Lavender is one of the most popular flowers in the world. There are many varieties and they all have their own special characteristics. They vary from cold tolerant to hot tolerant and even some that grow well in low light conditions. Some species such as lavandula angustifolia (the wild type) or lily of the valley can tolerate temperatures down to -20°C (-4°F). These plants are known as hardy lavenders because they do not require much sunlight at all. However, these types of plants will still need to receive some light during the day.
The other type of lavender is called “shade” or “hiding” or “lavendar”. This variety grows best in full sun and does not like to get too little light. If you want your plant to produce flowers then it needs plenty of bright sunshine every day. You can use a fluorescent bulb with lots of UVB rays to make your plant happy.
When you place your plant in the garden, it will start producing flowers within a few weeks.
There are several varieties of lavender that are grown commercially for their fragrant flowers. One of them is called “Hiding Lily” or “Hidden Lavender”. It produces beautiful white blooms with pink centers when grown in full sun. Another variety is called “Sooty Lavender” or “Aunt Jane”.
It has dark purple flowers that are used for making lavender scented oils, sachets and pot-pourri. The flowers have a very strong intense scent of lavender. The last variety is called “Old Woman” or “Old Man”. It has grey-green foliage and flowers that range from light purple to white. All these varieties can tolerate cold temperatures of Zone 5.
These plants can also be grown in containers as long as the drainage is excellent and they are placed in a sunny location. You can harvest the flowers for drying when the buds just start to open. If you live in an area that has cold winters, then you should dig up the entire plant (including the roots) and move it to a warmer place such as a garage or shed.
If you live in a cold climate then you should grow hardy lavender varieties. Most of them can tolerate temperatures down to -25°C (-13°F).
If you live in a hot climate, then you should grow varieties that require full sun and are very tolerant to heat and humidity. “Siam” lavender is one such variety. It grows best in dry heat conditions ranging from 20-30°C (68-86°F) during the day and no colder than 10°C (50°F) at night. It is one of the hardiest varieties and is also very drought tolerant.
You can also grow lavender in your desert landscape, as long as you make sure that it gets plenty of sunshine every day. The important thing to remember is that these plants do not like their feet to be wet. You must add good quality organic matter such as composted manure or rotted leaves to increase the soil’s ability to hold onto water.
You can grow lavender from seed. It takes around 4 to 5 weeks for the seeds to germinate and they usually reach flowering age within 1 to 3 years. Once they reach maturity, the plants should bloom every year. You can also propagate lavender from cuttings.
Propagating lavender from cuttings is very easy and you can do this by clipping a few inches off of a branch and sticking it into a glass of water. After a few weeks you should see roots starting to form at the base of the cutting. After another few weeks you can pot it up and leave it in a sunny spot and after a month or so it should be rooted and ready to plant in your garden.
You can harvest lavender when the flowers are fully open because if you pick when they are still closed, the flowers will not release their fragrance. Pick the flowers just before you plan to use them. Gently pick the flower spike and then lay it out to dry in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. After a day or two, the spike will be dry enough for you to bundle it together.
Pick off the buds from the stem and store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
If you are drying the flowers to use throughout the year, you should harvest just before they are fully open because once the buds start to open, the fragrance decreases and after a day or two they will lose most of their scent. Pick the flowers and lay them out on a table with newspaper underneath. Leave them to dry for a day or two until they are crisp. Once dried, remove the green parts at the base of the flower and store in an airtight jar.
Flowers can be used to make lavender oil or vinegar and also to make lavender tea.
Lavender oil: Add 2 cups of boiling water to 1-2 tablespoons of fresh flower buds and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil or olive oil. Cover and steep overnight in a cool location. Strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing hard to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the liquid to a clean bottle, cork or cap it and keep in a cool dry place.
If you want to use the oil immediately, you can do this: Add 2 tbsp of dried flower buds to 1 cup of boiling water. Cover the container and let it steep overnight. The next day, strain the liquid through a sieve and add it to 1 cup of vegetable or sunflower oil. Heat this mixture very slowly, stirring continuously until the liquid has cooled and the oil has separated from the water.
Pour the oil into a clean dry bottle, seal and label it. If you are not using the oil immediately, refrigerate it. If you use it often enough, you can also dispense it directly from the bottle into your hands for use.
This oil will keep its fragrance for around 1 year. It does not need to be kept in the refrigerator.
Lavender vinegar: Pick 2 cups of fresh flower buds. Fill a clean glass container with the lavender buds and cover with white vinegar, leaving the topmost buds above the liquid so that they remain dry. Cover the container loosely with wax paper, not plastic, and leave in a cool dark location for 2 weeks. Agitate the contents every few days.
Strain the liquid through a damp cloth. Discard the buds and pour the liquid into a clean bottle, cork or cap it and keep in a cool dark place.
This vinegar will keep its fragrance for around 1 year. It should not be kept in the refrigerator.
Lavender tea: Add 1-2 teaspoons of freshly dried lavender flowers to a cup of just boiled water. Cover the cup and steep for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid and add honey or sugar to taste if desired. You can also sweeten it naturally by adding fresh lemon juice instead of adding honey or sugar.
You can make lavender tea using the dried flower buds or using the freshly picked flowers.
Lavender honey: Put 2 cups of honey into a large container and slowly heat it until it has liquefied. Fill a small bowl with the liquid honey and stir in as many lavender buds as the mixture can take. Carefully stir the mixture until the honey has thickened. Pour into a clean glass jar and let it set.
This honey will keep for 5 years.
You can use fresh or dried lavender buds for this recipe.
Lavender essential oil is not recommended during pregnancy and it should not be used on babies or young children. Avoid using large quantities of lavender flowers, oil or tea during pregnancy.
Do not use if you have epileptic seizures.
If you have other health issues, check with your doctor before using large quantities of lavender.
Do not use if you are allergic to lavender.
Some people may be allergic to lavender. Avoid using it if you have a history of allergies or other known allergies.
Do not apply undiluted lavender essential oil directly to the skin. Always dilute it with carrier oils before applying to the skin. Do not use large quantities of lavender flowers, oil or tea on your skin.
Lavender may slow the healing of wounds, scratches and abrasions.
Use lavender flowers with care around pets and keep them away from large quantities of dried lavender or lavender oil. Although it is non-toxic, some pets may be allergic to it.
Use lavender flowers with care around bees and other pollinating insects. Lavender can sometimes act as a repellent.
Use lavender oil with care around fish as it may harm them.
Do not use lavender oil while you are smoking as the two compounds may react together dangerously.
If you feel dizzy, have blurred vision or heart palpitations, stop using lavender immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.
Although lavender is generally non-toxic, it may irritate the mouth and throat if consumed in large quantities.
Lavender can interact with other medication, so consult your doctor before using it if you are already on medication.
Lavender may slow blood clotting, so avoid using it for at least one week before and after surgery.
Do not use lavender on or near open flames as it may cause it to ignite.
If you have a seizure disorder or any other medical condition, check with your doctor before using it.
If you are elderly, use lavender with care as your system may not be able to handle it as well as a younger person’s would.
Do not use if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Do not consume lavender if you are currently taking any prescription medication.
Do not use large quantities of lavender if you are nursing.
This information is not meant to scare you, just to inform you. When used in normal quantities and with some common sense lavender is very safe.
Now that you have some great lavender recipes, it’s time to put them to use. Try out a few of these recipes and see for yourself why lavender is a popular herb for so many people around the world. You can even experiment with your own recipes. Just make sure you keep the lavender plants safe by planting them in your own backyard.
They might not be around for long if you grow them indoors!
Sources & references used in this article:
Growing lavender in Colorado by KA Kimbrough, CE Swift – Gardening series. Flowers; no. 7.245, 2009 – mountainscholar.org
Plant physiology and nursery environment: interactions affecting seedling growth by DP Lavender – Forestry Nursery Manual: Production of Bareroot …, 1984 – Springer
Influence of variety and organic cultural practices on yield and essential oil content of lavender and rosemary in interior BC by P Barrett – 1996 – Storey Publishing
Habitat association in two genetic groups of the insect-pathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae: uncovering cryptic species? by A Maganga – South Thompson Organic Producers …, 2004 – certifiedorganic.bc.ca
Up-regulation of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate synthase enhances production of essential oils in transgenic spike lavender by R Kourik – 1998 – Chronicle Books