The Q&A Archives: French Lavender

Question: I planted lot's of French Lavender's in the Sherman Oaks, CA about three weeks ago when it was over 100 degrees with high humidity. Unfortunately, I lost a substantial amount of them. I read in Western Sunset Garden book that high temperatures along with high humidity causes root rot, which leads to their death. Is this true with French Lavender?

Answer: Lavender, regarless of cultivar, has the same growing requirements. In a nutshell, here's how to grow beautiful lavender:

Full Sun. Lavender may grow for a while in only half a day, but ultimately the inevitable combination of heat and moisture (be it rain or heavy humidity) will cause disease.

Excellent Drainage. This means there should be no standing water. Ever. If planted in the ground, sandy soil is best. A raised bed is ideal. If not in a raised bed, plant the lavender slightly above ground level on a mound of soil. This will keep the foliage dry as well as enhancing drainage. In a pot, use a pro-quality peat-based mix with perlite. Sunshine Mix?. Compost provides excellent drainage and a slightly alkaline ph.

Air Circulation. Lavender needs to have 360? of open air around it. In a mixed planting, surround it with a low-growing companion such as thyme. Avoid letting the foliage of other plants (including weeds) come in contact with the lavender. The corner of a raised bed would be an ideal placement. Allow 3 feet between plants. Think about ways you have seen lavender photographed? lining a walk in England (provides good circulation), or covering a hillside in France (ideal for circulation and drainage). Growing lavender in a large urn or pot is often the best solution for many gardeners.

Alkaline Soil. Soil with a ph greater than 7 is considered alkaline. The areas in France and England that are so well-known for glorious lavender have alkaline soil. This higher ph actually helps prevent fungus and other diseases from attacking lavender (and some other herbs as well). Fortunately for gardeners, manipulating soil ph is easy: add ground limestone to the soil, plant next to a concrete path or even in a concrete block, or amend the soil with ground oyster shell. These are all simple ways to provide the necessary alkalinity to the plants.

Pruning. Make sure to prune back all dead branches and winter-burned growth after danger of frost has passed. Cut back to where you see new growth beginning to sprout. This may seem drastic, but your plant will do better in the long run if you prune it on a regular basis! In the summer, you may need to prune a few branches from the center of the plant to increase air circulation.

Best wishes with your French Lavender!

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