How to grow french lavender

Growing French lavender

French lavender may refer to at least two species of plants in the genus Lavandula. These are Lavandula dentata (French or fringed lavender) and Lavandula stoechas (French or Spanish lavender). Each of these French lavender varieties look different, but all have the same amazing perfume and are both great for attracting bees to your garden – this means French lavender is a wonderful plant to have near the vegetable patch or fruit trees to help promote pollination.

If you have ever wondered how to grow French lavender in Perth then look no further. French lavender is a simple plant to grow, but there are still a few tricks to successfully growing French lavender in Perth, Western Australia. Get these right and you will be laughing.

When to plant lavender in Perth:
The best time for planting French lavender is in the early Spring. This will give the French lavender plant the opportunity develop in the ideal growing conditions. Once established the roots will be better established handle the rigours of summer.

French lavender varieties can be planted successfully in Australia any time from early Spring till early Fall. For optimal plant growth I recommend planting in the Spring as planting during flowering may cause the plant some stress.

Where does French lavender grow best?
French Lavender appreciates full sun. It tends to grow towards the sunlight, and they like a well-drained soil.

How much water does lavender need?
Once your French lavender is established it wont require much water, once every 2-3 weeks should be fine for this drought hardy plant. An occasional deep soak during the dry spells of the summer months. Be careful to not over-water – they don’t like wet feet.

French lavender vs English lavender:
The primary difference between French and English lavender is that English lavender is cold hardy and lives much longer (up to 15 years) whereas French Lavender does not tolerate cold, only lives for 5 years but flowers for much longer.

Types of lavender in Australia:
There are many varieties of lavender in Australia. Below is a short list of the most popular lavender varieties;

  • French lavender (Lavandula dentata)– A long-lived, trouble-free lavender, serrated tooth-like leaves which makes it easy to identify. Mauve flowers on long stems are held above the foliage in winter and spring. French lavender is excellent for warmer, humid areas making it perfect for Western Australia.
  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Bizarrely named as it is in-fact native to Spain, with dark purple flower spikes in early summer on bushy shrubs, English lavender traditionally used in sachets and potpourri, and produces lavender oil from flowers and leaves. Recommended for cool and wet areas with dry summers.
  • Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) – Spanish lavender is distinguished by its winged blooms which appear from late winter through summer. It loves the heat and is drought-tolerant making it ideal for Perth. The scent is slightly sharp, and the oil is used in air fresheners and insecticides. ‘Avonview’, above, is one of the best cultivars.
  • Lace lavender (Lavandula pinnata) – A particularly beautiful lavender species. The ferny foliage is a lovely backdrop to the standard lavender-blue flowers with unusual ferny leaves and light purple flower spikes on branched stems. It’s native to southern Madeira and the Canary Islands, and is fragrant, but not long-lived, nor frost-tolerant.
  • Fairy wing collection (Lavendula pendunculata hybrid) – A compact lavender the flower heads are small with long ribbon-like bracts are held above the foliage. It tolerates drought, repels rabbits, draws bees and butterflies and tolerates the cold.
  • Princess collection (Lavendula hybrid) -‘Princess’ has vibrant hot pink bracts atop dark pink flowers; ‘Ghostly Princess’ has pink flowers above silver foliage. A neat and compact variety of lavender, main flowering is in spring with spot flowering through summer. Dry tolerant once established this Australian bred variety is known for it’s lengthy flowering season.
  • Ruffles collection (Lavandula pedunculata) – Purpose-bred for large wings atop the flower heads, with compact, mounded habit and high resistance to disease. Ruffles lavender makes for a great  ornamental hedge.  Established plants have low water needs.

How to grow French lavender from seed:
Growing French lavender from seed is a good option.

  1. Fill a starter tray with Seed Raising Mix. Sow seeds, cover, firm down gently and water well. Keep the soil moist so the seeds don’t dry out using a mist or spray bottle.
  2. Germinate your French lavender seeds in a sunny spot.
  3. In a full sun location in the garden and prepare the planting area well by digging in some plant fertiliser and soil enhancer. If the soil is clay-based, add gypsum and fork in well.
  4. Once your French lavender seedlings emerge, continue to water well to keep the soil moist.  Allow seedlings to grow to about 8cm before transplanting.
  5. When transplanting them into your prepared garden bed, ensure seedlings are well spaced – at least 40 cm apart. Mulch with an organic mulch, such as wood chips and water in well.
  6. Water deeply, once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions.
  7. Once established or when new growth forms, feed regularly with a specialist flower liquid Concentrate fertiliser to ensure healthy plant growth.

How to grow French lavender from cuttings:
Propagating lavender fairly easy to do, and it’s a fun way to get more plants for your garden. Follow these simple steps to learn how to propagate lavender cuttings;

  1. Choose side shoots as cuttings, pulling these away from the main stem with a thin strip of bark, or heel, still attached.
  2. This heel is important for root growth. If your lavender cuttings don’t have a heel, trim the bottom, cutting with a pair of scissors or knife, just below a leaf joint.
  3. Remove the lower pairs of leaves so that the cutting has a length of bare stem that can be cleanly inserted into your potting mix.
  4. Dip the cut end of each cutting into rooting hormone. Insert several cuttings around the edge of small pots of a coarse potting mix.
  5. Water in well then cover the whole pot with a clear plastic bag with some supporting poles to maintain a humid atmosphere around the cuttings.
  6. Put the pots in a warm, but not full sun location. After six weeks, cut the corner of the bag to increase ventilation.
  7. Remove the bag completely after a further few weeks. Leave cuttings in place until they are well rooted, then pot up individually in the desired location.

Growing French lavender in a pot:
Growing French lavender in a pot is a great idea. It allows you to move the lavender plant to the optimal location and conditions.

  1. Choose a pot at least 40 cm wide. Position in full sun and fill with quality potting mix.
  2. Remove the French lavender seedling or small shrub from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots.
  3. Position in a hole in the centre of the pot and fill around the plant with potting mix, gently firming down. Water in well and mulch around the base with an organic mulch.
  4. Water deeply, once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions.
  5. Once established or when new growth forms, feed regularly with a Flowers Concentrate liquid plant fertiliser to ensure healthy plant growth.

When to prune French lavender in Australia:
French lavender blooms mid-spring with the lifespan of up to five years. They have shorter flowers with delicate petals that resemble butterflies. French lavender plants regenerate faster than English lavender, which means you need to prune them lightly but more frequently.

When to harvest French lavender:
French lavender can be harvested while in bloom or snipped off after the flowers fade to keep the plant tidy. Leave the foliage over the winter to protect new growth from early morning frosts, in spring trim the plants fairly hard to prevent them from becoming leggy and bare at the base.

Storing French lavender at home:
French lavender flowers and branches can keep for months, even years, if kept in a dry place sheltered from direct sun. Best is to hang together in small bunches to dry them before keeping them.

Companion plants for French lavender:
Lavender can help protect your garden as a companion plant. Rabbits and other wildlife nibblers tend to ignore lavender due to its strong odour. French lavender will grow well with the following herbs, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme. Lavender will also work well with the following vegetables, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery.

French Lavender care and common problems:
French lavender is generally trouble free when grown in ideal conditions.  In conditions other than this fungal problems can appear.  Root rot and death of lower foliage can make bushes look very scraggy.  These fungal problems are more apparent in older, less vigorous plants.

Lavenders is bothered by only a few pests, whitefly and aphids can sometimes be a problem.  You can treat with eco-oil for easy control.

Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides:

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