In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
February, 2002
Regional Report

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Lavender flowers and silvery foliage make a pleasing color combination.

Lavender

Lavender is a wonderful aromatic plant for the low desert, either in the herb garden or in the landscape. Feathery foliage is usually a silvery-gray or greenish-gray. Intense lavender-blue flower stalks contrast nicely with the foliage and wave to and fro in a slight breeze.

Growing Conditions

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, which has many similar growing characteristics as we do in the low desert. Lavender takes full sun, minimal water and thrives in lean, rocky soil. It even withstands alkalinity. The most important factor for success with this plant is well-drained soil. Roots will rot in wet soil and the plant quickly declines. If you have clay soil that retains a lot of water, amend it with plenty of compost and a little sand to improve drainage. It can also be damaged by frost.

Planting

Lavender is a bit difficult to start from seed, so I use transplants in spring or fall. They usually come in four-inch pots or one-gallon containers, and sometimes five-gallon containers. I prefer the four-inch pots because they require a much smaller hole -- less digging is a good thing. Also, because the root systems of the smaller plants suffer less damage at planting time, the plants quickly catch up in size to those in the larger containers. Layering is another propagation method that works well for lavender.

Watering

Don't overwater lavender. Water slowly and deeply through the entire root system, then let the soil just barely dry out between waterings.

Uses for Lavender

Lavender is often grown for the scent of its essential oil, which is supposed to have relaxing and soothing qualities. It can be used in sachets and potpourris. Flowers can be used fresh or in dried arrangements. To dry, simply cut the stems as long as possible and tie a bunch together with a string. Hang upside down in a cool, dark place.


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