Lavender plants are a favorite among gardeners for the heavenly smell of their attractive flowers. The flowers can give a truly beautiful look to a landscape or garden. Lavender or Lavendula is actually a genus of mostly perennial flowering plants, which are native to the Mediterranean region, India, and tropical Africa. Some lavender species are herbaceous plants, while a few fall into the category of shrubs and subshrubs. There are about 39 species of flowering plants that belong to the genus Lavendula.
The members of the genus Lavendula, are mostly perennial herbs. These flowering plants can be distinguished by their upright and erect stems, and shoots. The leaves are usually silvery green in color, and they can be entire or pinnate, depending on the particular species. There are mainly three types of lavender - true or English lavender, Spanish lavender, and French lavender. The true or English lavender is hardy to zones 5 to 8. It bears deep purple-colored flowers, and its leaves are quite narrow.
On the other hand, Spanish lavender is hardy to zones 8 to 10, and its leaves are dark green in color. The shape of the flowers resemble the shape of a pineapple. The flowers are usually purple or white in color. French lavender is hardy to zones 5 to 8, and it usually bears light, purple-colored flowers. Its leaves are serrated and gray in color. It usually bears flowers in whorls, which form a spike above the foliage at the top of the slender stalk. The color of the flowers usually range from blue, violet, to lilac and dark purple. The flowers of certain species are used to extract an essential oil, which is known as the lavender oil.
Lavender plants require minimal care and maintenance. They can be grown from the seeds, as well as from the seedlings. Be sure to select a variety that is suitable for the climatic conditions of your area. In general, these flowering plants can tolerate and thrive in a wide range of growing conditions. They need at least 7 to 8 hours of sunlight. They usually prefer loose and well-drained, alkaline soil.
While planting a lavender, do not forget to add some compost to the planting hole. Generally, the plant is first grown in a pot or container, and then shifted to well-worked soil. Dampness is one of the important factors that can impede the growth of this plant. Therefore, it is advisable to leave some space among the plants, so as to ensure proper air circulation. Lavender produces better blooms in warm climates. Therefore, many gardeners prefer to apply a layer of sand around the plant, so as to promote heat retention. This in turn, encourages the growth of more fragrant flowers.
Next to soil type, the two most important aspects of lavender care are watering and pruning. Lavender is a drought-resistant plant, and so, it requires minimal watering once it establishes firmly on the ground. However, the young plant requires watering at regular intervals, especially during the first growing season. After the plant develops a strong root system, it would require watering only in the dry season, and in extremely hot conditions.
As far as pruning is concerned, spring is the ideal time for doing this. For pruning, all you have to do is to keep harvesting the flowers. At the end of the flowering season, just prune back the plant to a few inches. The taller plants can however, be pruned back to about one-third of their height. Before pruning a lavender plant in spring, wait for the new growths to appear. When the new growths appear, leave them undisturbed for about a month, after which cut back half of the new foliage.
Gardeners prefer to grow these ornamental plants to create low hedges and borders. But, they are also excellent for growing in a rock garden and cottage garden. Apart from these, you can put them to so many uses. Lavender spikes can be used for dried flower arrangement, while the flowers can be added to salads and used for cooking. You can include the dried flowers in sachets, and keep them in your closets and drawers to repel moths and other insects, and also to give your clothing a fresh smell.