The Q&A Archives: Lavender

Question: I'm interested in growing some lavender in a large container. I live in the southwest low desert (zip cde 85223). Will lavender survive our hot, dry summers, and how do I plant and take care of the plants after thy are planted?

Answer: Most of the lavender available today has adapted to withstand a lot of variations in weather. "Angustifolia" , "Grosso" and "Provence" in particular will tolerate extremes such as hot, dry, summers and very cold winters as long as the roots don't stay wet for extended periods of time.

A hardy perennial herb, lavender produces dozens of fragrant blossoms on a single plant in late spring and summer. As a bonus, depending on growing conditions, a second, less abundant bloom may take place in the fall. If well maintained, plants should flourish for more than a decade.

A healthy lavender plant has deep spreading roots. The optimal growing medium is sandy loam with lots of calcium. Most commercial farmers add some form of calcium around the plants each fall. For heavy clay soil, the remedy is to dig down at least 2 feet and amend with well-decomposed organic matter.

Drip irrigation is preferable because overhead sprinkling can promote fungal disease. Another key to maintaining healthy vigorous plants is proper pruning. Until the plant is about 9 months old, pinch off all emerging flowers to put energy into the root system. Each year for the life of the plant and preferably after flowering, cut back 1/3 to 1/2 half the plant, just above where the wood begins. It seems drastic but is critical. So is keeping weeds at a minimum.

While lavender is very appealing to humans, neither deer nor moles and voles seem to bother with it. Rabbits, however, will dig up small plants to nibble the roots. Lavender is also generally disease resistant. Always prune or harvest plants with sterilized tools to avoid contamination.

Enjoy your lavender!

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