Seeing a pretty patch of silvery green foliage topped off by wonderfully fragrant violet-blue flowers can bring a desire to grow lavender.  Early in history one of its uses was in ancient Roman baths, thus the botanical name, lavandula, wish is derived from the Latin word, “lavare”, meaning “to wash”.  It is one of the most widely used herbs for essential oils.  The Romans are credited with spreading this Mediterranean plant to the British Isles, and the Pilgrims brought it to America.  The various uses of this essential oil are extensively written about, but an added bonus to the modern gardener is that most lavender varieties attract bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds.

Growing lavender can be a challenge here in the Gulf Coast region because these plants love arid climates.  Growing it successfully is possible when steps are taken to amend the soil and make the conditions more suitable.

 Lavender plants always prefer a more alkaline soil.  Adding sand, pea gravel,  or hadite (expanded shale) to the soil will cause it to drain and dry more  quickly. Limestone gravel in the  soil will not only help it to drain more  quickly, but will also add to the alkalinity of the soil.  Plants going into the  ground should in be in beds raised 18 to 20 inches high.  Planting them in  unglazed ceramic or terra cotta pots is an alternative.  These pots should be  able to drain quickly and other plants should not be crowded in with the lavender plant.  Be sure to transplant to a larger pot once the roots are showing out of the drainage holes of the pot, indicating that the plant is most likely root bound.  Whether planting in the ground or in pots, Maas Organic Landscape mix gives good results with this herb.

Most varieties of lavender prefer full to part sun.  In our humid climate the leaves get enough moisture, so the plant should be watered, if possible, without getting the foliage wet. Take care not to over water; water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Generally, plants should be trimmed one third to one half of their height in the fall season to keep them bushy.

Lavender plants take about 3 years to mature.  On lavender farms under optimal conditions, some varieties can live up to 20 years.  When beginning your garden, be aware that the seeds can be difficult to germinate.

Following are different varieties of lavender that we carry at Maas Nursery.  They are not always available, so please call ahead to see if they are in stock.

Fernleaf Lavender or Egyptian Lavender (Lavandula multifida), originated in more southerly Mediterranean regions.  It is a tender perennial (can be killed by frost), and is by far the easiest to grow in our area because it can take more humidity than other varieties.   It has fern-like leaves, can flower year round, and can reach up to 3 feet in height. The fragrance differs slightly from the traditional lavender scent as it has a slightly pine-like fragrance.  Foliage and flowers are used fresh, as it does not dry well.

Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is a perennial in climates with winter seasons staying above 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  This variety can grow to 30” high, and does well here as it is more tolerant of Texas heat and humidity.  Plants may only flower lightly their first growing season, having more complete blooms in the years following.  The flowers are striking and the fragrance is strong.

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is a tender perennial hardy in zones 8a to 10b, making it a candidate for growing in our area.  It can grow to 3 feet high.  The leaves are fuzzy looking with a silvery green color, also having a type of indented pattern on the edge of the leaves, giving this variety the name “dentata”, meaning toothed.   Flower buds are dried and used ornamentally; some use it for cooking.

Goodwin Creek Lavender (Lavandula dentata ‘Goodwin Creek Gray’)  is a moderate growing perennial that is hardy to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.   This variety is a  hybrid of French lavender discovered at Goodwin Creek Gardens in Oregon.  The leaves have a similar “indented or toothed look” as does French Lavender.  It can bloom mid to late summer and early fall and grows to 3 feet high.  Flowers can be used fresh or dried.

 Dutch Lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) is a perennial that grows into a large, shrub-like plant 1 to 2 feet high with showy silver foliage.  This hardy plant is popular for hedges.

Provence Lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) is a perennial shrub with silvery green leaves that can grow to 2 feet high and 30 inches wide.  The strong fragrance of its flowers make them a favorite to be used for oil.

Grosso Fat Spike Lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) This disease resistant perennial has a full round growth to about 2 feet and is often used as a hedge plant. Its fragrant flowers are widely used for oil because of it high yielding flower spikes.

Fred Boutin Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia x lavandula latifolia) This perennial is often called a ‘Hedge Lavender’ as it develops a rounded dense shape and can grow 2 to 3 feet high.  Discovered in 1980 and introduced to the world in 1984.  The medium purple flowers on long stems are very fragrant and excellent for drying.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Considered an annual in this area, morning sun and afternoon shade are best.  It is most well known for its very fine and sweet essential oils.

Lady Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) A very fragrant shorter more “spreading” type of plant growing 10 to 12 inches in height and width.

Vera Lavender (Lavandusa angustifolia)  A compact, low growing variety that can reach a height of 12 inches.  The oil from the dark purple flowers is popular for medicinal use.