How to grow lavender

Find out how to make these fragrant plants bloom in your garden with expert tips.

how to grow lavender

by Ailsa Adams |

Lavender is a beautiful aromatic shrub that is easy to grow and maintain, making it a wonderful choice for your garden borders or terrace. It’s a perennial plant (which means it lives forever), so you can enjoy it for many years after you’ve planted it, making it perfect for beginners. It's native to the Mediterranean so it prefers hot, dry weather, but it can still thrive here in the UK the right spot.

The best time to start planting lavender is April or May, so that it flowers in the summer. From the best varieties to the tools you’ll need, here’s everything you need to know about how to grow lavender.

How to grow lavender: the best varieties

French lavender

There’s around 450 varieties of lavender, from English to Spanish, French and hybrid varieties. English Hidcote is most popular in the UK but it isn’t the easiest variety to maintain.

“The trouble with the Hidcote variety is it is very sensitive to the damp and prone to getting mildew,” says Richard van Egmond who runs C Slooten's, a business in Spalding Lincolnshire that specialises in growing shrubs, perennials and creepers for garden centres across the country. “I would recommend the English angustifolia ‘Munstead’, as it is less susceptible to the damp and has a good mid blue coloured flower.

“The French stoechas variety are the least hardy (meaning they’re more susceptible to cold weather) and are therefore harder to grow in the UK. But the Dutch variety Lavandula x intermedia are very hardy and have a great scent,” says Richard.

If you’re keen to try something a little different, the English ‘Nana Alba’ is also a good choice. It’s a white, dwarf lavender, which is a lot smaller and bushy (it grows to around 30cm), with a lovely aroma.

What you will need

Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia Munstead

Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia Munstead

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Most garden centres sell a good variety, or you can purchase it online from a place like Ashridge Nurseries. We opted for the augustifolia Munstead variety to make it the easiest to maintain.

Aged Ceramic Flower Pot Set of 3

Aged Ceramic Flower Pot Set of 3

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If you are planting your lavender in a pot for your terrace or garden a lovely set like this would be perfect. As your lavender grows bigger you can move it up to the next sized pot and plant new ones in the smaller pots.

Compost - Doff

Doff compost

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This is a great peat free option that is lightweight and expands. Mix with your own soil and grit for the optimum conditions to plant your lavender.

Gardening Gloves - EasyLaVie

Gardening Gloves - EasyLaVie

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Cotton, breathable gloves are ideal as lavender isnu2019t particularly spikey so you donu2019t need heavy duty gloves. We like the patterns on these ones from Amazon.

Fork and Trowel Set - Draper

Fork and Trowel Set - Draper

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This set is fantastic value and includes a trowel and a fork. Both come with a wrist strap to help make gardening extra easy. They are heavy duty so should last well and will make planting the lavender a breeze.

Potting Grit - Westland

potting grit

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Mixing the grit in with the soil can really help with drainage and make sure that your lavender doesnu2019t get too waterlogged at any point.

Pruning Shears - JSDing

pruning shears

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Pruning shears that are small and sharp will make your job easier when pruning back your lavender at the end of the season.

How to grow lavender

Depending on your soil type you can choose to plant the shrub directly into the ground or in a pot. If you are planting it directly in the ground, choose a well-drained spot and plant it to the same depth as the plastic pot you purchased it in.

The benefit of a pot is you can move it around the garden and put it under cover if it is a harsh winter, or if you have chosen a French variety that is more sensitive to the colder weather.

“If you have heavy clay or damp soil, a pot will be better as lavender prefers well drained soil,” says Richard. “If you are growing your lavender in a pot, put crocks in the bottom to help with drainage and lift it off the floor. Avoid putting the pot on a saucer to make sure it doesn’t get waterlogged,” remarks Richard.

As lavender requires good air circulation and lots of light, it’s best to avoid planting it indoors, or at least keeping it there for long periods of time. Choose a spot in you garden that’s a real sun catcher, as too much shade and damp weather could lead to your lavender dying.

How to grow lavender: care advice

woman potting lavender

What time of year is best to plant the lavender?

If you are planting lavender outdoors it is best to plant it in April or May. If you missed the boat this year though, you can also plant it in September. “If you are planting in full sun, I would recommend mixing in some grit with the soil to help with drainage,” says Richard.

You can also plant lavender seeds indoors in pots if you would prefer to grow the shrub from start to finish. It is a slow process though and might not germinate, so using a cutting from another plant might be a better option.

How often should it be watered?

Your lavender will need watering over the summer months but not excessively and avoid flooding it. “Well established plants will manage better in drier conditions as their roots will find their own water source. An occasional downpour is better for the lavender rather than a regular watering,” says Richard. “You will find that the lavender is the thirstiest when in bud and about to flower so perhaps water it a little more at that point but again, sparingly."

Should it be cut back or pruned?

Once the flowers have faded it can be cut back. “Try not to cut it back any further than the growth that season,” explains Richard.

By pruning the lavender back every year you also reduce the risk of a woody texture growing the next year.

“Ultimately it will get a woody texture as unfortunately they are not long-lived shrubs. Hopefully, you will get five plus years, but you might find that you need to start replacing your lavender at that point,” says Richard.

Gardeners Answers magazine have more advice on how to rescue a woody lavender.

What to do in winter

Once you have pruned your lavender, it is fine to leave it over the winter months. Generally the leaves will remain green or silver and will come back bushier with more flower heads in the springtime.

If you have potted lavender, it is fine to leave it outside, just move it to a sheltered spot to protect it from the elements and make sure it doesn’t get too much water. You can always move it under cover for harsh frosts or particularly wet spells.

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