Lavender

Lavender: How to Grow Lavender

Treasured for its lovely blooms and aromatic fragrance, the plant Lavandula, more commonly known as Lavender, has many culinary and medicinal properties. The genus Lavandula is comprised of 30 different plant species.

Some of them will be tackled in this article. Like other propagating herbs, its flowers attract insects, vital to farms and ecosystems. Honey bees and lovely butterflies swarm around lavenders because of their aroma and beautiful natural colors.

With its unique aromatic smell, it's evident that lavender has many health benefits, such as stress support and relief from insomnia. Likewise, the dried flowers and leaves are used in dishes, desserts, lemonades, oils, and teas.

Lavender

In the mint family Lamiaceae, Lavandula is a genus of forty-seven known species of flowering plants. The most common varieties are the Spanish, Portuguese, and English lavenders.

Native in the old world and commonly found in the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, species of lavender can be found from the Mediterranean to Southwest Asia. In fact, most of their kinds originated in these regions.

Many types are extensively cultivated in temperate regions and in greenhouses as ornamentals for landscape and garden use and for essential oil extraction. Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) is the most cultivated species among them all.

This type is the one commonly referred to as the lavender. In fact, there is a color named after the natural shade of this species. The genus Lavandula includes short-lived and annual small shrubs, subshrubs, shrub-like perennials, and herbaceous plants.

Facts About Lavender

Origin

The origin of Lavandula is in India, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. The first record of its use dates back some 2,500 years ago. Early Greeks called lavender “nardus.” This word was derived from the Syrian city of Naarda. The common folk referred to this flower as “nard.”

Ancient Hebrews used the leaves and flowers of the plant in preparing the Holy Essence, or spikenard. This is mentioned in the Old Testament Book Song of Songs (Canticle of Canticles).

The word “Lavender,” as mentioned earlier, was derived from “lavare.” This is the Latin word for “wash.” The essence of lavender and the crushed flowers were used to scent hair, clothes, baths, and beds. Later on, around Emperor Nero’s reign (37 AD – 68 AD), the Romans discovered the plant’s medicinal properties, which are tackled in the next sections. 

Growing Conditions

In summary, any variety of lavender needs well-drained soil and full sun. They grow best in poor conditions. You can compare the resilience of this plant to the survivability of cactuses growing in arid deserts. Lavenders grow best in neutral and alkaline soil. Regular watering is not needed. In the wild, they can grow well in savannahs and rocky outcrops.

Plant Description

Plant Height

Lavender is a small shrub. Usually, it grows 18 to 24 inches tall. When measuring the height of the plant, the flower stalks, not the bloom, should be taken into account. When there are no blooms, the overall height of the plant could just be around 12 inches. Unlike other herbs, such as oregano and thyme, lavender doesn’t crawl and spread.

Leaves

Leaf shape varies across species. Most feature pinnate, at times, multiple pinnate. Some have toothed leaves. Leaf shape depends on the region. There are also dissected ones.

In some species, leaves are covered with hairs or indumentum. In most cultivated species, they are simple. In wild varieties, the leaves are pinnate or pinnately toothed. The indumentum contains natural antioxidants and essential oils.

Flowers

The lavender flowers are borne in whorls, being held by spikes rising above the foliage. Some kinds have bracts at their apices. Occasionally, you may see yellowish or blackish purple bracts. The calyx is tubular. The corolla, the opposite of calyx, a female part, usually has five lobes.

Colors

Lavender flowers come in white, pink, and blue violet colors. The Portuguese lavender showcases various purple hues. Healthy lavenders have vibrant green leaves and mint green stalks.

Types of Lavender

English lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

Despite the common name of Lavandula angustifolia, it isn’t native to England. In fact, the English lavender originated in the Mediterranean. As stated above, this is the most common lavender that gardeners plant. It’s also the same species that color the Provencal fields in France, with purple.

With its aromatic scent, people can spot this variety from yards away. If you brush against the mature flowers, their aroma will explode in the air. The clusters of flowers that adorn each stem are called inflorescences.

Lavandins (L. x Intermedia)

This lavender is a hybrid. It’s a cross between the Portuguese and the English variety. It features the best traits from both species. Lavandins can tolerate both cold and hot climates well. Hence, it can adapt to any country, even in the Russian tundra. Gardeners anywhere in the globe can enjoy the beauty and aroma of Lavandins.

This variety, like the aforementioned species, is very fragrant. Its leaves and blooms give off a strong and sweet scent. Similar to the Lavandula latifolia, lavandins continue to bloom throughout summer.

Lavandins, like other hybrids, have been bred for the production of essential oil. However, the product is not as excellent as distilled English lavenders. 

Portuguese Lavender (L. Latifolia)

With its green furry foliage and vibrant shades of purple and violet, the Lavandula latifolia attracts bees and butterflies. It’s also resistant to deer, rabbit, and drought. Preferring direct sunlight, the Portuguese lavender grows well in poor, medium-dry soil.

Nevertheless, this species enjoys evergreen forests and warm climates. They can grow up to 36 inches in height and produce heavily fragrant flowers.

This hardy plant originated in the western parts of the Mediterranean. It now grows in the wild of France, Portugal, and Spain. Throughout spring and summer, Portuguese lavenders bloom continuously. Their flowers are in many shades of purple and violet, contrasting their stark green stems.

The Lavandula latifolia produces the strongest scent among others. It’s also called “broadleaf lavender” and “spike lavender.” 

Spanish Lavender (L. Stoechas)

The common name of Lavandula stoechas is “Spanish lavender.” Some gardeners refer to them as “ears” for obvious reasons. Resembling pineapple fruits, their petals have flowering spikes, which are called “ears.”

They’re also referred to as Butterfly lavender. The species hails from the Mediterranean and North Africa. Dark purple blossoms adorn each stem in a pattern similar to pine cones.

The flowers showcase a variety of colors and blooms for a very long time. The blooms could last for 3 to 8 weeks. The foliage is very aromatic, but the blossoms are scentless.

Like the other hardy Lavandula varieties, this species loves dry and hot weather despite its tender body.

French or Fringed Lavender (L. Dentata)

Being last on this list doesn’t make the Lavandula Dentata any less than the other varieties. Its gray-green foliage accentuates its beautiful vibrant violet flowers. Enjoying medium-dry soil, the fringed lavender prefers direct sunlight and warm weather.

Its common name is derived from its leaves, which features toothed margins. Its scientific name Lavandula dentata comes from the word “dentate.” Dentate is used in botany to describe leaves that have serrated or toothlike edges.

The fringed lavender is mildly fragrant, and it can grow up to three feet. The flowers may not be that fragrant, but as the Spanish lavender, its foliage is sweet-scented. The scent is similar to rosemary.

How to Grow Lavender

Lavender

The most commonly cultivated species is the Lavandula angustifolia, which was formerly known as L. Officinalis. Other common lavender species are the L. dentata, L. multifida, and L. stoechas. L. multifida is more commonly known as the Egyptian lavender. Since the cultivated kinds can be found in almost all continents, except in Antarctica, lavenders grow well beyond their country of origin

Often, spontaneous growth is harmless. But, there are cases when lavenders become an invasive species. They escape beyond their range. For example, if you plant lavenders in your gardenscape, they could propagate to your neighbor’s lawn.

Usually, such spontaneous growth is harmless. However, when they start to encroach a wide area, they could become a cause for concern, like what happened in Australia. The Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) propagated throughout the continent, killing native species and disrupting the balance in natural ecosystems. In Victoria, the Spanish lavender and other invasive Lavandulas, including the Lavandula multifida, became a hard-to-kill weed. 

Soil

Using the correct soil in growing this flowering plant is very important. It will ensure the growth and propagation of your lavender.

Why is this so? Lavender thrives in clay, sandy, or any kind of poor soil. It won’t do well in hummus or fertile soil. Because of this fact, you mustn’t use fertilizer on any kind of lavender and refrain from adding organic matter to their surroundings.

Since lavender requires dry soil, the type that you need to use should be well-draining, like sandy soil. To increase its draining ability, mix a lot of sand with dry soil. This prevents too much moisture. When the rainy season comes, that will be your number one problem. 

Light

This flowering plant should have access to direct sunlight. It loves the full sun!

Lavenders stunt under too much shade. They’re hardy shrubs, being able to withstand wind and rain, but with too much shade and nutrients, their roots rot and they grow like a cripple.

So, there’s no need for sheltering them except if you want to regulate humidity. 

Temperature & Humidity

Lavenders can be easy-to-maintain once you know how. Also, once you have chosen from the available varieties, choosing the best one for your region will be easy.

All kinds of Lavandula are easy to grow if they are being propagated in an appropriate environment.

Hence, you must choose the variety of your lavender with care. For example, the English variety can tolerate cold weather, while the Spanish kind prefers hot and humid environment.

Lavandin, a hybrid lavender, can adapt to cold and humid environments. You can also grow it throughout the year.

To regulate temperature and humidity, you need to place the young plants in a greenhouse. Or, you may cover the pot with a see-through plastic bag. This creates humidity that lavender plants love.

Watering

Lavender grows well in dry soil. Therefore, you don’t need to water it regularly. If you reside in a temperate region, you may never need to water your plant.

During long and dry summers, water moderately. Avoid moistening the soil and allow for extended drought periods, as lavenders wither and die in excess moisture. 

Fertilizing

This flowering plant flourishes in dry, sandy, gravely, or well-drained soils under the full sun. All kinds need minimal to no fertilizer at all - just good ventilation.

In regions with high humidity, root rot is common. This is due to fungus infection caused by Pythium. Mulches trap moisture around the base of the plant. Sandy and pebbly materials, like gravel, produce better results.

Lavenders grow best in soils with a pH between six and eight. For medicinal and culinary use, which will be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs, the flowers, softwood, and leaves can be hand-harvested. 

Pruning

Lavenders become straggly and overgrown if unkempt. Once or twice a year, your plants need pruning.

Proper cutting makes them develop a bushy and full shape.

Pruning is quite easy to do. Fall and spring are the best seasons for pruning because wounds close fast during such seasons. If you’re new to this, don’t be afraid to make mistakes since lavender recovers well and grows quickly.

The only care you need to give to your lavender plant is annual or seasonal pruning. This is the main reason why this is a low-maintenance shrub. Its easy-to-care quality makes it a low maintenance shrub, and it can fill a garden with beautiful and aromatic flowers in no time.

Mulching

Lavender plants need plenty of space and well-drained soil to encourage air circulation around the cuttings. The goal of mulching for this plant is to keep its crown and foliage as dry as possible. Remember, lavenders thrive in poor environments.

An inch of mulch is enough to prevent moisture from lingering around the cutting. The best mulch for baby lavenders are the following: pea gravel, nut shells, oysters shells, coarse sand, fine sand, and straw. The components of the mulch should be small and crushed. 

Propagation

To grow more lavender from your parent plant, you can use stem cuttings. You may use root hormones, but lavender cuttings will grow well even without much intervention. That’s how they multiply in the wild.

If you’re just a beginner gardener, planting lavender is a good way to start. When propagating, you can use both hardwood and softwood cuttings. Softwood are the fresh and tender parts of lavender plants. The hardwood parts, which are commonly available in spring, are brittle, but hard. Under pressure, they will snap. Softwood parts bend and are flexible. Nevertheless, hardwood cuttings have a higher survival rate than the latter.

If you propagate in spring, lavender softwood is easy to find. In winter, hardwood stems are required. The cold weather causes the plant to develop a tough outer cover and a hard body.

Both types of stem cuttings root easily, especially when planted in the right environment. The softwood parts root more easily, but for long-term growth, hardwood cuttings are more reliable.

Stems connected to buds will just waste your time. You’ll wait for them to take root, but that may never happen. It’s vital to choose stems that only have leaves. During summer, it can be a challenge to find softwood free from buds or flowers.

Those with budding flowers will take all the cutting’s energy into blooming the flowers attached to it. In other words, it will struggle to root. After days of taking care of softwood, you will see that the flowers have bloomed but there are no roots. Later, the cutting will decompose from bottom to top.

Choose the part wisely, and slice it free from the source carefully. Make the cut below the leaf node using a sharp knife. Each cutting should be more or less 4 inches long. Remove all foliage and slice the lowest portion diagonally.

That should just be ½ inch long. You may also peel off some pieces of skin on one side. You must avoid peeling too much. Strip lightly and only do so for the twenty-five percent of the length of the plant.

Coat the peeled part with the rooting hormone to yield best results. Doing so encourages healthy growth. Nevertheless, good parts root easily in the summer months, when there’s plenty of sunlight.

To plant, bury the peeled part about 1 and ½ inches deep in a well-draining pot with the right kind of soil. Press the soil firmly around each cutting in order to secure the cutting.

Moisten the area with some droplets of water. In 15 to 30 days, the roots should’ve grown quite nicely.

If the cutting can easily be removed from the soil, then you have to give it more time. As long as the part has not decayed, the cutting will grow roots. If there’s resistance, then it implies that the cutting has rooted. In this case, remove the plastic and put the pot in a very bright location.

When your lavender plants are still small, you have to keep their surrounding area moist up to an inch in depth. Keep in mind that you must avoid drowning the baby plants with too much water. 

Lavender Health Benefits

All members of the genus offer soothing effects when prepared in the right way. Proper infusion, consumption, and brewing promote healthy sleep patterns and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Carl's Linneaus coined the botanic name "Lavandula." He derived it, as well as other vernacular names, from that botanical name. But, that claim could be apocryphal. In truth, the name might have been derived from the Latin word "livere," which means bluish.

The names used widely in some species, such as Spanish lavender, French lavender, and English lavender, are imprecisely applied.

In medieval times, lavender is considered the “herb of love.” It has two major benefits that were popular with the 16th-century peasants and nobilities alike.

Lavender infusion has sexually stimulating properties and it keeps one’s virginity. At the start of the 16th century, lavender tosses became popular. As such, its popularity grew and the common folk planted colorful lavenders in their garden, as a means to have an additional income.

When you finish reading this article, you will want to grow many lavenders in your own garden, just like how the peasants in medieval times did. The other benefits will be discussed in the succeeding sections.

Lavender has an interesting and rich history as a medicinal herb and culinary ingredient. Its fame didn’t only start in the middle ages. In fact, the herb has been used since the Stone Age.

Although its exact origin is quite vague, the first lavenders have been theorized to come from India, the Middle East, or the Mediterranean. Today, lavender is being cultivated not only in those said countries but also in almost all parts of the world.

The demand for its culinary and herbal uses makes it a great commodity that could bring in high profits when sold in the right markets. Aside from being a pleasing and aromatic plant to grow, lavenders make landscapes and gardens beautiful and eye-catching.

According to Good Lifestyles Today, a well-reputed SMB based in Kilcoy Queensland, Lavender has been used to rekindle sexual pleasures in old folks. It is also one of the most known scents in the world. In modern times, lavender is included in feminine perfumes. With its aphrodisiac properties, it has been used in essential oils that can entice men.

From its earthy flowery scent and its delicate purple hues, the characteristics of this flowering plant seem to be tailored towards promoting thoughts of serenity and relaxation.

The German Commission E recognized the efficacy of lavender extract and essential oils in treating anxiety, insomnia, and nervous stomach.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia includes the plant in the list of homeopathic treatments that could improve colic, depressive, and flatulence headaches. Modern herbal users utilize this flowering plant to improve symptoms of menopause, and to make migraines more bearable.

Uses of Lavender

Culinary Use

As an herb belonging to the mint family, lavender can serve as an aromatic herb that could improve the taste and texture of many teas and dishes, including roasted potatoes, corn cakes, and baked turkey with applesauce.

In Spain, dried lavender petals are infused in teas in order to relieve symptoms of diabetes and insulin resistance.

In history and culture, the Greeks consumed this herb in great amounts, and for many purposes. They referred to it as nard. The Romans, on the one hand, sold lavender blooms for 100 denarii per pound. This amount is equal to a month's wage of a Roman farmer.

In Ancient Spain, Lavandula is listed as a tasty ingredient in making spice wine called Hippocras. This wine has the same consistency as Indian curry. In 17th century England, the plant was introduced.

Queen Elizabeth prized lavender jam. She requested lavender jam from time to time. In those days, lavenders were used in manufacturing jams. The Brits also included dried lavender stalks or petals into their tea. 

Medicinal Use

Commercially, Lavenders are grown for their flowers. Fresh blooms and green foliage are utilized for extraction, and the distilled oil is used as ingredient for disinfectants and anti-inflammatory solutions.

Therapists use pure lavender oil in aromatherapy. In addition, lavender oil can soothe cuts, bruises, burns, and insect bites.

For internal conditions, it has been proven that distilled lavender flowers can cure indigestion and constipation. It’s a natural laxative, according to Medical News Today.

Also, dried Lavandula flowers can freshen closets and treat the root of body odor (BO). The blooms have anti-bacterial properties, aside from being a natural laxative. 

Summary

In conclusion, lavender is a beautiful and fragrant shrub that has many ornamental, medicinal, and culinary uses. It belongs to the mint family. The mint family is known for its aromatic members, including basil, lemon balm, hyssop, rosemary, and lavender.

Lavenders are characterized by their square stems and upright flowers. As a species belonging to the family Lamiaceae, lavenders add a sweet and floral flavor to dishes. The potency of the blooms, for culinary use, improves with drying. They can particularly improve the taste of citrus beverages and lemon-based dishes.

Lavenders are priced for their flowers, since such parts are the primary ingredient for commercial essential oils, which are used in aromatherapies and homeopathic remedies.

In general, the flowers come in violet or purple shades. There are more than 25 known species of Lavandula. The most common are the English, Fringed, Spanish, and Portuguese lavenders.

Furthermore, lavender flowers serve the plant’s need of reproduction. Its foliage can be used for teas and oil distillation. Aside from that, the plant, as a whole, has innumerable medicinal, aesthetic, commercial, and ecological values. For centuries, humans have used this plant in crafting perfumes and home remedies. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lavender easy to grow?


All Lavandula species are easy to grow. With their high survival rate, they even become invasive species in some settings.


Do lavender plants repel mosquitoes?


The crushed flowers of the plant produce an oil and fragrance that can repel mosquitoes. A study conducted on mice revealed that lavender essential oil can repel adult mosquitoes.


How long do lavender plants last?


Despite their beauty and hardiness, lavenders are not long-lived plants. The smallest and most tender varieties will only last for 4 to 5 years. If they’re pruned correctly, Lavandins and French lavenders can live for up to 15 years.

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