Lavender: A must-have plant for all gardens
URBANA, Ill. – Known for its fresh floral scent and aromatic uses, lavender is also a very beautiful and easy-to-grow plant-every garden needs at least one! "Lavender is a great plant to add interesting texture, color, and scent to your garden," says Brittnay Haag, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
There are several types of lavenders grown in the world, but the most popular species is English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). When growing it, a few basic requirements must be followed to ensure it stays healthy and overwinters (USDA Zones 5-8.) Lavender requires two things to ensure it stays health: full sun at least 8 hours each day, and well-drained soil. If you have poorly drained soil, lavender can be easily grown in containers and raised-beds with a potting soil mix that does not contain fertilizer, as either an annual or perennial.
English lavender has a shrub-like habit, growing one to two feet high and wide. It has silvery, serrated foliage and bluish-purple flowers, both of which contain scented oil glands. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to the scent and high levels of nectar in the flowers.
Timely pruning helps lavender stay compact and well-kept, and optimizes flower production. Prune it once in the spring when the new growth appears-prune off dead stems down to the first set of green leaves. Lavender can also be pruned after it flowers to help keep it compact and it will possibly bloom a second time-prune off one-third to one-half of the plant. When pruning, do not cut down to the leafless wood, as it will not regrow.
Newly planted lavender should be watered regularly the first year. Once established, lavender is drought-tolerant and should only be watered when the soil dries out. Added fertilizer is not necessary when growing lavender; this can cause excessive foliage growth and a decline in flower blooms.
Dried lavender flowers can be used in a variety of ways, including sachets and potpourri. For optimum quality and scent, cut flower stalks when the blooms are about to open. Cut flower stalks can be laid flat or hung in a cool, dry place to dry.
"Lavender would be an exceptional plant for a sensory garden with its silver, feathery foliage and wonderful, soothing scent," Haag recommends. Sensory gardens are designed with plants that stimulate the senses-touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste, and have been found to be calming and beneficial for adults and children with sensory problems.
For more information about growing and using herbs, visit the University of Illinois Extension herb website at https://extension.illinois.edu/herbs/
Source/news writer: Brittnay Haag, 309-663-8306, firstname.lastname@example.org