Planting Lavender in Mediterranean Climates

Planting Lavender in Mediterranean Climates

Lavender is an ideal choice for Mediterranean climates, where it thrives in the dry air and alkaline soil. And lavender is a drought tolerant plant.

Soil needs. Lavenders prefer moderately fertile, slightly alkaline soil. Once established, lavender requires  little or no fertilization beyond a minimal addition of compost and/or mulch placed away from the root crown (the area where the top of the roots meets the bottom of the stem) two or three times per year.

Planting. Before planting, prune out any dead or broken stems, and cut off girdling, circling, matted, or dead roots, leaving roots that can be spread with a few inches of spacing between them in the planting hole.

When planting from nursery pots, remove the plant from the pot and gently remove excess soil at the top and bottom of the root ball. Whenever possible, prevent soil from falling entirely off the rootball, as this may shock or kill the plant. Most lavenders should be planted and mounded with the root crown 2 to 3 inches above grade, in a hole no deeper than each plant’s actual rootball. Do not dig a hole deeper than the plant’s rootball or disturb soil at the bottom of the hole, as the plant may sink below grade when loose soil beneath the roots settles over time. Lavender planted too low may result in lifelong stress and ongoing pest and disease problems for the life of the plant.

Spacing. Spacing of lavender plants varies by type, from less than a foot for miniature varieties to 3 to 4 feet or more for wider and larger varieties.

Interplanting. Lavender is a famous attractor of honey bees, bumblebees, and some species of solitary bees, as well as other pollinators and beneficial insects, and may be planted in dry borders or in well-drained pots near vegetable gardens or fruit trees to encourage pollination of other plants. Lavender generally should not be interplanted in close proximity to vegetables, as the soil moisture required for healthy vegetables may be fatal to lavender.

Mulch. GardenZeus recommends bare soil with no mulch in a radius of a few to several inches from lavender main stems and root crowns, and minimal organic mulch at the surface above the remaining area of lavender root zones, from just inside the dripline outward for larger plants. GardenZeus recommends organic mulch only if kept away from the stem and root crowns can remain dry. Even inorganic mulches, such as gravel or stones, may contribute to fungal disease in lavenders if applied near root crowns or main stems.

Watering. Lavender needs regular watering during establishment, with periods of dryness between waterings. Inappropriate watering, such as with sprinklers, is the primary reason for death of adult lavender plants. The critically important tip for watering lavender is to avoid wetting the root crown and to avoid keeping the root crown moist for any period of time. When possible, water at the edges of the lavender plants’ root systems rather than wetting the root crown or soaking the entire root zone. For established lavender plants, judicious watering should be combined with good drainage in moderately fertile soil that dries out between waterings. Once established, lavender is a drought tolerant plant.

For complete information on growing lavender in your area, go to GardenZeus and enter your zip code, then go to lavender.

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For a discussion of the desirability of chlorine in garden water used on lavender, or any other plant, see Remove Chlorine When Watering Organic Gardens.

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