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Tips on Spring Tending and Planting of Lavender Plants

Posted 4/22/2014 1:52pm by Martha O. Wilczynski.

Spring is a busy time at Lavender Hill Farm.  As soon as the snow melts we are out inspecting the plants and determining which ones need to be pruned, or replaced.  If the plants have been pruned well in previous years, they will need to be replaced less often than neglected plants.  For instance, un-pruned plants will start forming roots at the tips of the outer branches where those tips are in contact with the ground. Another effect of inadequate pruning is that the tops of the plant will have a tufted effect, where there are tufts of leaves at the end of the branches but the stems below are almost leafless and become very woody. When this happens the plants often start opening up in the middle, and not flowering as well.  Folks often ask if they can prune the plant back at this point to correct this situation. My answer is "it doesn't hurt to try". But most likely if it gets to this point it is too late and the plant should just be replaced.  

The first photo is an example of a plant that should be replaced. While the second is of a well-pruned mature plant.

Plant that has opened up in the middleA well-pruned plant

Many springs in Michigan we find a few branches in some varieties of lavender that are winter-killed.  This is most apparent starting in May when the plants start to green-up.  These individual branches may be pruned out and the plants will generally recuperate by sending out new growth to fill in the gap. 

Another important spring task is to rake out the leaves that have blown into and under the plants during the fall and winter. Lavender likes good airflow and drainage around the plant to prevent disease. Leaves under the plants trap moisture and become potential breeding ground for disease-causing fungi. 

If you are planting new plants, spring is the best time to do it. The following are a few tips on siting and spacing for lavender plants in your garden.

Siting your Lavender Plants in the Garden:

Lavender prefers light, sandy loam soils and full sunlight. If planting in heavier, silty or clay soils, it is important to plant them on a slope so that water will run off and not pond around the plant. Planting in mounds or ridges is one way to accomplish this. Your plants may survive, but not thrive in part-day sun and the flowers will tend to lean towards the sun. Once established, lavender does not like much water. It will not thrive in irrigated beds. We generally get plenty of rainfall for lavender in the Midwest. Just remember to keep it watered for the first month until the plant has developed an adequate root system to support itself.

Plant Spacing:

Lavender prefers to have lots of space and not be shaded or crowded by other plants in a bed. Recommended spacing for English Lavender plants is at least 2.5 ft. on center and for hybrid lavandin plants is 3 ft.  

Frost Hazard:

If you are planting new greenhouse-grown, hardy lavender plants in spring, be sure to watch the weather forecast and cover them when the temperatures are predicted to get near freezing. Even with hardy lavenders, the succulent growth that's developed in the greenhouse may be susceptible to frost damage if the plant hasn't had enough time to "harden off". 

In my next blog/newsletter I will discuss variety selection and pruning recommendations for lavender. 

That's it for now, happy Spring!