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Lavender Seed Propagation – How To Plant Lavender Seeds

Growing lavender plants from seed can be a rewarding and fun way to add this fragrant herb to your garden. Lavender seeds are slow to germinate and plants grown from them may not flower in the first year, but if you’re patient and willing to put in the work, you can generate beautiful plants from seeds. Read on to learn about starting lavender from seed.

Germinating Lavender Seeds

The first step in lavender seed propagation is choosing a variety and germinating the seeds. Be aware that not all cultivars will come true when you propagate by seed. If you are determined to grow a particular cultivar, you’re better off using cuttings or divisions to get new plants. Some good varieties for starting by seed are Lavender Lady and Munstead.

It can take one to three months for lavender seeds to germinate, so start early and be patient. Also, be prepared to germinate them indoors. Lavender seeds will need warm temperatures, between 65 and 70 degrees F. (18-21 C.). If you don’t have a warm spot or a greenhouse, use a heat mat to keep your seeds warm enough.

How to Plant Lavender Seeds

Use shallow seed trays and just barely cover the seeds with soil. Use a light soil or a vermiculite blend. Keep the seeds moist but not overly wet. A sunny spot is a great location to keep the soil from getting too wet and to add warmth.

Your lavender seedlings will be ready to transplant once they have several leaves per plant. Your first year of growth will not be impressive, but by year two, expect to have large, blooming lavender. Starting lavender plants from seed is not difficult, but does require time, some patience, and a little extra space for your seed trays.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Lavender

Grow lavender in your garden and you’ll be rewarded with colorful flowers, wonderful fragrance and a feast for pollinators — all from a low-maintenance plant.

Lavender 'Phenomenal,' courtesy of Burpee

This perennial lavender has been developed for hardiness, so it stands up to heat, humidity, and winter cold. The plants also resist root and foliar diseases. Even deer leave them alone! Grow a patch of these deep blue flowers with silvery foliage for their incredible fragrance.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Burpee

Image courtesy of Burpee

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Lavender plants produce gray-green leaves that are packed with a refreshing, sweet-herbal scent, and pretty, abundant flowers that bear the same perfume. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, making this plant a must-have for any herb garden. Lavender plants most often open purple blooms, but you can also find different types of lavender that have pink or white flowers. Growing lavender isn’t a difficult proposition. Once you master the basics of giving plants a proper site and pruning regularly, you’re on your way to a gorgeous, productive perennial.

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Botanical Name: Lavandula spp.
Common Name: Lavender
Plant Type: Perennial herb, semi-shrub
Bloom Time: Summer
Light Needs: Full sun
Soil Needs: Drier, well-draining, slightly alkaline
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 11

Lavender in Garden Design

In the garden, lavender flowers stage a long-lasting show each summer. The purple blooms beckon all kinds of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A host of beneficial insects also visit flowers, making lavender plants an ideal addition to a wildlife or butterfly garden. On the other hand, lavender is one of many deer-resistant plants — which is all the more reason for rural gardeners to plant it.

Consider lavender flowers in a xeriscape design. Established plants are relatively drought-tolerant and do best when they don’t receive supplemental watering (except in times of severe drought). When it’s in flower, lavender has a strong architectural shape that suits modern, geometric garden designs. Surround your plants with gravel to enhance the modern ambience.

As a Mediterranean native, lavender is ideal in a perennial herb garden alongside fellow Mediterranean herbs such as sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme. All of these plants prefer similar soil and sun conditions.

Lavender is also a natural fit in a summer cutting garden. Lavender plants achieve their peak bloom usually during their third growing year, in summer. You’ll reap plenty of bouquets when plants start flowering—and you can also dry lavender to use in bouquets and crafts.

With its strong fragrance and flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, lavender makes a good general companion plant in a vegetable garden or orchard. Its especially useful for repelling pests from brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli.

Lavender thrives along a rock wall that absorbs heat and allows for excellent drainage around roots.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Lavender thrives along a rock wall that absorbs heat and allows for excellent drainage around roots.

Planting Lavender

Growing lavender well starts with planting lavender well. All types of lavender need full sun to thrive. Native to the western Mediterranean, lavender is a sun worshipper and can take up to six hours of direct sun daily. The exception is in the Deep South and Southwest, where a little protection from sizzling afternoon sun is welcome. You can amplify the heat plants receive by using a stone mulch or tucking lavender into planting areas near surfaces that radiate heat, like a stone wall, driveway or south-facing building wall.

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In Zones 3 to 7, plant lavender in spring after all danger of frost has passed. If you must plant in fall, do so at least eight weeks before the average frost date. Lavender grows fastest in heat, so as temperatures drop in autumn, growth slows down dramatically. Fall-planted lavender needs ample time to develop a sturdy root system to survive winter. In Zones 8 and warmer, planting lavender can be done in spring or fall.

While lavender can be grown indoors in a pot, this plant far prefers to be grown outdoors rather than being treated as a houseplant.

Soil Prep

When planting lavender, you want soil that drains well and is slightly alkaline. Drainage is vital because lavender plants often die from root rot due to soggy soil. In regions where lavender is winter hardy, consider winter drainage, too. Soils that tend to hold water in winter can kill lavender quickly.

Many gardeners enhance drainage by planting lavender into raised soil mounds 12 to 24 inches tall. This provides the sharp drainage that lavender demands and it also helps in situations where native soil is clay that doesn’t drain well. Mix sharp sand or small limestone fines into soil to enhance drainage.

To achieve alkaline soil, mix some crushed oyster shell or limestone gravel into planting holes. You might even excavate a slightly deeper planting hole and fill the bottom two-thirds of the space with limestone gravel. This helps improve drainage in heavy soils and provides an alkaline environment for roots. Some gardeners also add a mixture of lime, bone meal and compost to planting holes to get alkaline pH and jump-start growth. Aim for about a half-cup total using equal parts of those items.

Spacing and Planting

This is one perennial that doesn’t take well to overcrowded conditions. When planting lavender, give it enough elbow room to accommodate flowers. Ideally, try to space plants as far apart as they’ll grow tall. Lavender needs good air circulation to grow at its best.

Most gardeners plant lavender transplants rather than starting from seed. When you’re planting lavender transplants, dig a hole that’s deep enough for the plant’s roots and tuck the plant into place, snugging soil around it. Plant lavender no more more deeply in the ground than it sat in its nursery pot.

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When planting lavender, prune plants lightly, removing all growing tips. This encourages the plant to branch. Use this same technique every year as new growth starts to appear. Water until plants show steady new growth.

Starting From Seed

Most lavender is grown from cuttings, which helps get a plant true in characteristics to the parent plant. That’s why most gardeners plant from transplants rather than seed. Growing from seed is difficult, but it’s not impossible.

If you want to try starting lavender from seed, sow seeds in a sterile seed starting mix. Barely cover seeds, because they need light to germinate. Lavender seeds can take as long as a month to germinate, although sometimes they’ll sprout in as little as 14 days. Help the germination process by placing seed trays in a warm spot: 70 degrees is an ideal temperature. Some gardeners refrigerate seeds in a sealed plastic bag for 21 days to prepare them for sprouting and help improve germination.

Transfer seedlings to 2-inch wide pots when seedlings have sprouted several sets of leaves. Lavender is a slow grower and may take one to three months to reach transplanting size. The greatest threat to lavender seeds and seedlings is fungus. Keep soil mix moist, but provide good air circulation to help reduce disease outbreaks. Acclimate seedlings to outdoor growing conditions when lavender plants are 3 inches high.

Growing and Harvesting Lavender

Once established, lavender grows best with neglect. If you plant your lavender in a sunny spot in well-draining, slightly alkaline soil, maintain good airflow through pruning and don’t overwater. Your lavender should grow beautifully.

Pruning Lavender

Pruning is key to successfully growing lavender. Prune lavender in late summer to fall — after the plant flowers — to help open the plant’s interior to allow good air circulation and remove some of the branches, which can ultimately help prevent winter damage. Pruning lavender in spring to remove stems that suffer in winter is also sometimes necessary in coldest regions.

When you’re pruning lavender plants that are established, aim to remove at least one-third of all growth. Don’t cut into the woody area because the buds on those stems won’t sprout.