Bee on purple stem of lavender flower.  Plant Profile:  Lavender

Plant Profile: Lavender

There is no denying the charm of lavender. The fragrance alone brings to mind idyllic images of meandering walkways bordered by the aromatic, silvery foliage. The musky scent of purple flowers on long, slender stems drying in a forgotten kitchen window. Very few plants can evoke such emotion and take you to places you’ve longed to visit.

That is the beauty of lavender.  A plant that alludes to simplicity but is decidedly problematic to grow in a large portion of the country.  But, given the right conditions, it is simple to grow in our St. Louis gardens.  Here’s what you need to know to successfully grow your own fields of lavender.

About Lavender Plants

Lavender is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae).  These aromatic plants are common in temperate climates.  The three most popular are English (L. angustifolia), Spanish (L. stoechas), and French (L. dentata).  

The popular flowers of Spanish and French lavender are native to the Mediterranean, making them less hardy in the midwest.  The plants that show the best hardiness for our area are English or hybrid lavender plants.

Phenomenal® and Sensational!™ are new hybrids that are allowing midwest lavender lovers a chance at living their lavender field dreams.

Rows of purple lavender at sunset.
Photo Courtesy Bower and Branch

How to Grow Lavender

Growing lavender in the midwest has always been difficult. Even reliably hardy cultivars like Hidcote and Munstead often don’t survive the winter.

But, it’s not the cold that causes these cultivars to die over the winter. It is the conditions they’re planted in.

Lavender requires full sun and minimal water — avoid irrigation at all costs. They prefer well-drained soil with added organic matter to improve heavier soils and help with the drainage. Lavender requires little to no fertilizer. And, to avoid disease, plant lavender in an area that receives good air circulation.

When planting lavender, do not put mulch around the crown of the plant. This will help you to avoid the crown rotting.

Silver-gray closeup of Sensational lavender foliage.
Photo Courtesy Concept Plants

Benefits of Growing Lavender

If the lovely flowers and the relaxing fragrance weren’t enough, lavender is attractive to bees. In fact, these plants will be covered with all pollinators as they provide them with an excellent source of pollen and nectar.

They are considered deer and rabbit resistant, an absolute must for garden plants in the midwest. But they are listed as being toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. So, we wouldn’t recommend this plant if you have animals that enjoy munching on your plants.

The fragrant flowers of lavender are at their strongest before the flower buds have open. During this stage, they are commonly used to create sachets, oils, along with culinary purposes.

Purple flowers of Sensational lavender with green foliage background.
Photo Courtesy Concept Plants

What is Hybrid Lavender

Hybrid lavender exhibits traits beneficial to the midwest.  They have the cold hardiness of English lavender with the tolerance of heat and humidity demonstrated by their Mediterranean counterparts. 

The recent release of Phenomenal® and Sensational!™ lavender has created a game-changer for midwest lavender lovers.

Both Phenomenal® and Sensational!™ Lavender will benefit from hot, sunny areas in the landscape. While they are developed to tolerate moisture better, they cannot be planted in areas of heavy irrigation or standing water. Avoid heavy soils and provide good air circulation for best results.

Phenomenal® Lavender

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Niko’

Row of purple Phenomenal lavender in bloom.
Zone:5 – 8
Height:24 – 32″
Spread:24 – 32″
Bloom Time:Mid-summer to early fall
Bloom Description:Purple-blue spikes
Plant Description:Silvery foliage, mounded plants benefit from pruning to avoid flopping.
Light Requirements:Full sun
Water:Limited water. Requires excellent drainage.
Maintenance:Cut back after blooms are finished but long before dormancy (around Labor Day or shortly after).
Features:Highly fragrant flowers and foliage, foliage does not die back in winter, pollinator-friendly, deer & rabbit resistant.
Notes:This plant gets wide, so space accordingly.

Sensational!™ Lavender

Lavandula x intermedia Sensational!™

Bundle of purple Sensational lavender flowers in full bloom against brown table.
Photo Courtesy Concept Plants
Zone:5 – 9
Height:18″ tall, 30″ tall when in bloom
Bloom Time:Mid-summer to early fall
Bloom Description:Purple spikes with large (4″) flowers
Plant Description:Broad silver foliage, dense & compact habit, sturdy stems.
Light Requirements:Full sun
Water:Limited water. Requires excellent drainage.
Maintenance:Deadhead to promote a second flush of blooms.
Features:Highly fragrant flowers and foliage, pollinator-friendly, deer & rabbit resistant.
Notes:The low camphor in this lavender makes it superb for culinary uses.
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