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How to Grow and Care for Lavender

 

Poems and painting have included this plant.  Victorians valued its scent and perfumeries could not produce their product without this humble plant.  What is this beauty?  Well, it is lavender a course.

Yes, lavender looks like it would be complicated to grow.  The thin, slivery foliage looks so delicate while the spikes of lavender color seem to be the topping on the cake when it comes to this plant.  If you were afraid to give this plant a chance in the past, do not worry.  The tips and techniques below will help you be the best lavender gardener you can be. 

The first step of this process starts with your plant material.  It is very important to select the best plant(s) possible but how do you know what is good verses bad.  When it comes to plant material in general, you want the plant to be as healthy as possible.  What this means is there is not diseased and/or damaged foliage.  As far as lavender goes, try to select plant(s) that are not blooming.  While it may appear that you are really getting a bargain since your plant(s) are blooming, you really are not and in most situations the transplanting process will make the plant drop its blooms. 

While the foliage may not be damaged, another thing you will need to look for whether your plant(s) material is stressed.  Yes, plants get stressed and this can come from improper watering, lack or incorrect amounts of sunlight, and pest infestation.  What are the signs of plant stress?  Well, there is a couple but in general the plant material will be droopy in appearance.

Ok, now that you have picked out your plant material and gotten it home, what is next?  Well, the next step in this process is to select your new plant’s location.  Lavender loves the sun and when I say sun I really mean a lot of sun.  In general, your lavender will need at least six hours of full sun.  Once you have your location selected, the next step is to plan out your planting area.  This is not as important if you just have one plant but if you have more than one then you will need to do a little planning.  Why is this so important you may ask?  Lavender grows as a shrub and in doing so it needs a lot of room.  Giving your lavender its room will make your plant happier and reduce the chances of developing any disease problems.  How much room do you need?  A good rule of thumb is to plant your lavender plants at least three feet apart. 

Now that you have picked out your location and tested your plant material in this location, mark the ground with powdered milk.  The day before you are ready to plant, water in your plant material until water comes out the bottom.  This is a simple process that will prepare your plant material for planting. 

The next step of this process is to dig the hole.  What you really want is a hole that is slightly deeper than the container and twice as wide as the container.  This technique is different compared to planting other potted plants.  The reason for this is the fact that the soil needs to be amended and this is especially important if you are dealing with a clayey soil. 

Once the hole is dug, mix equal parts of lime, bone meal, and well seasoned compost to the soil removed. 

Before removing the lavender from its container, test the hole and adjust as needed.  Once the hole is just right, remove the plant from its container in one of two ways.  One way is to tip the container upside down and gently tap the sides and bottom.  At this point, the plant should just pop out.  If this does not happen, do not pull the plant out instead try the other technique.  This technique is great if you do not want to save the container and only requires one to slice the pot down the sides at several locations.  After that is done, peel down the cut slits and remove the plant.

Since the hole was dug a little deep, the next step is to fill in slightly with the mixed soil.  Once that is done, place the plant in the hole and check the height.  You do not want the lavender planted higher or deeper than it come in the container.  After you find that happy medium, run your fingers through the roots and place in the hole.  Next, fill in the hole with the mixed soil and water in.  Add more soil as needed.

To keep the weeds at bay, add a layer of mulch but not just any mulch.  Since this plant loves the sun, consider using a reflective type of mulch. 

Caring for your lavender is really easy.  During the first two years of your plant being in your garden, make sure that it receives one inch of moisture a week.  How do you know if you plant has received that much?  The easiest way is to simply place a rain gauge near your plant.  This will help you determine how much water Mother Nature has delivered.  Once your plant has been in your garden for over two years, discontinue the supplemental watering.  At this point, the lavender plant has a root system that is strong enough to endure a drought.

Lastly, do not forget to prune your lavender.  This is the scariest part of growing lavender but it is a necessity if you want a lot of blooms.  To begin the pruning process, does not start in the spring.  Instead, you will need to prune your lavender during the coldest part of your local winter. 

The pruning process itself is really easy and starts off with cleaning your tool.  While this may seem strange, this is one of the easiest ways of preventing plant disease.  To clean your tool, open up the cutting surface and either soak the hand pruner in a tub of bleach water or simply wipe down the surface with bleach water.  As you prune, continue to wipe down the cutting surface.

Ok, now you know how to prepare to prune, how do you prune?  Lavender likes a little two to three inch trim of its green growth.  When doing this pruning, make sure not to cut into the mature plant material or hardwood. 

While the pruning helps keep your lavender looking its best, it also provides a service by encouraging new growth and reducing the chances of creating an overly woody lavender plant.  As important as pruning is, there will come a time that your plant does not respond as you like or it develops a woody appearance.  No, this will not happen overnight but many commercial lavender growers replace their lavender plants every 10 to 12 years.

 


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