Lavender is not only a beautiful and wonderfully fragrant plant, it is also a real bee magnet. In this article, we will give tips on when, where and how to grow this low-maintenance garden classic.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a Mediterranean evergreen semi-shrub belonging to the mint family, Lamiaceae. Caring for lavender is not difficult and the delicate flowers are lovely fresh or even when dried. In nature, lavender tends to grow on stony slopes and in poorer soils. Read on to find out all about how to plant this bee-friendly beauty in your own garden so you too can enjoy its wonderful fragrant blossom.
When is the best time to plant lavender?
The best time for planting lavender outside is in the spring, ideally from mid-May after the last frost. You can also plant lavender out as early as the end of March. Larger plants are able to cope better with cooler temperatures, but in this case, we recommend mulching around the plant to protect it from frost. As long as there is a good water supply, you can even plant lavender in summer. Planting lavender in autumn, however, is not recommended as there is barely enough time for the plant to get well established before the winter months.
Overview: When to plant lavender
- Ideal: spring from mid-May after last frost
- Possible: end of March (frost protection required), in summer (as long as it has a good water supply)
Choosing the right location for lavender
Regardless of whether you choose to plant lavender in a pot, in a flower bed or even as a lavender tree, finding the right location is crucial to keeping your plant happy, healthy and blooming. When planting lavender in the garden, try to find a spot that mimics its natural environment – ideally somewhere sunny, warm and on the drier side with nutrient-poor soil that is high in lime.
Growing lavender in the garden
In the right location, lavender is a beautiful, low-maintenance bee-friendly plant. Lavender oil can also help ward off fungus gnats and its flowers can be used to make herbal teas or a home remedy against clothes moths. In addition to planting lavender in your herb garden, you can also grow it as fragrant dwarf hedging or plant it as a border. A planting spacing of about 20 to 40 cm is ideal when planting lavender in a garden bed. While lavender looks lovely on its own, it is better to plant three to five plants together.
Planting lavender as a border: There are many species of lavender, but when planting lavender in the garden as a border to a bed, it is best to opt for a small and compact variety such as ‘Blue Cushion’. Place the lavender plants in suitable soil at the edge of the bed with a spacing of about 25 cm between each plant. To avoid competition, plant no more than three plants per metre. It is important to prune your lavender hedge regularly, but avoid cutting back to the older woody part of the stem as the plants may not survive this.
The right soil for lavender
Lavender plants prefer a well-drained soil that is low in nutrients but rich in lime. Note that in wet or waterlogged soil, lavender will not be winter hardy. Lavender plants will also not survive long term in very clayey soils. So if planting lavender in such soils, replace a generous amount of the soil with a more well-draining one. If the soil is a little too dense, mix some sand into it and create a drainage layer of pebbles to prevent waterlogging. Alternatively, you can also plant your lavender in a pot, raised bed or herb spiral using a suitable soil.
Growing lavender from seed
Though it takes a little more work and patience, it is also possible to sow your own lavender seeds. Growing lavender from seed allows the young plants to develop its roots naturally and establish themselves right from the beginning. As lavender grown from seed has the chance to adapt to its location straight away, it stands a better chance of living a long, happy and healthy life compared to shop-bought plants. To sow lavender seeds, you can either start them on a windowsill or sow them directly outdoors. They need enough warmth and light as well as the right soil to germinate. In general, lavender prefers a nutrient-poor soil, but this is particularly important at the early stages of growth. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seeding Compost is nutrient-poor, well-draining and perfect for cultivating lavender plants. For even better drainage, mix in about a third of sand to create ideal conditions for lavender seeds.
Instructions for growing lavender from seed:
- Lavender seeds have a higher germination rate if they undergo cold stratification. To do this, store seeds in a container with moistened sand in the refrigerator for 2 – 4 weeks.
- Start seeds on the windowsill from the beginning of March.
- Afterwards, use a propagator if possible.
- Optimum germination temperature is 20 °C.
- Prepare pots with a growing medium such as Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost.
- Spread the seeds and press down lightly.
- Keep soil moderately moist.
- Germination takes 3 – 4 weeks.
- Alternatively, sow outdoors between the end of April and the end of May.
- Keep a plant spacing of 30 cm in garden beds.
- Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
- For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
What do lavender seedlings look like? Once the first two small, round to spade-shaped leaves, known as cotyledons, have emerged, lavender seedlings will start to develop their typical, elongated leaves that are similar to those of conifers or rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).
How to plant lavender
Once you have found a suitable location and have chosen a lavender variety or successfully germinated your seeds, it is time to get planting. Remember that transplanting into a garden bed is only worthwhile if the soil and location are suitable. As noted above, if the soil is too clayey, you must replace a generous amount of it with more permeable soil. In extreme cases, you may need to mix in up to 60% drainage material, but here you are probably better off planting lavender in a mound (also called a Hügelkultur bed), raised bed, a herb spiral or even straight into a pot.
However, if the location and soil are right, from mid-May onwards, simply dig a hole twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Then, carefully place the lavender plant in the centre of the hole and fill any gaps with soil. As lavender originally comes from the rocky, barren regions of the Mediterranean, its nutrients and water requirements are quite low. So, it is best to opt for a permeable soil rich in lime. If you have a small garden, you could also grow your lavender in a herb spiral. It is best to plant drought-tolerant plants, such as lavender, on the south or west side in the upper third of the spiral.
How far apart to plant lavender
To ensure your lavender has enough space later on, refrain from planting the young plants too close together. A planting distance of about 30 to 40 cm is ideal.
Generally speaking, it is better to avoid moving lavender plants altogether after they have been planted as this always causes them some stress. However, if your lavender is not doing well in its current spot, you might be better off replanting it elsewhere. It is best to do this in spring, between the end of March and May, to allow the plant to establish itself in its new location before winter. To minimise damage to the root system when transplanting lavender, be generous when digging up the root ball.
Good companion plants for lavender
Lavender can be grown in combination with other plants to create a beautiful garden design. To ensure the different species grow well side by side, it is important to choose good lavender companion plants. Plants that require similar growing conditions and therefore go well with lavender include rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or other Mediterranean herbs such as thyme (Thymus) or sage (Salvia). You can also grow lavender and mint together in a herb spiral as long as you plant the two herbs some distance from one another – mint is a fast growing plant that will out-compete the lavender for space.
But which flowers get on well with lavender? Flowering companion plants for lavender include, for instance, sea kale (Crambe maritima), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), alyssum (Alyssum) or Carthusian pink (Dianthus carthusianorum).
Tip: Roses (Rosa) are a prime example of flowering plants that do not go well with lavender as they prefer humus-rich, nutrient-rich, even clayey soils.
Overview of lavender companion plants
- Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano or sage
- Sea kale
- Lady’s mantle
- Carthusian pink
Now that you know all about planting lavender in your garden, you just need to know how to get it through the winter months. Our article on overwintering lavender offers tips on how to make sure your lavender blooms again the following year.