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Lavender Care

Lavender Overview:

Lavender plants are hearty and ideally suited to Mediterranean climate regions such as Southern California

 

French Lavender

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata)

Landscaping use:

  • Lavenders are an awesome addition to any garden.  They are beautiful low maintenance plants that are pest resistant and drought tolerant.
  • There are hundreds of different types of lavenders and there are many sizeable books dedicated to the pantheon of different lavender varieties. Each lavender type has its own growing characteristics (speed of growth, ultimate size and adaptability to a particular climate).
  • Here’s a link to a nice page that provided some details about the most popular lavender varieties:  http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/lavendercareandtips.htm

 

French Lavender

French Lavender growing spontaneously in the yard from seed.

Routine Care (pruning):

  • All lavender plants do best with a regular pruning at the mid-to-end part of a blooming cycle.
  • Regular pruning will keep your plants looking healthy, and will also promote longevity.  Some varieties of lavender will even send out a second bloom as a result of pruning.
  • Plants that have been left to their own devices get scraggly and woody.  However, severe pruning of neglected plants can revitalize them.  A word of caution; be sure not to overdo the pruning because if you cut back below the remaining leaves the plant will not grow back.
  • Note: lavender plants have the most oil  in the morning (lavender smell).  Therefore, if you are planning to use the cuttings, its best to prune in the early part of the day.
  • There are all kinds of specific tools available that you can use for pruning.  The specific types of tools range from specialized lavender sickles and knifes to pruning sheers.
  • However, I just don’t have the time for any of that.   I just use hedge clippers which actually work quite awesome (see video below).  If a hedge trimmer also makes sense to you, I strongly suggest you get a cordless/battery powered one.  Having to drag a cord around the yard gets old real fast.

  • Specifically, I really like the Black & Decker Cordless Electric Hedge Trimmer.  From the feedback that I have read on Amazon, just about everyone else really likes this one too.   This is also the trimmer that I am using in the video (below); it has been an awesome tool for all around the yard.
  • It is also great that the Black and Decker batteries are interchangeable with other Black & Decker Cordless products.  Note; if you are getting more than one type of cordless garden tool, just make sure you get the same voltage for all of the products so the batteries can be interchangeable.  For example, I went with 18 volt for all of the tools I have, but you can get 20 and 36 volt products.
  • Other brands also have interchangeable batteries for their cordless products, but the Black & Decker ones seem to have the best Amazon ratings.

 

Soil: 

  • Lavender roots are not built for soggy conditions and they are very susceptible to fungal infections which are often deadly.  Therefore, lavender do best in well draining loose soil.  Planting on a hill or a mound will help with drainage.
  • A sandy loam with a pH that is neutral to slightly alkaline seems ideal for every variety of lavender that I know of.  As it turns out, the dominant soil pH in Southern California is also on the alkaline side.

 

Water:

Lavender are very drought tolerant but they do need water.  Once established, a regular weekly watering in the summer will promote more blooms.  Water less if you soil does not drain well.  There is no need to water in the rainy winter months.

 

Sun:

Full sun, at least 6 hours a day.  The more direct sun light the better.

 

Fertilization:

I really don’t think lavender need any fertilizer. I have never fertilized any of my lavender plants and they never seem to act like they need any.  None the less, some people give a light application of fertilizer; I just think it is a waste.

How to care for lavender

Lavender and honey bee

 

Temp:

Mediterranean climate.  Different varieties have different levels of cold tolerance.

 

Pests:

  • For the most part lavender plants are relatively pest free.
  • The only insects I have seen on them are spittlebugs, and they don’t seem to harm the plant at all.  They are also really easy to blast off with water.  Spittle bugs are the nymph stage of a family of insects known as cercopoidea.  Heres a brief description of spittlebugs on wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Froghopper
  • It seems that we humans are the only mammals that actually like the smell of lavender.  Gophers and deer steer clear of the plants.  Just another added bonus for growing lavender.
spittlebug (nymph stage of cercopoidea) on lavender

spittlebug (nymph stage of cercopoidea) on lavender

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for your information. Concise and very useful.

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