In the Gulf Coast South, growing lavender is a challenge. This queenly herb, native to Mediterranean-like climates and soils, ﬁnds our clay soils, hot summer nights, and endless humidity inhospitable. By taking certain steps, and by choosing the lavender variety carefully, it can be done. Provence Lavender (L. X intermedia ‘Provence’) is a great choice for local gardeners–but there are others as well.
A few pointers:
First, plant your lavender during the fall, either in extremely well-draining soil best achieved in raised beds with some sand or grit added, or in large clay or concrete pots. A healthy lavender plant will ﬁll the pot with its roots in less than 3 years and then can be moved to the garden.
Second, choose a spot in full sun and with excellent air circulation. Lavender leaves must remain dry, so tucking it away in a corner, crowded by other plants, won’t produce the desired results. Avoid overhead watering, like that delivered by lawn sprinklers, as wet leaves readily invite the fungus that results in black, unsightly foliage.
Third, choose a variety that thrives in our region: In addition to Provence Lavender, choose from the following: French Lavender (l. dentata), Sweet Lavender (L. heterophylla), Fern Leaf Lavender, (L. multiﬁda), Spanish Lavender, (L. stoechas), and Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender (L. spp. ‘Goodwin Creek Gray).
The English lavenders (L. angustifolia), such as Lady Lavender and Munstead Lavender, are best considered annuals. Our humidity and high summer temperatures, without the relief of a nighttime cooling off, simply defeat these fragrant favorites.
Since lavenders bloom on new wood, cut back about 1/3 of the outer growth in late winter before new buds appear. Avoid cutting into the old woody stems. Fertilize sparingly in very early spring, as overdoing it will produce excessive and quite vulnerable new growth. Use only a balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer such as Arbor Gate Blend.