Here is Everything About Growing French Lavender, from the best-growing conditions to the ideal planting and care techniques.
French lavender is a beautiful and fragrant plant that is commonly grown for its ornamental value and its essential oil. Why you must grow French Lavender – because of the fact that it is well-suited for warm climates. It is native to the Mediterranean region, where it thrives in hot and dry conditions.
What is French Lavender?
French Lavender, scientifically known as Lavandula stoechas, is a species of lavender native to the Mediterranean region. It is commonly distinguished from other types of lavender, such as English or True Lavender (Lav:andula angustifolia), by its unique characteristics
- Appearance: French Lavender has a distinctive appearance with its elongated, cone-shaped flower heads topped with colorful bracts or “rabbit ears.” The bracts can be various shades of purple, pink, or white and add an ornamental touch to the plant.
- Fragrance: While French Lavender still emits a pleasant lavender scent, it is often considered to have a slightly different aroma compared to English Lavender. Some describe it as more pungent or herbaceous.
Botanical Name: Lavandula stoechas
USDA Zones: 8-11
Best Time to Grow French Lavender
The ideal time to propagate French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) in the USA is during the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. This is when the plant is most likely to produce healthy and successful cuttings. Here are some guidelines based on different regions within the USA:
- Warm Climate Regions (Southern states, Southwest): In warmer regions with mild winters and hot summers, such as USDA hardiness zones 8-11, spring is the best time to propagate French Lavender. Aim to take cuttings in late spring to early summer when temperatures are consistently warm and frost is no longer a concern.
- Temperate Climate Regions (Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Pacific Northwest): In temperate regions with distinct seasons, such as USDA hardiness zones 5-7, it’s still best to propagate French Lavender in spring. Wait until after the last frost date in your area to ensure the risk of freezing temperatures has passed. This is typically in late April to early May.
- Cooler Climate Regions (Northeast, Northern Midwest): In cooler regions with colder winters, such as USDA hardiness zones 3-5, it’s recommended to propagate French Lavender in late spring or early summer, similar to temperate regions.
Note: The exact timing will depend on your local climate and frost dates. Check your local frost dates and aim to propagate a few weeks after the last frost date.
How to Grow French Lavender
Here’s a step-by-step guide on propagating French Lavender using cuttings – which happens to be the BEST and easiest method to grow this plant.
- Prepare the Cuttings: Select healthy, non-flowering stems from the French Lavender plant. The stems should be around 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long. Use sterilized pruning shears or a sharp knife to make a clean cut just below a leaf node.
- Remove Lower Leaves: Strip off the lower leaves from the bottom one-third to half of the stem. This helps reduce water loss and prevents the leaves from rotting when placed in the propagation medium.
- Choose a Propagation Medium: French Lavender cuttings can be rooted in a well-draining medium such as a mixture of perlite and peat moss or a seed-starting mix. Fill small pots or seed trays with the chosen medium.
- Plant the Cuttings: Make a small hole in the propagation medium with a pencil or your finger. Insert the stripped end of the cutting into the hole, ensuring it is inserted deep enough to provide stability. Gently press the medium around the stem to hold it in place.
- Provide Ideal Conditions: Place the pots or trays in a warm and bright location with indirect sunlight. Maintain a temperature of around 70-85°F (21-28°C) to encourage root development. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can lead to excessive drying.
- Mist and Maintain Moisture: Mist the cuttings and the propagation medium to maintain a slightly moist environment. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to rotting. Check the moisture level regularly and water when the top inch of the medium feels dry.
- Rooting and Transplanting: It typically takes several weeks for the cuttings to develop roots. Once the roots have formed, gently tug on the cutting to check for resistance, indicating successful rooting. When the roots are well-established, carefully transplant the French Lavender cuttings into individual pots filled with well-draining soil.
- Gradual Acclimatization: After transplanting, gradually acclimate the new plants to outdoor conditions over a period of a few weeks, if intended for outdoor planting. Start with partial shade and gradually increase exposure to full sun.
Quick Tips on Taking Care and Maintaining French Lavender
- French Lavender thrives in full sunlight. Ensure it receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Place it in a location with good sun exposure.
- These plants prefers well-draining soil. Use a sandy or gravelly soil mix that allows water to drain freely to prevent root rot. Avoid heavy or clayey soils that retain moisture.
- Once established, French Lavender is quite drought-tolerant. Water it deeply but infrequently, allowing the top inch or so of the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so be cautious not to keep the soil excessively wet.
- Regular pruning helps maintain the shape and encourage bushier growth. Trim back spent flower stalks and remove any dead or damaged branches. Pruning can be done after the blooming season or in early spring.
- French Lavender typically doesn’t require heavy feeding. You can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring to promote healthy growth. Avoid excessive use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers, as they can cause excessive leaf growth at the expense of flowers.
- Apply a thin layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Avoid piling mulch directly against the stems, as it can promote moisture retention and lead to fungal diseases.
- French Lavender is not as cold hardy as some other lavender varieties. If you live in an area with harsh winters, provide winter protection by covering the plant with a layer of mulch or a frost cloth to insulate it from extreme cold temperatures.
- French Lavender is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, keep an eye out for common garden pests like aphids or spider mites. In case of infestation, use an organic insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control them.
Harvesting French Lavender
Harvest French Lavender when the flowers are fully open but before they start to fade. The optimal time is usually in the morning when the dew has evaporated, and the essential oils are at their peak concentration.
Position the pruning shears or scissors just below the flower head, close to the main stem. Make a clean and quick cut to avoid damaging the plant. Leave a few inches of stem attached to the flower cluster.
Avoid over-harvesting and allow the plant to maintain its vitality. As a general guideline, it’s recommended to harvest no more than one-third of the plant at a time.
Drying and Storing French Lavender
Gather lavender stems into small bundles and secure them together with a rubber band or string. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Ensure good air circulation to prevent mold or mildew.
Once the lavender flowers are completely dry, gently remove the individual buds from the stems. Store the dried lavender buds in airtight containers, such as glass jars or resealable bags, in a cool, dark place. Label and date the containers for future reference.
Uses of French Lavender
- Landscaping: Landscaping with French Lavender can create a beautiful and aromatic garden or landscape design. Create defined borders or edges in your garden beds or pathways. Plant it in a linear pattern along the borders to provide a fragrant and colorful frame for your landscape.
- Aromatherapy: Use lavender buds to create sachets, potpourri, or scented pillows. Place them in closets, drawers, or under pillows to enjoy the soothing fragrance.
- Culinary Applications: French Lavender has a distinctive flavor and you can use it sparingly in cooking. Add a few lavender buds to sugar, tea, desserts, or savory dishes for a unique floral touch. Ensure the lavender is culinary-grade and free from pesticides.
- Crafts and DIY Projects: You can also use it in homemade candles, soaps, bath salts, or beauty products. It is also a popular choice for wreaths, floral arrangements, or as decorative elements in crafts.