Lavender fragrance actually originates from an herb in the genus Lavandula. Lavandula angustifolia, or English lavender, is perhaps the most common species of this versatile, hard-working herb. Used in everything from cooking, cleaning and beauty products to medicinal applications, lavender is also one of the easier herbs to cultivate in the home garden. Proper bed preparation and lots of sunshine will yield beauty for all the senses.
Choose a site with at least 8 hours of full sun per day. A southern slope provides the perfect direct sunshine as well as added drainage for your lavender plants.
Use a home kit or send a soil sample to a local university extension office to check the pH. Lavender prefers a 5.8 to 8.0 pH range, preferably higher or more basic for best results. If your soil is acidic, amend with dolomitic lime using the kit recommendations or those of the experts at the extension office. Mix 1/3 bedding soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 organic compost, such as pine bark or well rotted manure, and cultivate into the soil to a depth of 12 inches.
Plant lavender in the spring. Allow a comfortable distance between plants, taking into account the mature size of your particular species. Cultivars can grow up to 5 feet wide, and proper air circulation is a must.
Water the new plants well, and keep soil moist but not soggy while the roots establish. After the plants reach maturity, most cultivars are drought tolerant.
Prune lavender twice yearly to promote more flowers and encourage growth. Cut back old growth in the fall and new growth in early spring to about 2 inches of green shoots. The spring pruning may remove up to 2/3 of the new growth, but is necessary to produce a fuller, better producing plant. Drastic cutting back may be required every 3 years in order to keep the size of the plant manageable.