Ten years ago, conventional wisdom among many Gulf Coast gardeners held that “we can’t grow lavenders! Too hot, too humid!” Today, with an understanding of the species, local gardeners can experience success with lavender, as long as growing requirements are considered. In our current drouth conditions, which are predicted to continue for several years, we have an unusual opportunity to be successful with lavender, since it is exceptionally drouth-tolerant — in in fact, excessive rain, watering, or humidity is usually lavender’s downfall.
Just remember a few basics for growing it in our climate: Excellent drainage is a must. If possible, provide a raised bed. A large container will also work.
Plant lavenders in the fall and winter. Their roots will be well-established before next summer’s heat begins. Fertilize very sparingly, as infrequently as a couple of years apart. Excessive nitrogen produces weak lanky growth. Mulch lavenders with pea gravel, crushed granite, or other appropriate rock, if at all possible, even in containers. This approach mimics the conditions of the limestone habitats of most lavenders, keeps the soil cool, and reflects light and heat upwards into the center of plant (which helps diminish fungal diseases.) Light-colored rock or gravel is ideal.
Air circulation around the plant stems is essential. Lavenders planted in protected corners away from brisk airflows often develop fungal diseases because the stems and leaves stay damp. It helps to avoid watering the leaves with lawn-sprinklers and hand-held hoses.
Two champion lavenders for our climate:
lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’
Provence lavender is the source of the dried lavender flowers used for cooking. The flavor is said to be superior to that of other lavender flowers, and the intense scent is delightful. This gray-foliaged lavender produces a robust, somewhat coarse shrub-like form and requires plenty of root room. If crowded, blooming is limited.
Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender
lavandula dentata x l. lanata
A Texas lavender-fancier favorite, and a gardener’s success story. In spite of its somewhat furry foliage, this lavender produces vivid violet blooms freely, smells wonderful, and is reliably perennial here. As with all lavenders, pruning or shearing during the winter increases flowering, as blooms occur on new wood. For a newly planted lavender, only the very tips of the young stems need be snipped off.