Homeowners plant English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) for its showy silvery foliage and purple blooms, along with its unmistakable fragrance. At least 100 cultivars exist, including the common Munstead (Lavandula angustifolia "Munstead"), which boasts lavender-blue flowers. This hardy perennial tolerates a wide range of soils and requires only moderate maintenance and care throughout its life.
English lavender grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, although some gardeners in zones 9 and 10 may have some success with this plant. Even in USDA zone 8, English lavender may succumb to extreme summer heat, causing it to decline more quickly than in more northern areas of its growing region.
Although English lavender tolerates a wide range of soils and conditions, it grows best in slightly alkaline, well-drained soil. Preferred pH is between 6.4 and 8.2; above 7.0 within this range will produce the best growing capabilities. Choose a site in full sun; English lavender will decline or fail to produce blooms in too much shade. Poorly drained soil will cause root rot and yellow foliage. Once the plant is established, it will tolerate drought conditions.
Because established lavender is drought-resistant, water only when the soil is dry. During the first year or two, however, water regularly with 1 gallon of water each week until established. Once the plant is established, never water so much that the soil retains moisture and becomes wet instead of moist; English lavender does not tolerate wet feet. Use 1/2 gallon of water every two weeks once mature when not in flower; water once or twice per week during flowering to increase blooms.
As a low-maintenance plant, English lavender doesn't require regular pruning throughout the year to keep its pleasant shape or flowers. Cutting them back to 6 to 8 inches tall once every three or so years, however, helps control plant size while promoting strong new growth.
Deadheading your lavender plants after their first blooms of the year may encourage a flush of new growth and bloom development. Shape plants after deadheading but never in mid- to late-summer. Early spring is an ideal time for pruning or shaping if you so desire.
Use pruning shears to remove spent blooms. Disinfect pruning equipment with a bleach solution between plants. When pruning, make pruning cuts back to another stem, leaf or bud.
One of English lavender's most endearing features is its low nutritional needs. You don't need to fertilize this plant, and overfertilization -- which is a simple mistake -- may be costly. Apply 1 inch of compost under your lavender plants each year to feed them instead of applying commercial fertilizers.
Pests and Problems
Despite its relative hardiness and ease of maintenance, English lavender will quickly succumb to weeds invading its space. Several diseases may infect lavender, including leaf spot and root rot. Pick off leaves infected with leaf spot and keep soil dry to slightly moist, never wet, to reduce the chance of root rot. Lavender holds its own against pests, although grasshoppers and deer may feed upon the plant.
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