Looking after Lavender - Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some questions that I an often asked. For further information see our Looking after your lavenders information page
Q. When is the best time to plant lavender?
A. The hardy lavenders (such as "English" lavenders and the Lavandins) can be planted at anytime, but the best time would be in the spring as the soil temperature starts to rise. Planting in the height of summer is OK, but you do need to watch that they get enough water until their root system is established.
Q. What do I do with my Garden Ready Plugs when they arrive?
A. Unpack them promptly and stand them in some water. They are then ready to plant out. If you receive the plugs in the winter we would recommend potting them up and allowing them to grow on in a cool, sheltered enviroment - an unheated greenhouse perhaps. Do not overwater them. As the weather warms up in spring the lavenders can be planted out.
Q. How long do lavender plants last?
A. If you look after them and give them a good prune each year, there is no reason why your L.angustifolia (English lavender) or L.intermedia (Lavandin) will not last for years and years - some of ours in the fields are 24 years old! L.stoechas (French lavender) is more difficult to keep compact and healthy for many years. These days, French lavenders are treated by many as annuals and replaced each year as many of the newer varieties are not comfortable with our cold winters, and the have a tendency to go straggly.
Q. How much water do lavenders need?
A. Lavenders are drought tolerant plants and therefore, once established in the garden, they do not need watering. Lavender in pots need careful watering all through the summer. In the winter they need minimal watering. Over watering is the most common mistake - leading to root rot and the plant's demise.
Q. How do I prune lavender?
A. Look within the heart of the plant and you should see small shoots on the side of stems. You should prune so that these shoots are left below where you cut. You can prune with a pair of secateurs or with some shears. The shoots will push out to form the new greenery of the plant. Lavenders like a really good haircut so be brave about it? Many people tentatively snip off the old flowering stems. This is certainly not a hard enough prune if you are to avoid your lavender becoming woody and straggly.
Q. When should I prune lavender?
A. It depends on the species. English lavender and lavandin should be pruned after they finish flowering - around late July to mid August. This allows enough time for the plant to recover and push out new shoots before the winter cold sets in. French lavenders, because they grow all summer, can be cut back in after their first flush of growth in spring.
Q. Can I save an old straggly lavender plant?
A. Possibly. Try cutting back half the woody stems to about 15cm above the ground in the spring. This may encourage it to produce shoots at ground level. If so, the remaining woody stems can be cut the following year. However there is a risk that this will not work. These days most people don't have the patience for this process and would simply replace an old plant.
Q. Do I need to feed lavender plants?
A. Lavenders are not hungry plants and need little food in open soil. Some potash around the base in the Spring will encourage more prolific flowering. Do not apply nitrogen based fertilizer as this encourages weak, sappy growth.
Q. Can I grow lavender from seed?
A. It is often quite fun to collect the tiny black seeds from the dried flower heads in late summer and try to grow your own lavenders. Note – L.intermedia is sterile and does not produce seed. You may be surprised at the variety of hues of colour that are produced from your seed. This is due to the genetic influence of the other parent of the seed.
Q. Can I buy lavender seeds?
A. Yes - we sell a couple of varieties of lavender seeds. However lavender is not usually grown from seed, but from cuttings. The reason for this is that it is difficult to be sure of the parentage of the seed, and therefore be sure what the plants produced from it will look like, or how consistent their colours will be. A more certain way to produce lavender plants is by taking cuttings. The cuttings will produce plants that are genetically identical to the parent (clones), and therefore will look the same as the parent.
Q. Can I take cuttings easily?
A. Yes, cuttings are easy to take, particularly of L.angustifolia (English lavender) or L.intermedia (Lavandin). We simply take a short 5cm green shoot cutting, gently strip off the lower leaves and put them in moist sandy soil. We do not use hormone powder. It is vital that the soil is kept moist at all times. A constant gentle bottom heat helps the cuttings root. With L.angustifolia (English lavender) and L.intermedia (Lavandin) we have nearly 100% success. With French lavenders our success rate is much lower.
Q. Can you grow lavender in pots?
A. Yes, lavenders work well in pots. It is best not to use the larger types which will be too vigourous and need a much larger, heavier pot. We pot up lavender in a mixture of 2 parts multipurpose compost and 1 part grit. Ensure that the pot has good drainage. Some slow release fertilizer would help as well. Lavenders in pots need careful watering. It is better to give the plant a really good watering and then wait until the soil becomes quite dry before watering again, rather than water every day like you might for hanging baskets. Equally, although drought tolerant, in a pot, there is a high risk of the plant drying out completely, particularly if the pot is porous terracotta.
Q. Can you grow lavender on clay soil?
A. Lavender prefers a free-draining, alkali soil rather than heavy, acidic soil. Clay is acidic, but more importantly, is often not free draining. You will struggle to grow lavender on clay unless you mix in, deeply, lots of organic matter and grit to improve the soil structure and drainage and add lime to reduce the acidity. If you are on clay soil, try planting lavender in raised beds which will help keep their roots drier. Failing that, try growing lavender in pots.
Q. Does lavender suffer from any pests & diseases?
A. Not really - it is a remarkably tough and problem-free plant. The Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana) is a relatively new introduction to the UK and can potentially cause problems with lavender. Spittle bugs (Cercopidae) are often found on lavenders in early summer and although the frothy blobs of spittle look unsightly, they cause no significant damage. They can be removed by wiping off or spraying with soapy water. Rabbits can cause alot of damage to young plants by digging down and eating the roots. We use electric fencing to protect young lavenders from rabbits.
On the disease side the most serious is Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV). Mercifully it is rare. Bright yellow patches develop on the l