Just thinking about lavender makes me feel automatically more relaxed. We use lavender extensively at home for so many things from putting drops of lavender essential oil in the clothes dryer, to using dried flowers inside pillowcases.
The benefits of lavender
Some of us may know that inhaling lavender oil is a scientifically proven sleep aid,1 and it also increases drowsiness, aiding to a better quality of sleep. Studies also show lavender essential oil can also be used as a safe and effective treatment for migraines.2 Even the word lavender is thought to be from the Latin word ‘lavare’, which means to wash, and we use it at home in a lot of our homemade cleaning supplies and toiletries. Interestingly, lavender also has antimicrobial activity and studies demonstrate that lavender and lavender essential oils present significant bactericidal effects against microorganisms such as Shigella flexneri, Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.3
Lavender, being extremely popular and versatile, is available in many products and can be found in its essential oil form as well as in dried flowers. It can be used in aromatherapy massage, in the bath, or inhaled by using an essential oil diffuser or simply in drops on a piece of fabric kept close to a pillow for better sleep.
Even better, it is a plant that can be grown inside or outside so that we can harvest and use our very own lavender.
Growing your own lavender
I would love to say that growing lavender is easy, and you can grow huge amounts from seed with little to no experience. Lavender is special for a reason, and it is on the moderately-difficult scale of plants to start from seed. It is certainly worth trying, and I would recommend choosing seed from a reputable nursery in the variety of lavender you wish to grow and following the propagation strategies recommended by the seed supplier. Otherwise, if you are new to growing lavender, it may be worth choosing healthy, mature plants to start with.
Conditions and temperature
In general, lavender grows in zones 5 to 10, and was originally found in hot, dry areas of the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, India, and Asia. When thinking of growing a new plant, I always try to simulate its natural environment as much as possible. If you have an outdoor climate similar to what lavender loves, then growing healthy plants outside may be just right for you. Some varieties of lavender can even be grown into small tidy hedges or shrubs and can help deter mosquitoes and other insect pests in addition to making your garden more peaceful and relaxing. If you live in a place colder than zone 5, growing lavender inside may be the right choice for you, especially if you have a nice sunny spot for it to flourish.
Choosing lavender plants
There are many kinds of lavender to choose from with 45 different species and at least 450 varieties. They range in hardiness, bloom times, flower color and scent, and leaf shape. Most varieties bloom in summer and grow to a size of 2 feet by 2 feet. They are long-lived, woody perennials requiring regular pruning of herbaceous growth and flower stalks, but it is recommended to never prune the old wood. The hardiest varieties are hybrid lavender, Lavandula x Intermedia, English lavender, Lavandula Angustafolia, and Portuguese lavender, Lavandula latifolia, living well in Zone 5 to Zone 8 or 9.
Lavender species that thrive in hotter zones are Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas, and French lavender, Lavandula dentata, generally surviving in Zone 7 to Zone 11. This is particularly important if you are hoping to grow lavender outside. Choosing healthy, well formed plants with strong woody growth is important for both indoor and outdoor use.
Growing lavender outdoors
As with any plant, location is always important. In the right place, you can make the most of this tough, drought, wind, and sun tolerant plant. Planted in full-sun, lavender will share its beauty and relaxing, calming scent to any outdoor landscape. The next most important factor to growing lavender is excellent drainage. Earlier I mentioned growing lavender plants in as close to their natural environment as possible. Picture wild lavender growing on the chalky, sandy, hot, and arid landscapes of the Mediterranean. Very well-draining, low-nutrient soil partnered with at least 6 hours of full sun exposure will help your lavender thrive. In other words, avoid damp, compact clay soils in the shade for best results when growing lavender outside.
Growing lavender indoors
Not many indoor plants can take full direct sun, but lavender will fit this description and you can place a beautifully potted lavender plant right in a south-facing window. When choosing a pot, sometimes I like to consider the color of the plant, especially uniquely colored, long-lived plants such as lavender. A lavender-colored pot matching the subsequent flowers may contrast nicely with the grey-green leaves, for example. Most importantly, ensure a well-drained pot that has more-than-adequate drainage holes. Using a pot of about 16 inches in diameter, fill the bottom couple of inches with additional well-draining material such as gravel, or if weight is an issue, choose a lighter material such as Styrofoam peanuts. Placing a mesh screen or fabric layer on top will help to keep your soil mixture from filtering through to this drainage layer. A light, lean, well-draining soil is your best option for growing lavender, again simulating its natural environment as much as possible.
In both indoor and outdoor conditions, less is best when it comes to watering your lavender plants, watering only when the soil surface is dry. Even having pea gravel on the soil surface and mixed into the soil to improve soil aeration can be helpful. Pruning in late fall and avoiding mulching and fertilizing is also advantageous when growing this aromatic, heat loving, drought-tolerant plant.
The deliciously scented leaves can be harvested before the plant blooms, and the flowers are best harvested as or before they first open. The uses are nearly limitless for your own harvested lavender with aromatic, medicinal, cosmetic, sanitization, and culinary uses and your own creativity may be sparked by this truly inspirational plant. You can always just let it grow and enjoy the low-maintenance bounty without much fuss or hassle too!
I hope this has provided you with some tools to growing your own lavender, or even inspired more enjoyment in utilizing lavender grown for its many incredible uses.
Sherra is a prolific writer who is continually honing eloquent writing skills. She is passionate about health and wellness and the state of society and humanity as a whole. Obsessed with our relationship to the natural world, she continually strives to have as little impact on her surrounding natural environment as possible, while she endeavours to learn everything there is to know about the plants and wildlife that surround her in her rural home in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.