As soon as you think about the word lavender, one usually imagines English Gardens surrounded by the lovely blue-purple color of the plant. Or you may think of the exotic smell of potpourri and little sachets tucked away in your grandmother’s linen closet. Don’t you wish you could grow your own lavender? Don’t live in a conducive growing zone? Read this lavender plant care guide and we will give you everything you need to know on how to grow and care for lavender indoors!
Not all lavender will be happy indoors, unless you have a very large container, lots of room, or a greenhouse/sunroom. They can grow to be three foot high or more. You will need to find some dwarf varieties, such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’. It only reaches 12-18 inches tall and is well suited for indoors.
Another dwarf variety is Lavandula angustifolia ‘Little Lottie’, (aka Clarmo). It has pinkish flowers and does well in pots. This plant has the distinction of being a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit recipient.
There are others of course, and you can try some of the larger growing varieties, but you may be disappointed with your success. We suggest searching for and using the dwarfs.
Depending on your climate, lavender can be placed outdoors. It is listed as growing in Zones 5-9. In places that are very humid it does not do well, but fungus is its only real issue there. If you can avoid wetting the leaves and keeping it under an overhang to eliminate the dew falling on it, you will have a better chance.
Lavender is considered a long-lived plant, living up to fifteen years or more if properly cared for.
Lavender Plants, Cuttings, or Seeds
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You have decided what kind of lavender to grow, now, should it be from seeds or cuttings. Both options have advantages and disadvantages. If you know someone who already grows lavender, then growing from cuttings is a faster way to get plants to flower. If that option is not viable, then ordering plants or seeds online will be your next best bet.
There tons of reputable plant and seed companies online, just make sure that it is either listed for indoor use, or that it is indeed a dwarf variety. Seeds will germinate in two weeks using a seed starting medium and tray. The medium should stay warm, 70-80 degrees and moist, not wet. Once they have their first true leaves they can be planted in their permanent pot and placed in as much sunlight as you can give them.
The Soil and Container
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Lavender is originally from the Mediterranean region of the world and needs that kind of environment. Warm, dry, and cramped are three things to remember.
Using a terracotta container is a good way to start. The pot itself will wick moisture from the soil, which is a good thing in this case. It should only be about one to two inches larger than the plant root ball. That way there will be plenty of roots to use up the moisture.
If the soil that lavender is growing in stays moist for too long will, root rot is the inevitable result. Any soilless mix made for containers will suffice, just make sure that the pot has adequate drainage holes.
When it comes to indoors lavender plant care, light is going to be the biggest challenge. If you fail to give your plant enough light, it won’t give you ideal growth, leaf color, let alone bloom for you. The problem is indoor settings just don’t usually have enough light, especially in winter.
Ideally, lavender requires a minimum of six hours per day of full sun. So, depending on how your house it positioned, a southern exposure would more than likely give you enough light. Here again is another reason why the dwarf plants are better suited for indoor growing.
Most plants won’t fit in your window ledge. If you have a table or plant stand to place in front of the window, you can also use artificial lighting as a backup. There are many kinds of different grow lights on the market, find one that meets your lighting needs and fits in your budget.
Other than the obvious issues of inadequate light and not blooming well, the plant will tend to stretch and reach for any available light. Lavender will also just not be healthy as it will not be able to perform photosynthesis as well, leading to the poor leaf color mentioned previously.
Watering and Fertilizing
Second only to sunlight in topics that are critical to growing lavender is watering. Fungus and root rot are common problems when growing lavender, especially indoors. Overwatering and allowing the soil to stay constantly moist will cause root rot.
On the flip side of that, you do not want the soil to get completely bone dry. If the lower leaves begin to turn yellow, it is getting too dry. You want to find that happy middle ground. If the soil is dry about an inch down, then water thoroughly.
Since you are growing the lavender indoors, water coming from the bottom of the pot can be an issue for furniture. You will want to use a saucer under the pot, just remember to empty it as soon as possible so that the plant doesn’t sit in water.
Feeding is not difficult, if you use an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer, cut it to half strength, about every 4-6 weeks. If you use something like a slow-release fertilizer, once every 6-8 weeks should suffice.
When does lavender bloom?
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Outdoors lavender will begin to bloom in late spring, often going dormant in the heat of the summer, then reblooming in the early to mid-fall.
Indoors, depending on your conditions, age of the plant, and horticultural care, you could see it bloom for many months at a time.
How to prune and harvest lavender
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When you start cutting the stems for harvest, it causes new growth to emerge. Occasionally, if you want the plant to be fuller and bushier you can cut the tips of the new growth. Flowers are also produced at the tips so if you tip prune often, it will reduce flowering.
Most uses of lavender will call for the dried flowers. It is very simple to dry it and there are only a few simple steps.
- When the first few blossoms on the spike have opened it is ready to be cut.
- Cut as long of a stem as you can.
- Bundle them together in groups of 10 to 15 stems, or more.
- Hang them upside down in a dry spot. In the kitchen or a spare bedroom would be perfect. They should be ready to use in about four to five weeks.
- Make sure to check every few days that lavender is drying and not getting moldy.
Uses for your Lavender
As mentioned earlier, lavender can be used for potpourri and closet sachets. The scent is said to help promote wellness and relaxation. At one time people would tuck a few stems of lavender in their pillowcase to help them sleep better at night. The flower stems work wonderfully in dried flower arrangements to place by the front door to offer an inviting smell to your visitors.
If you enjoy taking a bath, take some crushed-up lavender and place it in a piece of cheese cloth or nylon stocking. Let it float around the tub with you, the warm water will release the essential oils and it will give you a soothing scent.
Fresh lavender can be used in salads, as cake topping decorations, or in a glass of sparkling water or champagne. It even adds a very nice touch to a dessert of citrus flavored sorbet.
As you can see, humans can eat lavender, but according to the ASPCA, it is mildly toxic to dogs and cats. There are conflicting reports, some say they would have to eat a large amount of it, others say it is fine. Either way, it is best to keep it away from them, just in case.
Pests and Diseases
There are relatively few pests that will bother your lavender indoors. The occasional whitefly or aphid may show up. Both of those can be treated with insecticidal soap.
The great part is, we people love the smell of lavender while most insects like flies, gnats and mosquitoes despise it. Having the bunches drying close to the front door will help repel them and stop them from entering your home.
Other than root rot from too much water, lavender is also very unlikely to develop any serious disease issues.
If you choose the correct variety of lavender and follow our indoors lavender plant care, giving the plant all it needs, there is no reason why you should not be able to grow some of your own. Not only will you get the joy of growing the plant, but your friends and neighbors will also love coming by just for the aromatic experience.