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Lavender is a very soothing medicinal herb that has been used for centuries. It has such a lovely fragrance, it has been used in perfumes and soaps as well. If you haven’t discovered the beauty of lavender, you definitely need to check it out more! Here are my top tips for growing and using lavender.
Lavender is so simple to grow and use, everyone should do it! Lavender has so many uses, and is pretty easy to grow.
Types of Lavender
Lavender is my absolute favorite herb. It’s fairly easy to grow, the color is so beautiful, and the smell and medicinal benefits are amazing. Lavender is a Mediterranean plant. The most common types grown in North America are English Lavender, Spanish Lavender, and French Lavender.
● English Lavender, or Lavandula angustifolia – referred to as true lavender, it grows best in cooler climates. It’s perfect for Zones 5-8. As the alias tends to suggest, this is the most widely used type of lavender for cooking and tea.
● Spanish Lavender, or Lavandula stoechas – grows best in hot, humid climates, such as those found in Zones 8-10. This variety smells more like a cross between rosemary and lavender, and is not usually used for cooking or tea.
● French Lavender, or Lavandula dentata – also thrives in Zones 8-10. It grows more in a mounded shape and has a slight camphorous smell. It’s the second-most commonly used variety for cooking.
Lavender is a tender perennial, and doesn’t require a lot of fuss. It is evergreen except where it is very cold. If you are in a colder climate, I suggest growing it in a pot so it can be moved inside during the winter months. Lavender really doesn’t like water, and needs well-drained, sandy soil.
If growing in a pot, you can put some gravel in the bottom of the pot to increase drainage. Stone mulch is even frequently used around the plants to further enhance drainage and add heat in cooler climates. The soil around your plants needs to dry out before you water again. If your soil retains water, or if you are in a very humid area, you should space your plants out more to ensure proper airflow.
There is a few different ways and times to plant lavender. Growing from seed, in the spring, usually proves to be most difficult. The most difficult way to grow lavender is direct seeding in the garden after your last spring frost. This produces pretty inconsistent results.
Another option is to start the seeds indoor in well-drained, quality potting soil, about 6-8 weeks prior to your last spring frost. You may even want to add a heat mat to keep the seeds warm during germination. Transplant into the garden after the soil is warmed. This gives more control over the growing conditions during the delicate germination period.
My favorite way to grow lavender is from cuttings. Simply take a 3-4 inch clipping off of a mature lavender plant. Snip off the bottom inch of leaves off of the clipping. Then you have two options. You can soak in a small glass of water for 2-3 weeks, until roots develop.
Make sure you change the water every couple of days to make sure it’s not stagnant. The other option is to dip the cut end of the clipping in rooting hormone, and place it gently into some potting soil in a small pot. Put the pot in a warm, sunny location. It’s a good idea to put a small baggie over it to keep the moisture in so the cutting doesn’t dry out too much. But still don’t let it get waterlogged!
Many people have had good luck with cold stratification. I myself haven’t tried this method, but it seems like a lazy way of growing lavender. And I am all about lazy gardening!
This method needs to be started in late winter. Simply take a milk jug, cut it halfway up so you can put the soil and the seeds in the bottom, then replace the top portion of the jug like a mini-greenhouse. Leave the lid off of the milk jug to allow water to trickle in.
This mini-greenhouse can be left out in the snow, doing nothing with it, until in the spring when the weather starts to warm up. At that point, the seeds should be germinated and will start to grow. You’ll need to transplant these seedlings into well-drained soil directly into the garden.
No matter which planting method you choose, it may be a good idea to mound up some of the desired soil on top of your existing soil, and plant the seedlings in there. That way you can keep the roots as dry as they need, without worrying about the quality or drainage of your existing soil.
Using Lavender for Medicine
Now that you’ve got a great patch of lavender growing, how do you use it? Lavender has so many uses, a lot of herbalists say that you only need lavender in your home apothecary.
Lavender is one of my greatest herbal allies. I keep a roller bottle of lavender essential oil in my purse at all times. As someone with depression and anxiety, this herb is so beneficial.
While lavender essential oil is so great (and I suggest everyone have some in their apothecary!), I’m going to discuss using the herb directly. You can’t properly make essential oils at home without expensive, specialized equipment. The purpose of this post is to teach ways that everyone can use lavender.
Lavender is antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and analgesic. It is also mildly sedative and a great stress-reliever. It is amazing for anxiety and mental health. Lavender also has great benefits for skin, including rashes, acne, and insect bites.
The most simple way to use lavender is in a tea, or infusion. Simply put the fresh or dried herbs in a pot of boiling water, remove from heat, and allow to steep for 5 minutes. The flavor of lavender by itself in a tea is a little intense for some tastes, so it may be helpful to mix with other complimentary herbs.
Chamomile or mint are great choices to pair with lavender in tea. This tea can, of course, be drank, or applied to the skin as a wash, soak, or a poultice. Lavender is so soothing for the skin that it is frequently used in infused oils, salves, washes, poultices, soaps, and lotions. It is so gently calming that it is a favorite ingredient in baby wash to help little ones get to sleep faster.
Lavender is a wonderful beginning herb
Lavender is so very soothing to the nerves, the skin, and the mind. It is really an herb that I don’t think anyone should be without. Lavender has a full myriad of uses, both topically and internally. It is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for children and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. And growing and using lavender is easy!
Now that you know all about growing and using lavender, do you plan to get some for your garden? I highly recommend it. It truly is an amazing herb!