Lavender is a Mediterranean evergreen shrub, grown for its fragrant leaves and bee-friendly flowers. There are hardy, half-hardy and tender species of lavender to choose from.
Lavenders work in a variety of situations, from wildlife gardens to cottage gardens and even formal gardens, such as planted beneath shrub roses or used as a low-growing hedge. Many lavenders thrive in pots.
How to grow lavender
Grow lavender in full sun in well-drained soil. Half hardy and tender lavenders, such as Lavendula stoechas, should be grown in a sheltered spot. Cut back after flowering to prevent stems becoming woody.
More on growing lavender:
- How to take lavender cuttings
- Best lavenders to grow
- How to make a lavender hedge
- How to make lavender oil
- How to make a lavender bath bag
- How to dry lavender
Learn how to grow lavender, in our comprehensive Grow Guide, below.
Where to grow lavender
Lavenders thrive in an open site in full sun in a well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (got acid soil? Try French lavender, Lavandula stoechas, instead). They cope well with drought conditions and may suffer in wet, heavy soils, particularly over winter.
Half-hardy and tender lavenders, such as Lavandula stoechas, are best grown in pots so that they can be moved to a light, airy frost-free spot for winter.
How to plant lavender
The best time to plant tender lavender is in spring, from March through to May. If you have heavy soil, improve drainage by adding horticultural grit to the planting hole before planting. Planting on a slight mound can also help prevent water-logging. Plant lavender at the same depth it was in its pot. Add a sprinkling of bonemeal to the planting hole, place the plant in the hole, backfill and firm in. Water well.
When planting lavender in pots, choose terracotta pots with drainage holes. Fill with a John Innes no. 2 or 3 and mix in some horticultural grit, for drainage. Pots should be placed in a sunny spot away from overhanging trees and shrubs.
How to take lavender cuttings
Take semi-ripe lavender cuttings in late summer. Remove non-flowering shoots, about 10cm long, with a woody base and a tip with new growth. Pull off some of the lower leaves. Fill plastic pots with peat-free multi-purpose compost, water and then push the cuttings into the compost. About 1cm should be below the soil. Cover pots with a clear plastic bag and place in a light and airy place. A greenhouse is ideal.
Growing lavender: problem solving
Lavender can be become very leggy and bear few flowers. The reason for this is lack of or poor pruning. Many gardeners just deadhead hardy types which leads to leggy plants and few flowers. Looked after in this way the plant will be very short lived.
To rejuvenate a woody plant, prune in mid-August to just above a green shoot and hope for the best. If new shoots don’t appear within the next month you might be better off starting again.
Looking after lavender plants
Hardy lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia types) can cope with temperatures down to about -15°C, and can therefore be left in the garden all year round. Prune after flowering, typically in August. Cut back quite hard but don’t cut into old wood, as this can reduce flowering potential the following year. Be careful not to remove green shoots as this can kill the plant.
Half-hardy lavenders, such as Lavandula stoechas, flower for a long season but may not survive winter. Prune after their first flush of flowers have faded but avoid pruning any later than early September.
If growing the more tender lavenders, such as Lavandula denata, deadhead and prune only if the plants become scruffy.
In this short video guide, Monty Don demonstrates how to cut back lavender after flowering, to maintain a neat, compact shape and prevent it becoming leggy and unkempt:
How long does lavender live?
Lavenders are not long-lived plants. Expect tender varieties to live for about five years. If pruned correctly, hardy types can live for about 15 years (as many as 20 years, in some cases).
Great lavender varieties to grow
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ – a hardy lavender. Popular for its long-flowering period from July to September. Often used as a low hedge. When in flower reaches 60cm in height
- Lavandula stoechas ‘Purple Emperor’ – a frost-tender type with dark purple flowers with petal-like ears above. Flowers from late spring for months. Height 55cm
- Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ – often grown to harvest its oil. Very powerful scent. Dark blue flowers reaching a height of 80cm
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Rosea’ – a hardy type with pink flowers from July to September. Silver foliage. Reaches 70cm
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Arctic Snow’ (pictured) – a popular white hardy lavender. Flowers all summer. Reaches a height of 50cm