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December 8, 2016 Back to Picks >

Lavender is, for many herb-lovers, the epitome of a classic, historic herb. The fragrance draws us in and triggers memories of beloved gardens we’ve tended or visited, the blooms delight us, and the subtle foliage textures and colors provide a complex richness to the mixed garden or container.

But in addition to the aesthetic qualities of the genus, adding Lavender to the garden brings many benefits. The leaves and flowers attract insects that are also helpful in pollinating other garden plants. The spikes of tubular Lavender flowers provide nectar and pollen to a host of beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings that are predators or parasites on garden pests, like aphids and mealybugs. Not many insects feed on Lavender plants, because the chemicals in the leaves, stems and flowers repel many harmful insect pests.

Beloved, though something of a challenge to grow in our region, Lavender can be successful, though not terribly long-lived in our gardens. Expect a two to three year lifespan. Provide excellent drainage in raised bed or large container, plenty of sun (partial shade may be welcome in the Texas summer afternoon), prevent overhead watering as from lawn-sprinkling systems (best is drip-irrigation or hand watering at ground level), and mulch with gravel, whether in the ground or in a pot. Shear during late Winter, and fertilize very sparingly at that time to promote Spring growth. Once a year is adequate, and you need only a small amount of slow-release organic fertilizer like Arbor Gate Blend.

The best varieties of Lavender for our region are as follow: Spanish Lavender, Goodwin Creek Gray, Provence Lavender, Sweet Lavender, and Fern Leaf Lavender (a good summertime variety)> Varieties abound, but many of the most traditional, such as English and French Lavenders, just can’t take our summertime heat and humidity.