Put A Hold On My Lavender

English lavender line the steps to my front door.

Nearly every year, the lavender in my front yard (yes, you can grow lavender in Iowa!) blooms just after Father’s Day. Although it’s about ten days ahead of schedule this year, it absolutely rocks! Hope it holds out for the Polk County Master Gardener Tour on Saturday–some cooler, dryer weather would help with that. I hope it doesn’t burn itself out due to hot, humid weather. Just hold on a little longer, Fellas. Gals. Whatever.

My lavender has been very happy in this bed over the last eight years, and has produced many seedlings. When I was on the Gardening Today show on WHO radio last Sunday, Eileen and Mohamad encouraged me to talk about growing lavender. It seems they get a lot of calls about that on the show, because so many gardeners are disappointed in how it performs for them. So here are my tips for growing lavender in the Midwest.

Variety English lavender–not French or Spanish–is the plant you should shop for. L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ or ‘Hidcote’ seem to be the most reliably hardy and tolerant of humidity. There are a very few others that will perform well, such as the pink variety ‘Jean Davis’, but these two are the best choices to start, I think.

Soil My soil is a little heavy, however it has a fairly high pH–usually around 7.1 to 7.4. The lavender is planted next to limestone, which probably also influences the pH upward. Good drainage is very important; mine is planted on a slope.

Site Full sun. There is no other option.

Care I do not fertilize every year, but I do top-dress with compost every other year or so. As with most perennials, lavender should not be cut back after frost. I save the clean-up for spring, waiting until there is about two inches of new growth, then cut back all of the previous year’s growth.

Can you recommend any other lavender cultivars for the Midwest? I have tried a few others, but they have not been long-lived. However, if you like lavender, that’s no reason not to plant them!

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