Growing lavender in Delmarva is easy because of its good Zone 7 climate, and its ideal sandy loam soil.
The best time to plant is in the early May or September. The only way to kill the plant is by over-watering or planting it in a shady spot that tends to hold moisture.
Remember lavender is native to the Mediterranean and prefers dry, sunny, windy and southern exposures best. Therefore, when planting, place in a sunny location with well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (7.0 to 8.0). Add a little lime if the soil is too acidic.
If planting in clay soil, mix in about one-third or more sand to insure drainage. We recommend mounding up the soil a little around the plant to further assure good drainage. Although not necessary, adding a little bone meal when planting will give it a good start.
Plant it at least 24 inches apart to allow for adequate air circulation and growth. Although weeds don’t bother it, it does not like those that hold water around its roots. Lavender is a drought-tolerant plant; however, when establishing new plants infrequent watering may be necessary depending on rainfall.
Caring for Lavender
Lavender is a long-lived perennial, and, with minimal care and pruning, a typical productive life is 10-20 years. Lavender has few insect pests or fungal illnesses as long as its roots do not sit in water. Rabbits, deer and other animals rarely disturb lavender. Use wood or leaf mulches minimally as these tend to increase acidity and reduce drainage.
Lavender is not an evergreen, and its leaves will gray December through April. Be patient, as plants that appear dead in winter will green up nicely in the spring.
As a rule of thumb, Lavender grown outside in the ground thrives best on loving neglect. Lavender will grow well in pots but will need to be brought inside in winter or otherwise be protected from hard freezing and damage to the roots. Potted lavender will need watering if there is little access to rain and will need fertilizing if its roots have no access to the ground.
Prune lavender in late fall after flowering to maintain its shape and keep the plant from becoming woody and sprawling, reducing the risk that weighty winter snows will split the plant. Prune plants by cutting about one-third of the plant, as pictured left.
Lavender can be harvested with garden clippers, scissors or with a sickle as shown on the right.
It is best done in late morning after the dew dries. The stems are usually cut at the first set of leaves. If longer stems are wanted, cut them as low as one inch above the bare wood of the plant.
The time for harvesting depends on what you plan to do with the flowers.
For fresh cut flowers, harvest the blossoms whenever you want.
For dried flower arrangements, wreaths and other crafts that require the flowers to stay on the stems, harvest just as the buds begin to open. Although hard to part with the beautiful flowers in the garden so early, this will keep the buds from falling off the stems when dried. If you want the flower buds to come easily off the stems for sachets and potpourri, harvest once the flowers have fully opened.
Bundle the stems into bunches with a rubber band not more than one and one-half inches in diameter (see picture on left).
Twist a paperclip and hook one end around the rubber band and the other to hang in a dark area with good air circulation (e.g. attic, garage, closet).
Depending on the humidity, bunches should dry in about two weeks.