Lavender is beloved for its beautiful flowers, relaxing fragrance and healing properties. This popular plant can be planted indoors or out, and thrives in either location, as long as it has adequate sunshine and a bit of water. An aromatic sub-shrub, lavender is popular in herb gardens, accenting gardens or just to use for potpourri.
Indoor Lavender Care
While lavender prefers the great outdoors, it can be adapted to indoor use. Lavender will grow best in a rocky, dry, sunny location with an adequate amount of lime in the soil, so be sure whatever fertilizer you use has lime in it. The number one killer of lavender is moisture, so be sure not to water too frequently.
The first step is to choose a pot that is approximately 3 inches wider than the plant. If you are planting from seed, a small, starter pot is fine. Lavender will need room to grow into its pot, at which point, it will need to be transferred to a bigger pot to make room for its growing roots. Make sure that the pot you choose has holes at the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Cover these holes with gravel or chunks of terra cotta about an inch up into the pot. Choose a good potting soil with lime in it and fill the rest of the pot with the potting soil.
Dig down into the potting soil about 1 to 2 inches into the potting soil and plant the lavender in the hole, making sure the root ball rests level with the soil. Cover the roots entirely and pack down lightly. Water the lavender lightly so that the soil is just moistened. Lavender only needs watering when the soil is dry to the touch. These plants are drought resistant once establish, but flower better if they don't dry out too much.
To take care of a lavender plant, place the lavender in a bright, sunny window where it has access to at least six hours of direct sunlight during the day. Without the direct sunlight, a lavender plant will not grow and is likely to die. As an alternative to sunlight, you can set up a grow light that rests over the plant and provides heat and light. Also ensure that the lavender has good airflow. Lavender likes a bit of a breeze, so fresh air, such as an oscillating fan, will make it a happier plant.
Pruning and Harvesting
Lavender is a woody sub-shrub, and as such, should not be pruned until the spring when new growth appears. This holds true for indoor lavender as well. This plant can be cut and shaped after flowering, but should not be cut deep into the old wood. If an older lavender plant becomes messy or unsightly, cut it back by one third every three years.
The strongest scent on the lavender is located at the flower spikes, just as they begin to open. To harvest lavender, cut the stems long and dry bunches out in the sun. Drying lavender usually takes about four to five days, providing the weather is warm. Spread the bunches of lavender on a sheet so that air can circulate. The stems and the flower spikes can be used for flower arrangements, sachets or potpourri mixtures.