Growing lavender from seed requires patience… that will be rewarded! GERMINATE Start seeds indoors, early in spring or late in fall. Prepare shallow seed trays with a light soil & vermiculite mix. Surface sow and barely cover the seed. Keep soil evenly moist - not wet. Water from below or gently mist from above. Do not cover tray. Maintain minimum temperature 10 C, or use bottom heat until germination. Provide a sunny location or use grow lights. Seeds can take 1-3 months to germinate. Alternatively, lavenders can also be propagated relatively easily with cuttings.
GROW Seedlings can be potted up once they have several leaves. Plant out when seedling reaches 10 cm height. Choose areas of full sun exposure and well draining soil. Correct watering is important to encourage growth of deep roots & to develop drought tolerance. Water thoroughly, but allow soil to dry between watering. Gradually increase time between watering as plant becomes established. In year two, plant growth rate will increase and annual blooming will start!
PRUNING Lavender is a relatively low maintenance plant, but annual pruning is important to extend its' life and keep the ideal rounded shape. Pruning is best done after flowering is complete - typically late summer or early fall. With the English and French families, look for the new small shoots developing at the base of this seasons new growth. It is important not to trim these off as these shoots as they will provide the foliage and flower stems for next season. Prune off all of this seasons growth above these shoots. You can also take this opportunity to restore a semi-globe shape for the plant, and also trim or remove any branches growing along the ground. For Lavandula Stoechas, after the first flush of flowers has faded in spring, you can prune off the flower heads and lightly tidy up the foliage. This family of lavenders usually flower again late in the summer - although generally not as fully as they do in the spring. The Stoechas family does send out new shoots from old growth, so you are more free to prune for shape and size.
WATERING Lavender prefers to have relatively dry roots - so must not be overwatered. Water deeply, and then don't water again until soil is completely dry. An established plant, in the ground, can easily go 3-4 weeks without water - even in the height of summer. Potted plants do require more frequent watering - dependant on the size of the plant and pot.
VARIETIES TO GROW Most lavenders bloom once per season, for approximately 6 weeks. But a carefully selected palette of lavender types can provide your garden (and pollinators) with a 3-4 month flowering period. To achieve this, choose varieties from each of the following families: - Lavandula Stoechas (commonly referred to as Spanish lavender). These flower in May on the West coast of BC. - Lavandula Angustifolia (English lavender). These flower in June on the BC coast. - Lavandula X-Intermedia (French lavender). These flower in July, with some varieties flowering in August and even into September. Within each of these three families, there are dozens of varieties with many different flower colours.
HARVEST The right time to harvest lavender should be timed to suite the end use. Buds for culinary use, sachets, or to produce dried flower bundles: the optimal time to harvest is when the flower buds are plump and fully formed, but the blossoms have not yet emerged. Cut hand sized bunches, secure the stalks with a rubber band, and hang upside down until the stalks have dried so they snap when bent. Be aware that the Stoechas family is not used for culinary or dried flowers, but you can use the dried heads in sachets if you like the fragrance. For fresh flowers, cut your lavender any time during the flowering stage and place in vase with water. Change water daily. To distill for essential oil and/or hydrosol, the plant should be approximately 3/4 through its flowering (i.e. - three quarters of the buds have flowered).