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The Essential Guide to Growing Lavender

It seems like as soon as summer hits, everybody starts talking about growing lavender, and for good reason! This herb is beautiful, edible, smells amazing, and has great health properties. What’s not to love!? Here’s what you need to know about growing lavender.

How to Grow Lavender

Lavender is a gorgeous ornamental with a dazzling fragrance. Its wonderful, delicate flavour adds depth to many different types of recipes, and it is one of the most popular ingredients in natural beauty recipes and aromatherapy.

All of that, plus it is hardy, drought resistant, beneficial to bees, and deer and rabbits leave it alone.

And it’s by far one of my all-time favourite flowers. The bees love it, I love it!

Lavender can be a bit tricky to grow and keep properly so that it is tidy and healthy, but this essential guide to growing lavender will provide you with a few tips that will help keep your lavender in top shape for years to come and the know-how you need to prune, propagate, and use this versatile garden staple.

Here’s what I’ll be covering today…

essential guide to lavender: bumblebee on Spanish lavender
Bumblebee visiting some Spanish lavender.

Types of Lavender

While there are many varietals in different sizes, scents, and colours, lavender plants fall into two main categories: English and Spanish.

English Lavender

Lavandula angustifolia

Easily identifiable by its gray-green leaves, long slim purple flower spikes, and breathtaking fragrance, English lavender comes in different shades of purple as well as white and pink varieties.

It is actually native to the Mediterranean but grows well in England’s climate, which is why we know it as “English lavender.” This type of lavender is regularly used as a culinary ingredient (it is one of the herbs in the famous herbs de Provence mixture), aromatherapy, and natural beauty recipes.

English lavender
English lavender with buds about to bloom.

A few popular varieties of Lavandula angustifolia are:


With its silvery leaves and strongly scented flowers, it’s no wonder that Hidcote is the most popular variety for growing lavender in home gardens.


Munstead is also no wallflower in the fragrance department, but the plant stays a bit more neat and tidy with a compact habit. This lavender has the best flavour for cooking with.


Small-space gardeners will love Thumbelina, a dainty beauty that grows only 12” tall and yet will bloom up to three times a season!

Spanish Lavender

Lavandula stoechas

Spanish lavender can be identified by its slender leaves and plump, pineapple-shaped flower tops which are more pinkish-purple than most English lavender.

Legend has it that Spanish lavender was used by ancient Romans to perfume their baths, but it is not commonly used for aromatherapy today.

Spanish lavender is more often planted as an ornamental and to attract bees. Bees prefer Spanish Lavender to English lavender because its flowers are bigger and more open, which means they are easier to pollinate.

essential guide to lavender
Spanish lavender is more pinkish purple.

How to Care for Your Lavender

Growing lavender is easy once it’s established and in the right location. Here’s what you need to know to keep your lavender plant happy.

Location and Sunlight

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, so it likes cool winters and hot, dry summers reminiscent of its native climate. It needs sandy, well-draining soil and full sun. Lavender is drought-resistant and hardy to zone 7 or 8.


Lavender requires very little water once established. When you first plant your lavender, water regularly.

In its second year, you won’t need to provide any supplemental water. It’s hardy to drought and used to the hot hot heat.

essential guide to lavender
Younger lavender plants will need more supplemental water than older plants.

Pruning Lavender

Pruning is the number one thing you can do to keep your lavender happy. You can always tell an older lavender plant that was never pruned as the base becomes bare and the outer parts leggy.

Proper pruning keeps your plant healthy and neat and promotes growth, branching, and blooming. Lavender blooms on new stems, so pruning early or late in the season will be most beneficial. Start pruning in the second year after planting, and repeat each year after that.

First, follow the 4 Ds of pruning. Then, you can cut back up to one-third of the plant at a time, taking care not to cut into the woody stems. Pruning new growth promotes more new growth, whereas cutting into the woody stems will just cause those stems to die.

If you like the plant to be neat and tidy, then lavender should be pruned three times throughout the season:

  • Prune once in early spring, just after the new growth appears
  • Prune again in summer after the first bloom
  • Prune a third time in the fall after the second round of flowers has finished

You don’t have to prune all three times; you can prune only once or twice a season if you want the plant to grow wilder and leave all of the flowers for the bees. It’s all about personal preference!

essential guide to lavender: spanish lavender
Prune once the bees are done with the flowers.

Harvesting Lavender

You can also harvest lavender buds for crafts and recipes. If you time it right, pruning and harvesting can be the same thing, but they can also be very different. The purpose of pruning is to maintain the shape of the plant, and harvesting is the act of removing the flower buds for another use.

Spanish Lavender doesn’t require harvesting.

The key is to harvest lavender BEFORE they open fully. See the picture below for reference, as the one on the left is still in bud form while the others have started to bloom already.

For more information on harvesting, head over to this article to see How to Properly Harvest English Lavender.

the budding stages of lavender
Closed buds retain fragrance and colour longer.

Propagating Lavender

Growing lavender in bulk is easy when you know how to propagate. You can grow a garden full of lavender from just one plant by taking a cutting and rooting it following this technique.

Take a Cutting

Using a sharp knife, cut a straight piece of stem with no flower buds on it. Cuttings should be about three to four inches long. Remove all of the leaves from the bottom two inches of the cutting, and scrape the skin off of the stem on one side of the bottom two inches with your knife.

essential guide to lavender
Cuttings are best taken after the plant has finished flowering.

Plant the Cutting

You can either dip the cutting in rooting hormone first to help encourage root growth, or else just plant it straight into a pot of good, well-draining soil. Lavender roots easily so root hormone is not necessary, but may help.

Poke the cutting two inches deep and pack the soil lightly around it so that it stands up straight on its own. For a mini “greenhouse,” simply cover the cuttings with an upside-down plastic Ziploc bag. Place cuttings in a sunny spot and water when the soil feels dry.

Check out this post for more detailed instructions on how to propagate lavender.

propagating lavender
Soon, you can have a whole lavender field of blooms!

How to Use Lavender

After harvesting and, if you wish, preserving your lavender, there are a myriad of uses for it. Lavender can be used fresh or dried in floral arrangements, baking, cooking, and cocktail recipes, aromatherapy, and natural beauty recipes, and is a useful supply to have on hand for many crafts.

Here are a few ideas for you to try:


  1. I’m English and I live in the Corrèze in South West France. My Lavender is beautiful this year and I’m really proud of it. I now need to cut which is a shame but I’ll have bunches of beautiful Lavender tied with ribbon all over the house.


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