Growing Lavender in the Southwest

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.

Which Species?

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.

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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.

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The English lavender cultivar named ‘After Midnight.’ Image courtesy High Country Gardens.

English lavender

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.

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Spanish lavender has fat clusters of buds.

Spanish Lavender

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.)

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French lavender has fuzzy leaves.

French Lavender

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.

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Native desert lavender has fuzzy leaves too. The better to withstand the hot sun.

Desert Lavender

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.

Be Local

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

soule-books-buy One reviewer said:

“A great reference book is key to successful gardening in the region where you live. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening takes the guesswork out of gardening for anyone residing in the Southwest. With this book, you’ll know what to do each month to enjoy a thriving garden all year, from January to December. Chronologically organized, this guide is full of critical gardening when-to and how-to advice, along with illustrated step-by-step instructions.

The book’s author is Jacqueline Soule, a Tucson-based gardening expert. She knows this arid region inside and out, and she’s written several articles and books packed with her gardening advice. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening showcases Soule’s expertise in one easy-to-read guide.”

Available on my book selling site – and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

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© Article copyright Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

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