National Lavender Day is June 29. In honor of this widely celebrated holiday, I deemed it time to share some timely tips on growing lovely lavender.
Lavender that grows well in the Southwest includes a number of European species (and cultivars) of Lavendula, plus the Sonoran Desert native shrub, desert lavender (Condea emoryi). We will look at the most commonly sold species.
For a quick look at this native shrub, check out my YouTube Channel.
What’s in a Name?
The name of lavender is derived from the Latin “lavare,” meaning to wash. Leaves and flowers have been used for several millennia to do just that – wash. Fragrant baths, hair rinses, to cleanse and treat skin ailments, and, in the past, to help eliminate lice and bedbugs from the household. More about using this useful herb in this post on Savor the Southwest.
Get the Right Plant
Lavender is easy to grow in our area. Ignore the bad rap about it being difficult. Simply be sure you get the right species for your growing area, and you can easily enjoy this fragrant herb. Some other fragrant plants for the Southwest – here.
Lavendula angustifolia is perhaps the most common species offered. This is a good species for the high elevations Southwest gardeners (High Desert and Cool Mountains) USDA Zones 6, 7, 8.
Low and Middle Desert Gardeners should avoid this species as they tend to be stressed by our summers. More water is not the answer, because they do not like moist soils and easily die. If you have a spot with afternoon shade in summer and well-drained soil, you can try it USDA Zones 9, 10,11.
Lavendula stoechas tends to be better adapted to our low humidity the English species. Fine for High Desert growing, but stressed by the winters of the Cool Mountains. Low and Middle Desert areas – give it afternoon shade in summer! (The voice of experience.)
Lavendula dentata, also called toothed lavender for the toothed leaves. The fuzzyness of the leaves helps them reflect sunlight and reduce water loss better than their two cousins. Can be grown in High Desert if the roots are mulched for winter. Low and Middle desert – still favors some afternoon shade.
Sonoran native desert lavender (Condea emoryi, formerly Hyptis emoryi), is a shrub often found growing along area washes. Desert lavender reaches 4 to 6 feet high and is covered with fragrant gray green leaves. Summer brings spikes of fragrant purple flowers that butterflies adore. This is a fantastic native plant for Low and Middle Desert gardens. Sorry folks in cooler areas – this shrub is only winter hardy to about 18F.
You Can Grow Lavender
Soil. Like most herbs, lavenders do best in well-drained soil. Add ample sand and compost to help ameliorate clay soils.
Water. European species will need irrigation on a regular basis in the warm months. The native desert species of lavender is winter dormant, and may even lose leaves in winter.
Fertilize. All of these will grow well with half-strength fertilizer once a month – in any month that doesn’t freeze.
Care. Harvest and prune often. Like most herbs, lavender should be trimmed two to three times per year to control rampant growth and keep the plant producing quality blooms. If nothing else, prune in fall. European lavenders will need rejuvenation pruning once every three years.
Harvest. Harvest stalks of lavender blooms just as the lower-most flowers open. This gives you buds with optimum fragrance. Dry these, like all herbs, out of direct sunlight.
No matter what species of lavender you plant, native lavender or European species, lavender adds refreshing fragrance to your living spaces, both indoors and out.
No matter what species of lavender you plant, you’ll be living green. Growing your own reduces the need for lavender imported from half a globe away, usually southeastern Europe.
What do you think?!
Please leave your comments and ideas in the comment section (way way down) below.
More About Care for Your Landscape
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