Herbaceous perennials die back to the ground in the winter and come back to life with the bright, warm days of spring. Lavender is a woody perennial, so it does continue to grow from year to year, but the stems remain upright through the winter in preparation for new spring growth. With proper care and pruning, lavender will survive in the garden for years to come.
Planting and Soil Conditions
Lavender needs well-drained, alkaline soil, full sun and limited organic matter added to the bed. To increase the pH level and increase alkalinity add a small amount of lime around the base of the plants, or dig wood ash into the garden. Amend clay soil to allow for good drainage. Lavender is a drought-tolerant plant and the addition of mulches can increase dampness and promote fungal disease.
Rooting New Plants
Once the plant has finished blooming, take cuttings from stems without flowers. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem and plant them in well-drained, fertile potting soil or garden-quality vermiculite. Mist the stems regularly and water well. The planted stems should root in less than a month. Transplant them into larger pots and once a good root system has developed, plant them in the garden.
Lavender blooms each year on new plant growth so pruning should occur early spring, before the stems begin to sprout. Once green leaves become visible at the base of the plant, cut the lavender stems back by about one-third. Pruning helps to prevent the lavender plant from becoming overly woody and promotes healthy, new growth. Remove any damaged or dead wood stems at ground level.
Pests and Disease
Lavender does not suffer from many pests or diseases, but can be susceptible to soil disease if water is permitted to stand around the plants; do not over water. Water new plantings once or twice a week until established, and mature plants every two to three weeks until buds begin to form, then once or twice a week until plants are harvested.
Harvest lavender in the early morning hours, as the oil is most concentrated early in the day when about half of the buds are open. Using sharp pruning shears, cut the stems as long as possible and form bundles of up to 100 stems, securing them with string or rubber bands. Let the lavender hang upside down in a cool, dark place with good air circulation until dry. Use in vases to scent the air or create a homemade potpourri. Try adding lavender buds to marinades and sauces, vegetables and meats in place of regularly used herbs. Toss lavender stems on the hot grill to enhance the grilling flavor and send waves of lavender scent through the air.