By Eileen W. NOVOTNY
OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer
The diversity of lavender’s uses is amazing: from herbal medicine to folklore to literature to insect repellents to agriculture to culinary to home gardening to attracting pollinators to cosmetics.
It also has been celebrated in song. You might remember the sound track from Disney’s 2015 “Cinderella” soundtrack: “Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, lavender’s green. When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen. ...” It was also a hit in the 1950s.
Lavender originated in the Mediterranean region and is a bushy, woody, strong scented perennial.
In Northeast Ohio, hardiness Zone 5, varieties of English lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) are recommended.
Three that do well are Hidcot: compact, silver-gray foliage, deep purple flowers; Munstead: compact, green foliage, violet-blue flowers; and a newer variety, Phenomenal, is also a good choice.
Situated in the right place, they will bloom twice in one season. Some additional research will help you decide which varieties do well in containers (just include university extension in your search).
Lavender is best planted in the spring, in warm soil, and it thrives in any poor or moderately fertile soil.
Lavender also needs sun. If planted in a wet area, the roots will rot and die. Thus, the most important issue to address is putting the plant in well-drained soil. A raised bed with amended soil may be best here in the Mahoning Valley.
When planting, dig the hole, add small round rocks in the bottom, place the plant in the hole with the potting soil’s top level with the ground, and fill the rest of the hole with soil. Keep the mulch at least two inches away from the crown of the plant and scatter rock or pea gravel around the base. Water once or twice a week until established, then every two or three weeks until the buds form. I do not use fertilizer on my lavender. I recommend a side dressing of compost in the spring.
Lavender is drought-tolerant, so no need to water in the summer to see it thrive.
Place your plant along a walk or an area where you walk, brushing by will release a heavenly scent.
Lavender can develop fungal diseases in humid climates.
Spring pruning strengthens foliage, encourages flowering, helps shape the plant and keeps it from getting scraggly.
Deadheading lavender after first bloom encourages the plant to re-bloom.
Harvesting lavender is easy. On a dry day, harvest the stems in the morning when approximately half of the flower buds have opened. Cut the stems as long as possible, gather into bundles and secure them with rubber bands to dry in a cool, dark place where there is good air circulation. You will be rewarded with dried petals for lavender sachets or lavender cookies – unique gifts for those special friends!
Want to read more? Visit go.osu.edu/lavenderplant.