Learn how to grow lavender from seeds or cuttings, tips on pruning, watering, and other growing requirements, then how to harvest and dry the flowers and leaves!
Want more lavender in your life and flower beds? Try growing your own plants from seed or cuttings!
How to Grow Lavender from Cuttings
Rooting or propagating your own lavender cuttings is a fairly quick and easy way to multiply your existing lavender collection.
Using sharp scissors or pruning shears, clip off the top 4-6 inches of a fresh stem that isn’t flowering. Plunge the ends of these cuttings right into a jar of water as soon as you cut them so they don’t dry out on you!
Once you have all the cuttings you want, prepare your pots. Fill any sized pot with organic potting mix and soak well, making sure the soil in the pot is moist all the way through from top to bottom.
On rooting hormones
Some people use commercial rooting hormones on their cuttings. Some people use natural rooting hormones, such as honey, or willow tea. Others use none at all. It’s down to personal choice, really.
Our family personally doesn’t use rooting hormones at all, because commercial rooting hormones are generally not safe to use on any plant you plan to ingest, and that way we know for certain that the plant we’ve propagated is completely safe for use in both foods and crafts.
Use a pencil (or your finger) to poke holes in the soil. Strip the bottom half of the lavender of its leaves, and tuck the bare section of the stems into the holes, gently using your fingers to push the soil in closer and tamp it down. Repeat until you have several plants per pot.
(Don’t discard the leftover leaves! Lavender leaves are useful for food and natural medicinal purposes!)
Keep the soil moist, warm, and in indirect sunlight. It may help to secure a clear plastic bag with a few airholes stabbed along it around the top of the pot, enclosing the cuttings, helping to keep a constantly moist and warm environment.
You’ll know if your cuttings have rooted by the appearance of new growth- that means you’ve succeeded, and the cuttings are growing!
The roots will be very few and fragile- ideally, leave the cuttings in the pots to keep growing for at least another month or so, but start letting the soil dry out more between watering. Breaking the roots will most likely kill the plant completely at this stage, so if you have to transplant it into another pot early, be careful!
Lavender cuttings will take about 3-6 weeks to root. Grow up cuttings in pots until they are large enough and have a strong enough root system to survive being planted into the garden.
How to Start Lavender From Seed
Starting lavender from seed is challenging, but it’s not that scary! It takes some patience and care, but you can potentially end up with a field of lavender from just a few packets of seeds!
There’s more to lavender than just ‘lavender’! There’s a nice selection of varieties out there to pick from, and all of them are lovely, fragrant, and beloved by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Here are a few of them to explore!
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia vera) – also known as True lavender, is perhaps the most common lavender. It’s hardy down to USDA Zone 5 and up to Zone 10, and has beautiful purple blossoms.
- Czech Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia krajova) – also known as Country lavender, has gorgeous deep purple flowers and a mellow fragrance, which is considered less overwhelmingly floral and ‘soapy’ than most lavenders. Czech lavender has a high content of essential oil and is cold-hardy down to USDA Zone 5.
- Munstead Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia var. munstead) – is very hardy! It can take on USDA Zone 4 winters, making it a good choice for more northern gardening. As a dwarf plant, it’s also quite space-efficient, packing lots of fragrant flowers into one small bush.
- Hidcote Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia var. hidcote) – another dwarf lavender, this one with deep, intense purple flowers. Hidcote is hardy down to USDA Zone 5, and up to Zone 8.
- Broadleaf Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) – has a slightly different scent from other lavender plants- it’s more pungent, with a stronger aroma of camphor. USDA Zone 6 is about as cold as it can handle, but it’s one of the longest-blooming lavenders, with lovely, pale lilac blooms on the ends of tall flower stalks that pollinators love.
How to Start Lavender Seeds
What is scarification?
Scarification is when the hard seed-coat on the outside of more stubborn seeds- such as lavender- is weakened so that the seed within can be exposed to water and air, allowing it to sprout. This process occurs naturally over time in nature, but gardeners can speed up the process with such handy tools as, say, sandpaper, or even boiling water!
Scarification is sometimes considered an optional step, but it’s a very useful one- if you’ve tried starting your lavender from seed a few times without scarifying them, and they just won’t sprout, try scarifying the next batch!
To scarify your seeds, you will need:
- Lavender Seeds
- To scarify lavender, take up a seed in your fingers, and gently rub it against the sandpaper. Your goal is to break down the outer coating of the seed- make sure to stop once you’ve made it through!
- There will be a lighter color where you were rubbing the seed against the sandpaper. You don’t want to go much further, because you don’t want to damage the seed itself- just the outer seedcoat.
When you scarify seeds, expect to be planting them immediately! Scarified seeds don’t keep, so only scarify when you’re completely ready to plant.
Once you’ve scarified all the seeds you want to plant, move on to the next step – planting.
Cold Stratifying vs Direct Planting
There are a few methods of starting lavender seeds – one is the cold stratification method, and another is direct planting (without cold).
The direct method involves putting the seed right into seed starting trays, just as you would other flowers and veggies. For the cold stratification method, you would put the moistened seeds in the fridge a short while and then bring out to germinate at warmer temperatures.
We slightly favor the cold stratification method, but both ways can work!
What is cold stratification?
Some seeds need a period of cold weather to break their dormancy so they’ll sprout- in nature, this happens naturally over the winter, the cold and the wet working together so that when spring’s warm weather and sunlight get to work, the seeds will germinate!
This is how nature cold-stratifies seeds, and what gardeners try to mimic, letting us start these tricky seeds whenever we so choose. Since we can’t exactly drop a localized portion of winter wherever we so desire, that means we have to get creative- and luckily, refrigerators exist, meaning we can have a little slice of winter right in our houses, even in summer!
To plant lavender seeds, you will need :
- Lavender seeds (scarified, right before planting)
- Seed starting soil/mix
- Mixing container
- Seed starting trays
- Sealable plastic bag (if cold stratifying)
For the cold stratification method:
- Start by taking a small scoop of seed starting mix and placing into your mixing container. Slowly add small trickles of water and work it in, until the soil is evenly moist, but not water-logged.
- Press the soil into your seed starting trays.
- Now take your scarified lavender seeds, and press them into the surface of the soil, tamping them in with your fingers. Don’t cover the seeds.
- Place the seed starting tray into a freezer bag and place in your fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Once your seeds are finished cold-stratifying, it’s time to move them to the light!
- Place the trays in an area where they’ll be around 50 to 65 degrees F.
For the direct planting method:
- Moisten the seed starting mix and press into seed starting trays, as described above for the cold stratification method.
- Press the seeds into the surface of the soil, but leave them uncovered.
- Move the tray to an area with light, and where you can keep them cool and moist. (50 to 65 degrees F).
Wait & Watch
Watch your pots, keep them evenly moist but not waterlogged, and wait: Lavender can take anywhere from 14 days to 90 days to germinate, so patience is key!
Growing Tips for Lavender Plants
Plant lavender 2-4 feet apart.
There are two times of year that people tend to plant lavender in: spring or fall.
When to plant
Spring, after all risk of frost has passed, is the ideal time for planting most lavender plants. It gives them plenty of time to get well-established before winter and cold weather hits, raising their chances of survival.
However, if you live in a climate that doesn’t exactly experience winter, but does experience an exceptionally hot summer that tends to bake your plants, then fall planting may be your friend. Sometimes climates that get very heavy rainfall in spring are also better off planting lavender later in the year, so the young plants don’t get drowned, or so waterlogged that they end up with root-rot.
Lavender wants full sun! That means it needs a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to be happy. They can tolerate a little shade, but they don’t really like it- a lavender in the sun is a happy lavender.
Avoid planting your lavender anywhere that stays constantly wet or moist- that’s a recipe for root-rot waiting to happen. Lavender likes quick draining soil. We’ve had great success growing lavender in raised beds with a little sand mixed in for good drainage.
If your lavender is just completely failing to thrive, consider getting your soil tested – if you have super acidic soil, lavender isn’t so fond of growing in that. Amending the soil so you have neutral or slightly alkaline soils might fix the problem.
Avoid overwatering lavender. Potted lavender plants only need watering about once a week- and in most climates, once your lavender plants are established, the rain will often give them plenty of moisture.
Too much wetness can give lavender root rot. If in doubt, your lavender won’t be hurt by skipping a watering. Lavender is a drought-hardy plant, so it can take a dry spell!
Since lavender thrives in poor to medium-fertility soils, there’s usually no need to fertilize them. In fact, giving lavender a lot of fertilizer has the potential to make your plant decide not to bloom, or could outright kill it!
An exception here is that sometimes, in the spring, some people like to spread about an inch of good-quality compost around the base of the plant- this is something older plants may appreciate, if you’ve noticed your lavender was starting to lose its vigor in the past year.
When in doubt, skip the fertilizer. Save the rich soil and the nutrient-dense fertilizers for your fussier plants!
Regularly pinching off the tips of your young lavender plant as it grows encourages branching and a bushier plant, helping shape them into a denser shrub. As a bonus, you also get a mini harvest of lavender leaves when you do it!
After your lavender has finished flowering, use sharp pruning shears to cut back all the stems by one third, which will also help shape the plant, and encourage even more branching.
Pruning is important for extending your plant’s lifespan, because from the center out, your lavender plant is trying to turn into wood. Nothing can put this off forever, but regular pinching and pruning can help slow down the process, extending the lifespan of your lavender plant.
Why is it bad that lavender goes woody?
The woody portions of lavender usually will not sprout leaves, which means that lavender is prone to getting bare spots in these areas. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, this is undesirable because it makes a patchy, straggly-looking plant.
For the more practical angle, lavender wood is weak, and it splits and breaks easily. And the wood itself stubbornly insists on acting dead- if you prune off all the green stems on your lavender, cutting down to the brown wood instead, it won’t grow back. It’s kind of like if you just tried to prune a dead twig- it just stays there, refusing to grow.
Lifespan of Lavender
With proper care, lavender plants can last about 10 years. After that, they begin to decline, so if you dearly love that particular plant, you may want to take what cuttings you can off of it and attempt to propagate it. Your lavender can’t be truly immortal, but you can clone it infinitely and it can live on that way!
Without proper care and pruning, you can expect a lifespan more along the lines of 3-5 years. This could be drastically shorter or possibly longer, depending on your climate, soil type, and so on.
Harvesting, Drying & Using Lavender
Lavender’s useful for more than just attracting pollinators and looking pretty! You can harvest and use both the leaves and flowers of your lavender plants, and there’s plenty to do with the both of them!
Harvest lavender flowers when they’re dry and no rain or dew is upon them. Choose the nicest looking stalks, and leave behind any that are browned or aged. Use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to clip off the flower stalks. It’s a good idea to tap the flower stalks lightly against your hand to dislodge any little critters hiding within.
Lavender leaves have lots of uses too! They can be pulled or clipped off, or saved when you’re pruning or stripping the stems for lavender cuttings.
Once you’re back indoors, spread the lavender stalks and/or leaves on a screen, paper towels, or clean dishtowels. Allow them to air dry for several days, until completely dried, or you can use a dehydrator set to around 105 degrees F, checking every hour or so until dry.
Some people also like to hang bunches of lavender bundles upside down to air dry – that works well too! Just keep the bundles on the smaller side to allow good air flow, and hang out of direct sunlight, so the sun won’t fade the pretty purple color of the lavender buds.
Storing Dried Lavender
Once dried, the flower stems and leaves can be stored in brown paper bags (lunch bags work great) or lidded glass jars, out of direct sunlight. Be sure to store in a dark place, so the colors and freshness won’t fade.
Don’t crumble the dried herbs to a powder until right before you’re going to use them. This helps the volatile oils stay around longer and will give you best results. Shelf life of dried lavender flower buds and leaves is around one year, or until the color and scent has faded.
Using Dried Lavender
Lavender flowers and leaves can be infused in oil, turned into salves, lotion bars, bath soaks, and soap, or infused into vinegars and tinctures. Please see our sister site, The Nerdy Farm Wife, for 10 Things to Make with Lavender!