Lavender plants are slightly difficult to germinate, but grow well once sprouted. Accustomed to growing in the rocky Mediterranean soil, lavender, once it sprouts, is hearty where many plants are not. With hundreds of purple, fragrant blossoms, lavender not only looks good, it smells good. It can be used in recipes, home decor and even medicine. Before you can reap the rewards of this healing plant, you'll need to master the basics of lavender's optimal growing conditions.
Seeds vs Seedlings
Lavender is most often grown by purchasing seedlings rather than seeds for three reasons. The first is that lavender seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate. Entire seed trays can yield few or no plants. They're most successfully germinated indoors where the tender shoots are carefully protected from the elements. The second factor is timing. If you can get lavender seeds to germinate, it can take as long as three months before you have a plant big enough to move to your herb garden. Lastly, lavender seeds are increasingly hard to find in varieties other than mass-market purple. Other colors and heirloom varieties are increasingly difficult to locate, so growers are creating plants from existing plants.
Soil is the factor that will make or break your lavender garden. Lavender needs porous soil for several reasons. First, porous soil drains well, preventing root rot. Porous soil also allows for air flow to the roots. Lastly, porous soil allows roots to spread out more readily, which helps anchor the tall plants. The soil should have a pH that's between 6.5 and 7.5 for lavender plants to thrive. It should also be amended with rich organic elements such as compost to provide nutrients.
Seed Germination Conditions
If you decide to work with lavender seeds, they do better when planted indoors in the spring. Seeds should not be buried in soil. Rather, they should be sprinkled on the top of a moist, but not wet, growing surface. This is because lavender seeds need to be exposed to direct sunlight in order to germinate. The seeds are most likely to sprout when the soil temperature reaches and stays around 70 degrees F. The seedlings should be kept just moist, but not wet, to prevent mold growth. Plants should not be transplanted into your garden for at least three months.
Lavender requires full, bright sunlight. If it does not receive this light, it will not thrive. Lavender that's partially shaded either doesn't flower or produces fewer flowers. Even indoor lavender plants in pots must have full sun, such as a south-facing window.
As a general rule of thumb, plant lavender plants as far apart as they will be tall. For example, if your lavender variety will be three feet tall, you should plant them three feet apart. Lavender can be spaced closer together to create a wall or border; however, the plants will produce fewer flowers, as not all sides will be exposed to full sun.