Add unparallelled fragrance to your home with the fresh, perfumed blooms characteristic of lavender plants (Lavandula spp.). Native to the Mediterranean, these lovely plants thrive in hot, dry conditions with plenty of direct sunlight, which makes indoor growth somewhat challenging. To maximize your chances for success, choose a plant that grows well in containers that can be placed in the sunniest possible spot.
Choosing a Container
Look for a container that not only looks good with your home decor, but also creates an ideal environment for the plant. Because lavender thrives in dry conditions, you need to make sure the container has a few drainage holes on the bottom and a diameter that's approximately 2 inches wider than the diameter of the plant's root ball.
Selecting Lavender to Plant
Choose a lavender variety that's well suited to growing in containers to increase the odds of successful indoor growing. Look for relatively compact varieties such as "Blue Cushion" (Lavandula angustifolia "Blue Cushion"), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9 and only reaches heights of approximately 16 inches. Even better, try planting French or Spanish Lavender (Lavandula dentata), which is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10. It's also one of the best types of lavender for indoor growing according to the book, "Growing Herbs in Containers," by Maggie Oster and Sal Gilbertie.
Select seedlings to transplant at home. Growing lavender from seed is a tricky prospect that requires time and skill. Even if you're able to successfully germinate the seeds, you may not end up with the exact plant you want since many cultivars don't grow true to type from seeds.
Potting the Plant
Because lavender prefers dry conditions, opt to improve the drainage of your potting mix by adding 1 to 2 inches of gravel to the bottom of the pot, which aids water drainage. Additionally, it's helpful to add 2 to 3 ounces of lime into the potting soil to create the slightly alkaline environment ideal for growing lavender.
Plant the lavender in the center of the container, placing it just deep enough so that its crown rests approximately 1 inch above the soil level. Add a thin layer of white landscaping pebbles to help reflect sunlight onto the plant and improve air circulation to help the lavender's stems dry out faster after watering.
Optimizing Growing Conditions
Place the potted lavender in a room with temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, the lavender should get eight hours or more of direct sunlight daily for maximum growth. Rotate the pot every day or two for even sun exposure.
Maximize plant growth and flowering potential by adding a grow light 3 to 5 inches higher than the top of the lavender plant. Use it in conjunction with natural sunlight to give the plant 12 to 14 hours of daily light exposure.
Caring for Indoor Lavender
Like all container-grown plants, potted lavender depletes the nutrients from the soil faster than garden plants. Even though these plants typically have minimal nutritional needs, it's best to feed a potted lavender annually in spring with a balanced slow-release fertilizer such as a 14-14-14 formula. Work approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the fertilizer for every 1 gallon of potting mix into the top inch or so of soil before watering the plant thoroughly.
Water the lavender plant, adding approximately 1 inch of water weekly. To avoid soggy soil, allow the top inch of potting mix to dry out between watering. Although lavender is virtually pest-free, it can be vulnerable to fungal infection when it's exposed to soggy soil or overly humid conditions.
Lightly prune lavender annually with clean, sharp pruning shears to prune to keep the plant's size in check and maintain adequate air circulation. In spring, cut away any broken or crossing stems, and shape the plant as desired, removing at least 1 to 2 inches. To disinfect the pruning tool, spray it with household disinfectant or soak it for five minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach mixed with 3 parts water. Allow the tool to dry before storing or using it.