English lavender "Lady" (Lavandula angustifolia "Lady") is a small shrub, grown for its fragrant purple flowers. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, it is hardy only in the panhandle section of northern Florida, which lies in USDA zones 8a and 8b. High humidity is a constant in the panhandle's leading city, Tallahassee, and the surrounding area, and high levels of humidity make raising "Lady" and other angustifolia varieties difficult but not impossible.
"Lady" English lavender was bred for a compact habit, rather than humidity tolerance. It is an upright shrub with dark purple flower spikes that appear from early to mid-summer. Unlike the species, which grows from 12 to 18 inches tall, "Lady" tops out at 10 inches with a nearly equal spread. "Lady," which has a branching habit, also improves on the species by flowering in the first year after sowing. The leaves are narrow and gray-green and are attractive even when the plant is not in flower.
The Office of the Florida State Climatologist tracks relative humidity for major Florida cities, recording humidity morning and afternoon humidity percentages for each month. Though humidity levels are a bit lower in the winter months, relative humidity levels for Tallahassee are consistently high. Morning humidity levels are consistently above 87 percent, and afternoon levels are consistently above 50 percent. English lavender, which is native to northeastern Spain and the Pyrenees region, evolved in an area where the average summer humidity level is 64 percent.
To raise "Lady" lavender in the humid Florida panhandle, provide the plants with excellent drainage and mulch with stone or gravel, rather than organic material. Space "Lady" plants at least 12 inches apart for maximum air circulation and water sparingly. Lavender does best in full sun. If it is possible to site plants in locations with a slight elevation, in raised beds, tall pots or hanging baskets, the chances for survival will be greater.
If it is grown successfully in the high humidity of northern Florida, "Lady" lavender is an exceptionally useful plant. It is traditionally grown in dedicated herb gardens but can also be used as a low hedging plant in formal bedding schemes. The flower spikes are easy to harvest and dry for use in everlasting flower arrangements. All parts of the plant are aromatic, so both leaves and flowers can dried for use in potpourri or sachets. "Lady's" short stature makes it a good fit for either small spaces or container gardens.
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