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Lavender – planting and care in the open ground, species and varieties

Lavender flowersLavender plant (lat. Lavandula) belongs to the genus of family Lamiaceae that includes about 30 species. Lavender plant grows naturally in the Canary Islands, Eastern and Northern Africa, Australia, Arabia, India, and Southern Europe. There are only two species that are cultivated all around the world – lavandula latifolia (French lavender) and lavandula angustifolia (English lavender), or medical lavender. Plant’s name is derived from the Latin word “lava” that means “to wash” and refers to the use of lavender in Ancient times – the Romans and the Greeks used the plant for washing and cleaning. Today lavender plant grows not only in private gardens, but it is widely used commercially for precious essential oils’ extraction.

Description of lavender flower

Lavender is a perennial evergreen shrub with woody fibrous roots in the depth of 6.5 feet, with numerous woody stems in the lower part, growing as high as 2 feet tall, opposite sessile linear silvery-green leaves with indumentum and fragrant blue or blue-violet flowers, gathered in interrupted spicate inflorescence with 6-10 pieces in whorls. The inflorescences are formed on the tops of leafless stalks. Lavender begins to bloom in the second half of the summer. Lavender is an excellent honey plant. If stored properly lavender seeds keep germinating capacity for many years.

Lavender is a relative to such cultures as hyssop, basil, mint, balm, motherwort, oreganum, sage and rosemary. We will tell you how to grow lavender from seed, what lavender-growing conditions are needed in the open ground, how to plant and care for lavender in the open ground, how to propagate lavender, how lavender overwinters in Moscow, and provide a lot of interesting and useful information about this garden plant.

Lavender planting in the open ground

How to plant lavender in the open ground.

Lavender planting in the open ground is carried out either by seeding in October, or by seedling at the end of May. In order to grow lavender from seed, the seed grain must be purchased at the beginning of winter or autumn, since before sowing seeds are stratified for 2 months at 41ºF to improve germination. Usually the seeds that are mixed with damp sand are stratified in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Lavender seeds are sown for seedling in February or March.

Lavender seedling.

While the seeds are in the fridge, prepare a container for sowing and substrate for seeds, carefully mixing two parts of compost to one part of coarse river sand. Sieve the mixture since lavender seeds are very small, therefore the substrate must not contain any lumps. Warm the mixture in the oven at 230-266 ºF or pour it with a potassium permanganate solution of a bright pink color. After being processed soil mixture needs to be put on the drainage layer in the container with the drainage holes.

Planting and care for lavender in the garden

In late winter or early spring, sow the lavender seeds on the substrate surface in a container, sprinkle them with a layer of sand of ⅛ inch thick, spray them with warm water, cover with glass or plastic wrap for the formation of the greenhouse effect and place it in a bright, warm place. From time to time the seedlings need to be aired by lifting the cover. Seeds are germinated at 59-72 ºF.

How to care for lavender in seedling period? As soon as the shoots appear, you will need to arrange additional lighting for lavender seedling not to stretch. Every day remove the cover for a while for the seedling to get used to the temperature in the room, and as soon as they get adapted to it, the cover can be removed completely, and the seedlings need to be placed with the distance of at least 2 inches between them.

When to plant lavender in the ground.

The time for planting lavender in the garden is late May. Most often lavender is used for decorating alpine rock gardens or used as a border or planted on both sides of the paths. Lavender grows well in bright sunlight. Do not plant it on swampy areas or in areas with a high groundwater occurrence, because lavender is very sensitive to excess moisture. The plant prefers dry, sabulous soil, but it also grows well on loamy soils with good drainage. The optimal acidity parament acidity for plants is 6.5-7.5 pH. Ground chalkstone needs to be added into acid soils. Before lavender planting it is necessary to prepare the site: dig the ground to a depth of 8 inches and loosen the soil well, adding peat or compost.

How to plant lavender? Lavender planting is carried out with the distance of 2.6-3 feet between seedlings, and the distance of 4 feet should be observed between tall lavender bushes. The depth of holes should loosely fit the seedling’s root system. Before planting the roots should be slightly trimmed, then set lavender bush in the hole and buried it with root neck deepened into 1.5-2.3 inches. After lavender planting seedlings should be abundantly watered.

How to grow lavender

Early winter lavender sowing.

In area with mild winters it is better to sow the lavender seeds directly into the ground. It is carried out in October after soil preparation of the site by adding peat, and if the soil is too wet, grail or fine sand should be added for increasing moisture and air permeability. Seeds are sown to a depth of 1.1-1.5 inches with soil surface being tamped. If the autumn is dry, water the seedling, but not too excessively, and cover the area with a small amount of the first snow.

Care for lavender in the garden

Lavender growing.

Once the first lavender inflorescences appear on the seedlings, it is necessary to remove them for young plants not to waste power on flowering and to get stronger and build a sustainable root system. During the first year of lavender growing in the garden, the plant grows very slowly, therefore it is necessary to struggle with the weeds that can drown the seedlings. How to grow lavender? What care lavender needs at the summer cottage? You will need to regularly and abundantly water the plant, and watering should be frequent during very hot weather. After rain or irrigation it is necessary to loosen the soil between shrubs and weed the land, but if you want to save time and effort, after planting you can mulch the soil between shrubs with peat.

In spring and autumn the old bushes should be earthed up. This measure contributes to the formation of new shoots on older branches. In addition to these procedures, you will have to prune lavender and add fertilization into soil preferring potash fertilizers since manure and nitrogen fertilizers contribute only to a build-up of greens while inhibiting lavender flowering, for which, in fact, it is grown.

How to plant and care for lavender

Pruning lavender.

Lavender growing will require carrying out of annual plant pruning. Once finished flowering, cut off faded inflorescences, and shorten branches in autumn, maintaining the shape of the bush. Do not let lavender get strongly stretched up because when windy it will lodge the bushes and spoil decorative look. When the bush reaches the age of ten, it is advisable to renew pruning by shortening all branches up to 2 inches. You can do the same with a young bush, if its flowering is not splendor.

Lavender propagating.

Besides of seed method, lavender also propagates by bush diving, layering and cutting.

If you already have a lavender bush or you have lignified annual shoot of the plant, you may produce lavender from cuttings. Slice cuttings 3-4 inches long from the shoot and plant them in moist loose soil deepening the lower section in 0.7-1.1 inches, and cover with glass jars. The jars can be removed when the cuttings root.

If you want to split the bush, it should be prepared beforehand. In autumn, after flowering, large shrub is pruned to a height of 4 inches and is earthed up, filling the entire space between shoots with soil. In spring the earthing-up is repeated. During the summer the bush gives numerous sprouts. In autumn the bush can be digged out, divided into parts with well-developed roots and shoots, and planted.

For propagating by layering, in spring several shoots are bent and put into the channels of 1.1-1.5 inches in depth, fixed in such position, filled with the soil and watered. During the summer the soil over layering is kept wet, and the following spring rooted shoot is separated from the bush, divided into parts and transplanted to a permanent place.

Pests and diseases of lavender.

Lavender in open ground is extremely resistant to diseases and pests, but still it is not protected from all problems. Sometimes lavender may be affected by leafhoppers or slobbering spittlebug and iridescent beetle, and among diseases it can be infected by gray mold.

Care after lavender flowered

Leafhoppers and iridescent beetles should be collected manually and after that a layer of mulch has to be replaced on the site. A gray mold usually appears in raw rainy summer or in the case of chronic waterlogged soil caused by too frequent watering. It cannot be cured, but you can remove and burn the diseased parts of the lavender so the infection does not spread to all plants. And, of course, a watering regime should be reconsidered.

Lavender in Moscow and Moscow area.

Only English lavender (angustifolia, or medical lavender) can be grown successfully in Moscow and the Moscow region. Lavender planting and care in the central Russia are carried out on the same principals and almost within the same terms as in warmer areas. Seeds are sown in the ground when the ground frost ends in the second half of May, and the seedlings are planted in early June. Sowing seeds during winter time is risky as it can get frozen.

Lavender – care after flowering

Lavender in winter time.

If in your area winter temperature can fall below 77 ºF, you need to securely protect lavender site from frost, but do not use fallen leaves as a heater because in winter lavender can get rotted underneath of it. It is better to cover lavender bushes by spruce branches after the fall pruning.

Growing and propagation of lavender

In areas with not so cold winter lavandula angustifolia is not covered.

Lavender species and varieties

So far there are only two lavender species that are cultivated: lavender angustifolia (narrow-leaved, English lavender) and French lavender (broadleaved lavender). But since there are other lavender species suitable for cultivation, we provide their description below.

French lavender (Lavandula stoechas),

or lavender latifolia (Lavandula latifolia) comes from the South-West Europe. It is characterized by a strong fragrance and the beauty of flowers in different shades of purple, pink, lilac, green, maroon and white colors. French lavender begins flowering earlier than other species of the plant in April or May and lasts until July, but at the end of the summer broadleaved lavender may start blooming again. French lavender is not so frost resistant as English lavender, therefore it is mainly grown in warm areas. The most popular type of this species is Lavandula stoechas pedunculata, or “butterfly” (Papillon) with the flowers of relevant form. Among the variety of lavender latifolia the most well-known are:

  • Willow Vale is a variety with dark purple flowers, crimson bracts and yellow-green leaves;
  • Regal Splendour is a variety with dark purple flowers;
  • Rocky Road is a new kind of large purple-blue flowers that bloom in July;
  • Tiara is large blue flowers with cream-colored bracts;
  • Helmsdale is a variety with purple-maroon flowers.
French lavender (Lavandula stoechas)

Hybrid lavender (Lavandula x intermedia),

or Dutch lavender is a group tall-growing hybrid of English lavender and other species of the genus. These are large plants with narrow silver leaves and large oblong flowers on long stalks, bending under the weight of flowers. Hybrid lavender starts flowering in July. The most popular varieties of Dutch lavender are:

  • Alba is a variety with white flowers;
  • Arabian Night is a variety with flowers of dark blue or dark violet color;
  • Sawyers is a cultivar with light lilac flowers;
  • Grosso is a variety with large flowers of lilac-violet hue;
  • Richard Gray is a compact shrub with dark lilac flowers.
Hybrid lavender (Lavandula x intermedia)

Toothed lavender (Lavandula dentata)

comes from the Mediterranean. This is a heat-loving plant with a compact rugged soft silvery leaves and large fragrant flowers, blooming in July. The plant is not characterized as frost-tolerant. The most popular variety of toothed lavender is Royal Crown, a plant with lilac flowers.

Toothed lavender (Lavandula dentata)

Narrow leaved lavender (Lavandula angustifolia),

or English lavender, or medical lavender (Lavandula officinalis = Lavandula spicata) comes from southern Europe. This is a perennial shrub with silver-green leaves and middle-sized blue-violet flowers that bloom in July or August. It is the most winter-hardy kind of lavender. The best known species of narrow leaved lavender is the lavender of Dauphine (lavandula deiphinensis) that reaches a height of no more than 12 inches, but it has a very beautiful silver foliage. Also Hidcote lavender is widespread as it is mainly used for low hedges. Among the varieties of English lavender the most in demand are:

  • Alba is a variety with the height up to 20 inches with white inflorescences;
  • Rosea is a shrub up to 16 inches with a lilac-pink flowers;
  • Munstead is a shrub with the height of about 16 inches and with flowers of intense blue hue;
  • Hidcote Giant is a compact plant with the height up to 24 inches;
  • Hidcote Blue is a compact shrub with the height up to 16 inches with blue and purple inflorescences.
Narrow leaved lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender properties – harm and benefits

Lavender healing properties.

All terraneous parts of lavender contain essential oil, which is composed of linalool, coumarin, ursolic acid, tannins, geraniol and borneol. Lavender oil has many beneficial properties and is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics industry and in medicine. Lavender oil treats burns and bruises.

Lavender is used for treating cerebrovascular diseases, paralysis and post-stroke seizures and to eliminate headaches, dizziness and drowsiness. It has a diuretic effect and relieves toothache. A cup of tea with lavender can relieve spasms and stomach discomfort.

Lavender helps with melancholy, irritability, hysteria and neurasthenia, as well as with the flu, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, tuberculosis, enteritis, flatulence, atony of the gastrointestinal tract, worms, rheumatism, cystitis, amenorrhea, hypertension, fever, and various rashes.

Lavender healing properties and contraindications

Doctors notice a remarkable effect of lavender infusion on the overall person's mental state and his nervous system as a whole. It relieves stress and reduces the negative impact of adverse factors on the human mind and mental state and helps restore strength and energy, and stimulates mental activity.

Lavender leaves are used for therapeutic baths, and dry flowers are used as moth repellent and for flavoring room and clothes.

Lavender contraindications.

Lavender essential oil is not recommended during the pregnancy, especially during the first months, since lavender stimulates the uterine muscles. Essential oil is not used after abortion not to cause bleeding. Lavender is contraindicated when taking medicines containing iron or iodine.

The intensive use of oil can cause depression and irritation of the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract.

Lavender medicines have a powerful effect and may cause severe allergic reactions when a person has lavender intolerance. Therefore before usage, be sure to consult with your doctor.

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