Lovely lavender adds aroma and soft beauty to the garden—and also has culinary and medicinal uses. Best seeded indoors (in late winter), lavender is planted outdoors in early spring. Learn how to plant, keep lavender plants in shape, propagate, and harvest/dry the flowers.

The commonly-cultivated lavender is the common or English lavender Lavandula angustifolia (formerly named L. officinalis) which is hardy to USDA Zone 5. A bushy perennial, lavender grows from 1 to 3 feet tall, bearing small blue-violet flowers on spikes with blue-green needle-like foliage. Its the oils in the flowers that give the herb its distinctive balsam-like fragrance.

Called “English” lavender because it proliferates in the English climate, this plant’s main requirements are lots of sun and good drainage. It is not fussy about soil, and its presence lures bees and butterflies and pollinators to the garden. Plant lavender along a walkway or near a seating area.

Interestingly, the name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means “to wash” because it was used in baths to purify the body and spirit. Today, it’s often used in soaps and shampoos. 

In addition, lavender has proven medicinal uses. When the essential oils are inhaled, lavender has calming properties that reduce anxiety; it’s also used as a gentle sedative for insomnia. In ancient times, lavender flowers were sewn into sachets to aide with sleeplessness.

Lavender is even useful in the kitchen in baking and drink recipes! Learn more below.


As mentioned above, lavender thrives in most soil qualities, from poor to moderately fertile. Lavender makes only one demand of soil: It must drain well. Standing water and wet areas could encourage root rot. Amend compacted or clay soil with compost or aged manure to improve drainage. Plant lavender in a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day (“full sun”). 

When to Plant Lavender

  • Lavender is best planted as a young plant starting in the spring after the soil has warmed up to at least 60°F (15°C) and the threat of frost has passed.
  • If planting in the fall, choose larger, more established plants to ensure their survival through the winter.

How to Plant Lavender

  • Lavender isn’t easy to grow from seed; we recommend purchasing small starter plants from a garden nursery or taking a softwood cutting from an existing plant. Seeds may take up to three months to germinate and seedlings will need to be overwintered indoors in cool climates. 
  • Plant lavender 2 to 3 feet apart. Plants typically reach between 1 and 3 feet in height.
  • Add mulch (rock or pea gravel work particularly well) to keep weeds to a minimum. Keep the mulch away from the crown of the lavender plant, however, to prevent excess moisture and root rot.

Check out this video to learn how to plant lavender:


How to Care for Lavender

  • Water once or twice a week after planting until plants are established. Water mature plants every two to three weeks until buds form, then once or twice weekly until harvest. (Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering.)
  • In colder growing areas, plants may need extra winter protection. Cover the plants with a winter mulch of evergreen boughs or straw, which will insulate from freezing winds and temperatures. Read more about winter care of lavender plants.
    • Another option for cold areas is to grow lavender in a pot, keeping it outdoors in the summer and indoors in winter. While indoors, place the pot in a south-facing window with as much light as possible. Water sparingly, as the plant will be dormant at this time.

Pruning Lavender

In cooler climates: Prune established plants in spring when green leaves start to emerge from the base. Remove about one-third of the top to keep the plant from becoming leggy and bare at the base, but do not cut back into old wood, as it will not regrow.

In warm climates: All pruning can be carried out in autumn.

The flowering stems can be harvested while in bloom or snipped off after the flowers fade to keep the plant tidy.


How to Grow New Lavender From Cuttings

  • Cut following the plant’s bloom. Choose sideshoots for cuttings which have no buds.
  • Cut very low near the root, getting several inches of stem. Gently scrape the skin off the bottom portion of the stem on one side with a knife. Remove foliage on the bottom 2 inches of the stem.
  • Fill a small pot (4 inches or so) with potting mix. Optional: Dip each cutting in rooting hormone first.
  • Insert bare stem into potting soil. Firm the soil and water in. Cover the whole pot with a clear plastic or a polythene bag to create humidity. Place pots in a warm, shaded area.
  • Allow about 3 weeks for roots to appear. (If you tug tently, the root shouldn’t move.) Then remove the bag.
  • Water when soil is dry an inch down; feed with 1/4-strength liquid plant fertilizer once a week.
  • After a few weeks, transplant it into a larger pot.

Harvesting Lavender Flowers

Lavender is a wonderful herb for drying. Here’s how to harvest it:

  • Harvest in the morning hours when the oils are the most concentrated.
  • Snip off stems when about half of the flower buds have opened, cutting the stems as long as possible.
  • Gather into bundles and secure them with rubber bands.
  • Dry the bundles of lavender by hanging them in a sheltered, cool, dark place with good air circulation.
  • After a few weeks, the flowers will have dried fully and can be shaken gently from the stems into a lidded jar. Store the flowers in a cool, dark place.

Use your dried lavender to make lavender sachets—a lovely gift. Lavender sachets can help to keep your sheets or towels smelling sweet, to repel moths and insects, and even promote a restful night’s sleep. 

Storing Lavender

Store lavender flowers in a lidded jar somewhere cool and dark, or pop them straight into a sachet to keep towels, sheets or clothes smelling sweet and to repel moths. If you suffer from insomnia, try inserting the sachets into a pillow so the calming scent can help you drift off to a restful slumber.

  • Ancient Egyptians used lavender in the embalming process. They wrapped the dead in shrouds that had been soaked in lavender water.
  • The Romans, all the way back in A.D. 77, are documented to have used lavender to repel insects and soothe insect bites. Add a lavender sachet to your towels, sheets, or cloths to repel moths.
  • The herb is also known for its calming effects. If you suffer from insomnia, try slipping a lavender sachet into your pillow. Lavender oil is used to naturally induce sleep.

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Replies to This Discussion

Very interesting. I like this plant a lot.


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