Lavender is one of the most consistently popular plants that everyone wants to grow in their gardens, topping social media and seasonal plant sales charts week after week – and it’s easy to see why that might be so.
The strongly aromatic foliage and attractive spikes of flowers of these drought-tolerant and versatile shrubs evoke strong memories of foreign holidays, cherished places and people. They’re also highly attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Being sun-lovers they’re ideal for sunny borders with other Mediterranean-style plants, either as individual features or grown to create an informal edge or low-clipped hedge in a formal garden, using compact or larger varieties according to need and space. They also lend themselves to being grown in pots on sun-drenched patios, where they’ll flower for weeks.
With some exceptions, varieties of French lavender L. stoechas and English lavender L. angustifolia flower first in early summer, while those of L. intermedia flower slightly later.
Besides sun and good airflow, the most critical need is to have well-drained soil, particularly in winter, as it’s waterlogging when dormant that causes the demise of most lavender plants, so dig in plenty of grit if your soil is heavy and plant on a slight mound so water doesn’t collect.
They also do better on neutral sandy to chalky soil, than acid, although the varieties of L. stoechas are more tolerant. They hate being shaded or overgrown by encroaching perennials which create damp, humid air, causing die-back. If growing in pots use a peat-free compost with added John Innes and add Perlite or grit to improve drainage. Clip bushes after flowering, removing up to a third of growth. If allowed to get too straggly and old their lifespan, which can be up to 20 years is significantly shortened.
Our pick of lavender to try...
Lavender to try
White fragrant flowers. H: 50cm (1¾ft), S:25cm (10in).
Vibrant purple fragrant flowers on stiff stems. Good for drying. H: 60cm (2ft), S: 30cm (1ft).
Dark-flowered, tall lavender. H: 90cm (3ft), S: 45cm(1½ft).
Purple flags and royal purple flowers. Aromatic foliage. H: 70cm (2¼ft), S: 50cm (1¾ft).