There are plants which look nice. Others are average-looking but have a fantastic taste. And there is lavender. I haven’t seen anything more beautiful than a field full of these plants, brimming with recognizable purple and white shades.
More than ornament, lavender has several useful features, and it is best known for its essential oil. If you wish to know how to grow lavender from seed rather than from cuttings, this article is for you.
It is highly unlikely that you haven’t seen lavender plant before. It can be grown in gardens, or it will grow in the wilderness. Either way, here are some general facts about this beautiful plant.
As it is shown, lavender is not difficult to grow, since there are no special conditions regarding its growing. It is a rewarding plant, and its growth was fun for me.
What Will Be Required?
To start lavender from seed, you will need tools, of course. Luckily, none of those which are needed are difficult to acquire. You probably have it in your tool shed already. Heat tray is the only “luxury” needed, but you can heat the seeds by placing the tray close to any heat source.
Since I’ve started from seeds instead from cuttings, I needed trellis as well. Those are easy to find, and every gardening center should have them in various sizes and shapes. I’ve used an old and shallow crate. In general, as long as the container can sustain all the seeds you wish, you can use it. However, because of possible heating which will perhaps be in order, I recommend it to be as shallow as possible.
How Should I Prepare?
Lavender differs slightly regarding preparation from other seeds. On average, four to six weeks is the period for other vegetables to germinate, and although lavender has the same process, it lasts quite long. Therefore, some guessing and good weather forecast will be in order.
Let’s say that you know the climate of your area pretty well. You are probably familiar with approximate dates connected with the change of seasons. Since lavender needs warm weather to develop, you will want to wait until the temperature settles at 75-77 degrees F. For me, it was the beginning of May.
Germinating process lasts from 6 to 12 weeks, so I’ve started somewhere in the second half of February. This is what sets lavender aside, its long pre-sowing process might be a bit discouraging for beginner gardeners, but on the other hand, it is an excellent practice and valuable experience.
Since the ground was still frozen when I started the seeds, I couldn’t prepare it, but I bought a potting mix for later. I could buy it in bulk, and since I’ve planned to grow about ten plants, I needed one larger bag to fill ten pots. However, depending on how much you will grow, the number might be different.
So, How To Start The Seeds?
Another thing which seemed odd to me was that seeds should be put into a zip-lock bag with moist and nice soil and put into the refrigerator. However, this was because I had to imitate the natural cycle of the plant, and these three weeks were there to replace winter.
After these three weeks, I have finally continued with more or less standard procedure of starting seeds. I’ve filled the trellis with potting mix and sowed the seeds. Now, some gardeners will recommend you to use a divided trellis, but I’ve found that ordinary, without compartments works the best.
The soil was lightly watered a few days before the seeds were sown so that extra water can run off by the seeding time. In case that you have a heater, now is the time to wipe the dust of it, because you will need it in the next few days. I have a somewhat stable temperature in my kitchen, so I chose well-lit window which fit perfectly.
To sow the seeds, remove them from the refrigerator and plant one seed per square inch. You can sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil if you don’t want to bother because you will thin them out later if they sprout in large numbers. Cover the seeds with 1/8” layer of soil. This might seem as too thin, but anything thicker will prevent stems from appearing.
Days were becoming longer during March and April, so that extra sunlight was more than welcome. I’ve used this to my advantage, and newly sprouted lavender loved it. I kept the soil moist, but I wasn’t overdoing it. Remember that this plant likes a bit drier land, so you will make a bigger mistake if you water too much.
The First Moving
After first actual leaves develop, you can consider that the root system is strong enough for the first moving. At this point, there should also be a lot of young plants. Therefore, if you have much more plants than pots, remove those extra.
Luckily, the process of moving to pots is easy. The mixture of soil and coir dust is far the best since coir adds to drainage of the container. Extensive usage of peat moss endangered ecosystems, so avoid using it. Cups must be at least 2” in diameter so that that roots will develop properly.
This is also the time when you should use fertilizer. Granular, slow-release one is the best. Choose those with low NPK index. Anything strong might burn the plant and cause irreparable damage. As an alternative, you can spray mild manure tea after moving the seedlings.
The planting process is pretty straightforward. Fill the pot with the soil, and by using finger poke a hole in the middle. After pulling the seedling from the trellis, gently remove remains of the soil from the roots. Put the plant in the hole and gently press the ground, so that it closes around the roots and stem.
By this time the weather should be a bit better. However, keep a close look at the temperature. Move pots outside from time to time so that that lavender plants can adapt to outside conditions. If the temperature drops below 77°F, leave the containers inside. Of course, the temperature inside should fulfill these demands.
Growth period should be somewhere from one to three months. Since it is difficult to guess the exact time frame, see to measure the height of the plant. Once it reaches 3”, it means that you can start moving it outside from time to time, so that it will adapt to outside conditions.
The Second (And The Last) Moving
About a week should be enough for lavender to adapt. I’ve used this time to prepare the garden for final moving. There wasn’t too much work required for the garden to be ready. I had to till it and add a bit of sand. Fertilizer wasn’t needed, so I passed on infusing it. Also, I haven’t added too much of manure and other organic material, since those can retain a lot of water.
After one week of adapting, I made plans to move already well-grown lavender plants to the garden. The spacing between individual plants should be from 15 to 24”, depending on the space which is at your disposal. I kept it modest, so 20” was more than enough.
I’ve dug holes more extensive than the pot so that the plant together with the ball of soil could fit inside. Once placed, the remaining space was filled with more soil, so that the plant was firm and stable. Be careful and see that plants are standing straight because if it is leaned to one side, it can grow shorter later.
Later Maintenance And Pests
After planting, the maintenance is pretty much straightforward. Keep in mind that lavender is a low-maintenance plant. Because of that, watering should be scarce. If there is too much water applied, it can lead to the development of root rot and different harmful fungi. Those might kill the plant entirely.
Make sure that the soil is thoroughly dried before watering. Almost no fertilizer is needed for lavender, so don’t use it, except when the weather is harsh and hot. Even then, the soil needs to be dried out. My preference is to use manure tea or something similar and mild.
Spring is the season when you wish to do a little bit of maintenance. By using shears, prune the plant. You won’t make a mistake if you cut about 1/3 to ½ of the plant. Don’t worry; it will recover. If you leave too many branches, they will weaken the plant overall, which will lead to stunted growth.
Of course, if the weather is terrible, feel free to mulch the ground around the plants. The bark is suitable for this purpose, as well as gravel. But, unlike other vegetables, lavender loves to have “breathing space,” so a few inches of space around the stem should be left without the mulch. Although it will help you to deal with weeds and pests, too much of mulch will suffocate the plant.
Luckily, there are not too many pests which will bother you, but in case that you have a situation with whiteflies or spittlebugs. Those can be removed either by hand or by using a stream of water.
Harvesting And Storing
As for harvesting, it is pretty easy to do. All you need are garden shears and the right time. When the flowers begin to open, this is the call for action. Cut the stem just below leaves, and gather all the branches. Drying will be in order, so let’s get to it.
You will need nice weather and a windy shed to dry those branches properly. I’ve stretched old newspaper and distributed cuttings, so they don’t touch each other. After a few weeks, all there was left to do was to bind them together and move somewhere cold and dry.
Of course, if you wish to use it for tea, use an old cloth, wrap cuttings in it and by using stone crush it to almost powder-level. Lavender ground this way may be stored in a glass jar with an air-tight lid so that it can be used for a more extended period.
So, there it is. Learning how to grow lavender from seed wasn’t such a big deal, and I surely hope that you will benefit from this article. For me, it was a lovely journey into something new and exciting.