
Lavender planted in fall can also succumb to quite a few planting misfortunes and die before spring. Transplanted lavender needs 8 to 10 weeks to develop strong roots, or it may not survive winter dormancy. Seeds will not have enough time to develop into plants capable of living through a frost, so only cuttings and pre-started plants should be put in the ground in autumn.
Lavender plants that went in the ground too late in the fall may not be able to break dormancy early in the spring and may need to wait until warm soil temperatures to continue root growth. Rainfall conditions and cold temperatures can lead to too much moisture in the root ball and unhealthy plants. Wood mulch and gravel mulch can help keep root systems warm during cold winter weather.
What to Do with Lavender?
The silvery foliage and heady fragrances of true lavenders can be useful in many applications around the home and garden. After you have harvested the flowers at the ideal time, you can prepare them in many different ways based on what you will be using them for. Check out the list below to find your favorite lavender use.
|Repels Moths and Insects||Chemical-free insect control that is pleasant and non-toxic to pets and children||Spray lavender spray in the closet and near clothes and insect areas, or place lavender sachets in hard-to-reach corners|
|Promotes restful sleep||An ancient herb that has been used for sleep and realization for many thousands of years||Create lavender oil and place it in diffuser, or place bunches of the dried lavender blooms under your pillow to promote restful sleep|
|Freshens air and removes odors||Keeps indoor and outdoor areas smelling of flora and can be used in bathrooms and in pet areas effectively||Use the flowers and oils to create an aroma that can be placed in commonly odorous areas and replace them when the aroma begins to fade|
|Herb in Dishes||Adds a unique spice and flavor to certain dishes and teas||Dry leaves and chop, crush, grind and add to food and drinks as called for by appropriate recipes|
|Soap||Fragrant herbs like lavender make great additions to soap and body products that can rejuvenate the skin and leave the user feeling fresh and relaxed||Add flowers or oils to carrier oils for soap-making and body lotion formulas|
|Attract Pollinators||Grow prolifically in hot arid conditions and provides food to beneficial insects across the globe||Let plants grow large and open in your garden and along the borders of your yard to attract bees, butterflies, and other desirable pollinators|
Plants with strong fragrances that endure for several weeks after being cut can be used as a pest repellant. Most pests, insects, and animals avoid strong-smelling aromas that they find unpleasant or that can mask food or danger. Lavender is especially useful in closest to keep moths and beetles from chomping on clothes.
Concentrations of lavender oil can be used to spray around gardens and entryways to homes to keep rodents and bugs from entering areas they are not welcome. Lavender persists for a long time and can be offensive to mammals with a strong sense of smell. The aroma of lavender flowers can disrupt pheromone smells in ants and other colony-dwelling insects.
Lavender has long been used in cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, and aromatherapy. The strong smell of lavender lingers on the skin and in the air and induces a state of calm and relaxation. It is common for lavender to be used in air diffusers for nighttime restfulness and in bath bombs and other shower additives to help reduce stress and invite sleep.
As perfume and soap, lavender is often mixed with other scents to create a more well-rounded smell portfolio. Aromatic lavender can be overpowering if used in too high of a volume or placed too prominently in a room. Lavender can be added as dried flowers, crushed material, or infused into an essential oil with high carrying capabilities.
Lavender is a multifaceted herb that can be used in some recipes, is found in the common herbs de Provence mix, and can be added to teas in moderation. Lavender smoke and different desserts and ice creams can also be made using lavender essence. Because of this flower’s strong and unique taste, it is only used sparing in specific delicacies and is not a common herb like basil or cilantro that can be added liberally.
Most applications of lavender in food and drink consist of drying the flowers and crushing them into powder with other ingredients. Both teas and savory dishes can benefit from a sprinkling of lavender.
Lavender works well around the garden and can help support other plants growing nearby. While attracting pollinators is a huge benefit, the actual impact lavender has on these organisms is profound. In dry locations, plants in full flower during late summer and early fall is rare and lavender provides a reliable food source for many creatures.
Lavender also provides shade and helps other plants survive the hot temperatures. These plants are not thirsty and will not steal water from other more fragile plants during times of drought or extreme heat. Lavender plants grow quickly, and the resulting trimmings can be added as mulch to the surrounding garden area.
How to Plant Lavender?
In most cases, late summer or early fall is the best time to plant lavender for the most likely successful growing season. It is a good idea to avoid planting lavender in the summer or winter when conditions are unpredictable, and young plants may be unable to cope with climate extremes. Prepare your garden properly to increase the likely hood that you will have continuous blooms of lavender flowers next summer.
Lavender plants need warm, fast-draining, alkaline soil to thrive. Soil that is full of clay, slow to drain, full of rocks, and other root obstacles, will not grow the best lavender plants. Soil temperatures are extremely important for continued lavender growth, and 6 hrs of sunlight is needed each day to grow full flowers. To avoid issues with poor soil that doesn’t have good drainage, you can plant on a slope or add sand to increase drainage capabilities.
Lavender plants do not need tons of water to thrive, but a bit of steady water when first planted and during excessive drought is necessary. When lavender is first planted, water it well to ensure the roots can grow and develop unobstructed. After roots have grown and during periods of dormancy, very little water will be needed to keep lavender plants alive.
After planting, water every day for the first 3 days, then every 3 days for the first 3 months, and finally once every 2 to 3 weeks after that. This watering schedule will help you grow a large lavender plant that will not succumb to either winter or summer extremes. Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering, whereas dropping branches can indicate that a sprinkling is needed.
To increase the likelihood that new lavender plants will survive, garden beds should be prepared properly. If winter is quickly approaching, a layer of thin wood chip or pine needle mulch can be used to choke out weeds and protect roots. Make sure to leave space between the mulch and plant stems to allow excess moisture to vent and increase air circulation around the plant.
Space plants 2 ft apart in garden beds or herb gardens to avoid overcrowding and the resulting weak, stunted plants that will not receive adequate sunlight or nutrients. If more plants are needed than can conventionally fit in your garden, consider trimming them or training them to grow in less space.
To avoid early frost death choose bigger plants the closer to winter, you will be planting when transplanting from a nursery. Cuttings can be warmed up with mulch, or plants can be started in pots and brought in during the winter and returned to the garden in the spring.
How to Care for Lavender?
Overall, lavender is very easy to grow and take care of if you live in the correct climate. Even in your climate isn’t exactly perfect, with some extra steps and a rigid care schedule, you should still be able to add these awesome plants to your garden and enjoy the wonderful smell of fresh lavender all summer long.
If lavender is planted in the fall, then only a little aftercare is needed. As long as the first frost is at least 10 weeks away, only a bit of water to get started needs to be added, and occasionally adjustments need to be made. Planting in the spring can be a little more difficult to maintain.
In the spring watering and fertilizing will be required if a summer bloom is desired. In the spring, many weeds and competing plants will start to grow, so vigilant suppression strategies should be implemented to save summer weeding efforts. Pay attention to pests that may attack young lavender plants, like beetles and caterpillars, and treat the area to save your flowers.
Lavender plants grow quickly and steadily and build strong, woody stems and branches that can withstand extreme heat and cold. Initially, you can cover lavender during times of extreme cold to prevent roots from freezing and the plant from dying. Water infrequently and deeply during droughts and mulch thinly to prevent excess evaporation during the hot summer heat.
Prune lavender back in the late summer after blooms have dropped to encourage more growth next year, and also trim green shots in early spring to prevent woody branches with few flowers from forming.
Lavender flowers have many uses, and you can take cuttings for flowers and oils before fall when flowers are in full bloom and temperatures have not dropped. It is ideal to harvest early in the morning while oils are at their peak before the sun has reduced the potency of the flowers.
To harvest, cut the stems off when half of the flower buds have opened, leaving only a few inches of stem below the blooms. Tie the bundle together with twine or a rubber band to move easily and keep it together. Allow the bundles of lavender to dry in the dark with plenty of air circulation, or add a fan to improve airflow.
Once the bundles are completely dry and brittle, you can shake flowers off of the stems and store them in an air-tight container in a dark, cool, and dry place. A mason jar or other glass container can help keep flowers fresh for many months.
Collecting seeds either to sow elsewhere or to encourage more plants to grow in the garden is extremely easy with lavender plants. The seeds form in the flowers and will be ready toward the end of summer and early fall. Let the flowers grow and bloom fully, and do not cut or shake them before full maturity.
Shake dried seed heads to drop seeds when lavender begins to go dormant in the winter. Alternatively, you can cut the seeds pods when they are almost dry and move them indoors to finish drying if you will be sowing in another location. Seeds that fall on the ground can be watered in and lightly mulched to encourage germination in the following spring.