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If you’re not able to jet off to Provence this summer to tour the lavender fields, why not grow your own? This Mediterranean herb has been cultivated for thousands of years for both medicinal and culinary purposes by many ancient cultures. Plus, it’s an absolutely stunning perennial that tolerates hot, dry conditions once established, adding a romantic feel to your garden with its long-lasting spikes of flowers and amazing fragrance. Plus, it’ll bring all the butterflies (and bees) to your yard: Pollinators adore lavender, too, and it makes a lovely companion plant for many different annuals and perennials in your garden.

Wondering how to grow lavender in your own garden (or in containers, if you’re short on space)? We’ll tell you exactly what to do, as well as what type to plant and when.

Related: The 20 Best Full Sun Perennials for Your Garden

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Here's everything you need to know:

What kind of lavender should I grow?

There are a few different kinds of lavender, so you’ll need to read the plant tag or description to you choose one that’s able to survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). The most commonly available types are English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), a lovely type often used cooking and baking; lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia), a hybrid that’s less demanding than other types; Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), which has flowers with little “bunny ear” tufts; and French lavender (Lavandula dentata), which is not as fragrant as some varieties, but it dries well.

What are the ideal conditions for growing lavender?

Lavender needs full sun, which is considered 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. It prefers sandy or well-draining soil, not heavy clays or areas of your garden that stay damp all the time. If you don’t give it the right conditions, lavender tends to get fussy and doesn’t thrive. If you have poor soil or a small yard, lavender also does well in pots on your deck, patio or balcony so you still can enjoy its ethereal beauty.

When is the best time to plant lavender?

Late spring—after the final frost—when the soil is 60 degrees F or warmer, tends to be ideal, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. You can also plant in the fall, though the Almanac recommends choosing larger plants that are hardier and are more likely to survive the winter.

Where can I grow lavender?

English lavender and lavandin (though it’s still usually called “lavender”) typically are hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9. Spanish lavender thrives in zones 7 to 9 and makes a nice houseplant, though it needs plenty of bright light.

French lavender can be difficult to find, and it’s often treated as an annual and replanted every spring, though you may have some luck with it as a perennial in zones 8 to 9.

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Can you grow lavender from seed?

Yes, but only if you’re a patient person! Lavender needs warm soil temperatures to germinate, so you need to sow seeds indoors about 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost in your area. Use a seed-starting formula (not potting soil) in your pots, placing the seeds with just a sprinkle of the growing medium over top of them. Grow lights are your best bet, though you can try placing the pots in a south-facing window, too. The soil must be kept at around 70 degrees or warmer, so you’ll need a heat mat to get things going. Seedlings can take up to a month to emerge.

Once they pop up, feed the seedlings with a half-strength liquid houseplant fertilizer when they’re a month old. After the last frost in your area, get them used to the outdoors (called “hardening off”) by placing them outdoor in the shade for a few days and gradually exposing them to more hours of direct sun every few days. After a week or so, you can transplant baby lavender plants into your garden in a sunny location.

The other thing you need to know? Lavender grown from seed may take a few years to mature enough to bloom. So, if you’re eager for flowers this season (or just don’t have the space, energy or patience to grow it from seed!), you’re better off purchasing lavender plants for your garden.

How do I care for lavender?

Make sure you give lavender plenty of room to spread, with good air circulation around each plant to help the leaves dry (it doesn’t like humidity or to be crowded). Water lavender well after planting, then every few days as it’s establishing roots the first season. Interestingly, this is one time you’re better off not mulching. Lavender likes to stay on the dry side, so either skip the organic mulch, thin the mulch to almost nothing as it comes up to the plant, or use a light coating of pale-colored pea gravel. Lavender doesn’t need (or do well with) fertilizer, which may produce weak growth that is vulnerable to winter kill.

Next spring, trim back the plant to right about where new growth is starting, never down into the “woody” part of the plant. But don’t do it too soon! Lavender is one of the slower perennials to leaf out in spring, so wait until you see all the new growth to assess what’s survived. It takes a few years for lavender to reach its full potential, so don’t get worried if it doesn’t seem to be taking off the first season or two.

When should I harvest lavender?

Cut your lavender flowers in the morning when the dew has evaporated and when just a few buds on each stem have opened. Tie the stems together and hang upside down away from light, such as on a hanger in an unused closet. Or simply display a bunch in a vase. Once your lavender has dried, you can rub the stem gently to remove the buds, then save in a small, lidded herb jar for sachets, cooking and baking.

Beyond looking pretty, what can I use lavender for?

You can cut lavender for long-lasting bouquets or dry the flower buds for sachets to tuck under your pillow or to perfume drawers. Or you can make a refreshing lavender simple syrup for lemonade or cocktails or steep buds for a lavender latte. Baked goods such as scones and cookies also are amazing with lavender. It’s a surprisingly versatile herb.

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