Lavender is used widely for both its. scent and its. medicinal qualities. It is used less frequently for its. culinary properties. The leaves and flowers are used to make essential oils for soaps, fragrances, and other such things. The flower buds are used as a spice. It is one of the spices in the herbes de Provence blend of herbs and is used in tea or cooking.
Lavender is from the warm, dry part of the Mediterranean. While that is where it grows best, it can be grown other places. After all, England is neither warm nor dry and it is renowned for its. lavender.
There are many varieties of lavender. The one you grow depends on both your location and your intended use. The L angustifolia family is grown mainly for culinary use. Perfumes and essential oils are grown from a group of hybrids called the lavandins. Lavender does not like wet heat, so can be difficult to grow in hot, humid, climates.
Actually, lavender is rather picky about where it grows. It will freeze in Zone 5 unless you cover it with mulch during the winter. It bakes at Zone 8. Microclimates may allow it to grow outside of those ranges, however.
Lavender is generally purchased as a small plant. It is propagated by cutting, although the culinary lavenders will grow from seed. In any case, plant the lavender where it will get six to eight hours of sun a day. It needs to have well drained, dry soil that is slightly alkaline. While it needs water, the bed should be allowed to dry out between watering after the first year, when the roots are established.
Lavender has limited blossoms the first year. The second year it has lots of blossoms. To use the blossoms for culinary or essential oil purposes, cut the flower stem when the first buds open. Hang the stem upside down in a dark airy spot for drying.
After the stems and flowers are dry, strip the flowers off separately from the leaves. The buds are used for cooking. Store them in a dark, dry spot.
The leaves may be used in potpourri or sachets. The scent of lavender in the area of the bed is reputed to have restful, calming properties that aid sleep. Some people are more sensitive to the scent than others, however.
If you are not going to cook with them, the flowers can be allowed to open and then be cut as fresh flowers. Place them in a vase with some water to enjoy their fragrance. Continued cutting will encourage more blossoms.
Lavender is usually pruned when the flowers are taken for drying. However, the plant can be shaped when the blooms stop for the year.
If you are growing the plant for its. essential oils or for cooking, keeping it a bit hungry will tend to concentrate the oils. If you are growing the plant for the pretty blossoms, a bit of nitrogen fertilizer in the spring will encourage growth.