Even the Romans used lavender to make fragrant bath essences: The name of this plant derives from the Latin word lavare = “wash”. The real lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) belongs to the family of the labiates (Lamiaceae), which also include mint and sage, and its various varieties are classics in the summer garden. There it occurs mainly on dry, warm slopes. However, most lavender varieties are also sufficiently hardy in our latitudes as garden plants.
Of the approximately 25 known lavender species in Central Europe, the hardy species Lavandula angustifolia is mainly cultivated. However, “winter-hardy” is a relative term – in the wine-growing climate lavender usually survives the cold season without problems, while in colder regions it should be protected. One of the best ornamental varieties is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’. It was discovered in the 19th century in England in the famous Hidcote Manor Gardens, grows naturally more compact and very dense. The Lavandula stoechas, popular as a summer flowering plant for tubs and balcony boxes, has conspicuously prominent bracts on its inflorescences. I’m afraid he’s not winter-hardy.
Appearance and growth
Lavender has a compact, cushion-like growth with upright, strongly branched and wiry shoots. Characteristic are its needle-shaped, grey-green leaves and the mostly violet-blue, aromatic scented inflores. These are several rows of flowers arranged in a lively manner, forming a spike-like inflorescence up to eight centimeters long. Lavender is perennial, grows about 60 to 100 centimeters high. There are also varieties with pink or white flowers. Flowering time is from June to August.
Location and soil
Lavender needs a sunny, warm location with a rather nutrient-poor, permeable soil. It is important that it does not wet too much in winter, otherwise the plants will become sensitive to frost.
Use in the garden
Lavender can be planted as a bed border or as plant strips along walls and paths. It grows particularly well in front of warm south walls. It enriches sink gardens as a fragrant plant and is a popular summer flowering plant for rock garden beds. It also fits in perfectly with the Mediterranean garden style. Accompanying herbaceous perennials can be, for example, beard iris or woollen woollen. Lavender flowers are a summer attraction for bees, butterflies and other insects.
Lavender not only captivates with its spike-shaped, purple flowers, which appear from July, but also with its silver-grey, lancet-shaped leaves. Roses and lavender are often planted as bedding partners, but do not really fit together very well: although both sun worshippers are visually perfect, they complement each other perfectly and lavender still enjoys the reputation of keeping aphids away. In terms of soil requirements, however, the plants differ considerably: lavender prefers barren and moderately dry, mineral soils, while roses like to grow on humus-rich and loamy fresh soils, which should not be too nutrient-poor. You can solve the problem by maintaining a planting distance of 80 to 100 centimeters and by leaning down the lavender plant locations by working in building sand. In principle, however, late varieties of steppe sage (Salvia nemorosa) or catnip (Nepeta x faassenii) are the better choice with regard to location requirements.
Lavender is also very grateful as a tub or pot plant and for planting flower boxes. It is particularly decorative in terracotta pots with a Mediterranean feel. So your seat is always surrounded by a light lavender scent in summer. For real lavender, use light soil interspersed with sand and gravel. As drainage, you should place a layer of clay fragments or stones on the bottom of the vessel.
The crested lavender can be easily integrated into all kinds of pot plantings. It has similar claims to the real lavender, but is used like a classic balcony flower. It goes well with ornamental grasses and other structural plants as well as white-flowered balcony flowers. Like the real lavender, it is perennial, but frost-free hibernation is usually not worth it.
Lavender as a medicinal and aromatic plant
Especially the south of France is famous for its huge lavender fields – for the writer Jean Giono lavender was the “Essence de Provence”, the soul of Provence. What few know: In France, besides the real or narrow-leaved lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), mainly lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) is cultivated. This is a cross between Real Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Great Lavender (Lavandula latifolia). This robust cross carries more panicles and is more productive.
The real lavender is known from time immemorial as an important medicinal plant. The essential oils from blossoms and leaves have a calming and harmonising effect. In the kitchen, lavender flowers are often used to refine desserts and sauces. In addition, the oils are used as fragrances in the perfume industry, which is why the plant is cultivated extensively in Provence, but also in some regions of England. Lavender should always be harvested early in the morning. Then the fragrance content is highest. Even today, countless products are perfumed with lavender: From the lavender soap to the lavender candle to the famous scented sachets. Lavender is also highly valued as a kitchen spice for fish, lamb and salads.
Popular names such as nerve herb or vertigo indicate its use as a remedy for headaches and nervousness. During the Indochina War (1950-1952), Jean Valnet, a military doctor in the French army, treated numerous burns and other injuries with lavender oil. In his notes he praises the excellent effect of lavender oil on wound healing. In the meantime more than 160 ingredients have been proven, which only in their entirety seem to bring out the amazing healing power of lavender. Lavender tea is also a well-tried household remedy and alleviates various ailments. If you drink it before going to bed, it has a relaxing effect and promotes deep, healthy sleep. Lavender tea also has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect and can therefore also be used as a natural medicine against sore throat and pharyngitis. Lavender tea also relieves flatulence, bloating and stomach cramps, making it a tried and tested remedy for digestive problems. Preparation is relatively simple: Add two heaped teaspoons of lavender blossoms to a tea egg, blanch them with a quarter of a litre of boiling water and let the tea steep for about 10 minutes. The taste of pure lavender tea takes some getting used to, but can be improved by adding other herbs such as valerian or spice fennel. If possible, do not drink more than one cup per day, because lavender tea in larger quantities can damage the mucous membranes in the digestive tract.
Lavender in the our store-Shop
Lavender Hedge “Blue”,9 plants
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Cut of lavender
Lavender must be pruned regularly, otherwise the plants will age, become flower lazy and fall apart. The first light pruning of the plants takes place immediately after flowering. In early spring, the lavender is cut back into the woody parts once again. The plant branches out at the interfaces, remains compact and beautifully bushy. Since the half shrubs do not always tolerate cutting into the old wood well, an annual cut in early spring is important. In early autumn the withered flower stems can be removed again.
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For a lavender to flower richly and stay healthy, you should cut it regularly. We’ll show you how. Credits: our store/Alexander Buggisch
Further care tips
Do not use any fertiliser or compost. Lavender loves mineral soil and too many nutrients affect the growth of the shoots rather unfavourably, as the plants become massive and lose their stability. You need to water your lavender only in case of prolonged dryness.
A warm location protected from cold easterly winds and a well-permeable soil are crucial to ensure that the lavender gets through the winter well even in cooler climates. Above all, winter wetness is a problem for the half-shrub and can lead to failures. In autumn you should provide lavender with winter protection by mulching it at the stem base and additionally covering it with fir twigs. Only in the wine-growing regions can you usually do without protective measures.
As a potted plant, Real Lavender can remain outside all year round if you place the plant and pot in a wind- and rain-protected location in winter, place the pot in a wooden box and fill it with insulating bark mulch. On frost-free days, water just enough to prevent the root ball from drying out.
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We show you step by step how to get your lavender through the winter.
Credit: our store/KAMERA: FABIAN PRIMSCH / CUT: RALPH SCHANK / PRODUCTION: SARAH STEHR
In spring lavender can be propagated by cuttings. These are generated automatically during cutting and are best rooted in sand under foil. Also later in the season the propagation of cuttings is still possible. Occasionally lavender also sows itself, but the offspring are not varietal.
Diseases and pests
Lavender is largely free of diseases and pests. Thanks to its essential oils, it is avoided by aphids and other insect pests. Snail food doesn’t happen either. The only disease that affects the plants more often in humid locations is the so-called stem bottom rot, which is caused by a fungus of the genus Phytophtora. If an infection is detected in time, commercially available fungicides can help.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.