Freshly picked purple Grosso lavender in a vase
Freshly cut 'Grosso' lavender in a vase

Lavender (Lanvandula x intermedia)

Lavender is a perennial woody shrub, wildly popular because of its aromatic foliage and  flowers.

As a cut flower it is striking and adds fragrance to your bouquets.The L. intermedias are best for cut and dried flowers. There many varieties to choose from!

Lavender is easy to grow, drought tolerant, deer resistant, and happy in drier soils with low organic matter.

It’s a small shrub from the Mediterranean region. Heights depend on variety. But generally 2 1/2 to 3 ft. tall and wide. They typically bloom in June, early or mid-June, depending on where you live. After harvesting and shearing old blooms, another wave of blooms comes up slowly, giving you another round of fresh cuts.

The flowers attract many pollinators: both honeybees and native bees, butterflies, skippers, and hummingbirds.


Sun: Lavender needs full sun, which is defined as 6 hrs. direct sun per day. 

Soil: It needs average soil with good drainage. Added compost at planting will get them off to a good start, with some organic fertilizer. But once established they can handle average soil.

Mulch is optional, but not too much. These are tough plants!

In humid climates it’s important to keep good air circulation around the plants and plant in well-draining soil.

Water: When watered too much you may like the fast growth, but they’ll develop less of their oils for fragrance, be more susceptible to soil pathogens, and grow fast and die early. 

These are plants you can plant away from the garden so you don’t end up overwatering them.

USDA Zones: 5-9

Special Info

You can plant lavender as a hedge to make a gorgeous pollinator attraction and will give you more flowers with straight flower stems.

To get a hedge effect the plants need to be planted closer together than the recommended distance. I take the final width and subtract 6″. So if the final width would be 2 1/2 ft., or 30″, then you’ll want to plant them 24″ apart.

This will give you a solid hedge with no spaces between plants. Plus it gives you more flowers with straight stems. Lavender  produces so many flower stems and the ones all around the edges grow out horizontally while their flower heads curve upward to the sun. This can make them less useful in bouquets. In a hedge, you’ll still get plenty of curved stems but less overall.

Lavender shrubs
'Hidcote' Lavender along a walkway

As for the bees…I have walked and harvested through long, large lavender hedges FULL of buzzing bees. I have never, ever been stung. They are so happy and busy in a field of abundance that they just move along when you come through.

But I’m not allergic. I’ve been stung plenty of times, usually when I they get inside my bee suit while working hives (I once interned with a beekeeper). Or when I stepped on one. But never while harvesting.

But if you’re still concerned, harvest during early morning or late evening when the sun is down.

In your home garden you might have a few plants or you might have a large hedge as part of your landscape. 

Favorite varieties

My favorite varieties are ‘Grosso’, ‘Abrialli’, and ‘Provence’.

‘Grosso’ is by far the best, I feel. It has a nice deep purple color and dries beautifully. The fragrance is very nice. The stems are long with long flower heads. It grows to 2 – 2 1/2 ft. tall and wide.

‘Provence‘ is a favorite of many because of its intense fragrance and its long-stemmed, upright flowers.

The flower color is light but pretty in arrangements. But it dries to an even lighter color and so I use it less these days. It grows to 2 1/2 ft. tall and wide. And it makes a fantastic hedge.

‘Abrialli’ is a close second to ‘Grosso’, it’s a little smaller and has dark purple flowers. It’s harder to find.

‘Hidcote’ has dark velvety purple flowers. Its stems are shorter, making it good for smaller bouquets and for dried lavender arrangements.

English lavender (L. angustifolia), a straight species with ever growing numbers of new cultivars. The plant is lower growing, smaller than the L. intermedias. Its fragrance is sweeter, too.

I don’t think of it as a cut flower but it is very cute in a small bouquet. It blooms earlier than the L. intermedias. ‘Munstead’ is a popular variety. It dries well, too!

Starting your plants

Lavenders are best planted from nursery-grown plants. A word of caution, I have purchased many plants incorrectly labelled. It’s best to get them from a reputable source. They will be cutting grown not from seed.

Growing  lavender from seed yields a genetic mix-up of lavender giving you plants with less uniformity. for a hedge, you want uniformity in the plants

Pruning Lavender

All unharvested flower stems should be sheared off right after bloom. This will be in about late June.This does two things. It keeps a tidy appearance and it allows the second flush of blooms to come up and be harvested easily, without the old blooms in the way. And it makes the plant look pretty!

Shear off the old stems just about two leaf pairs at the bottom of the stems. Don’t stress over it, just aim for it. Shape the plant nicely so it is attractive. Then when the second flush of flowers comes up it’s very pretty. This makes lavender plants nice landscape  plants.

I have seen so many nice, big lavender plants left with their old flowers left on all summer and the plants look really ugly. Why waste such a fantastic plant?

Shearing is nicest when done with hand tools. I use hand held hedge shears. Some people like to use power hedge trimmers, and it makes quick work on a large hedge. But the cut is rather shaggy looking.

The second flush of flowers will be less numerous and that makes them better for  using in fresh arrangements.

At some point in the late fall to early spring prune the plants back a little harder. I recommend going back a few more inches from the summer pruning, but don’t go too far into the wood. They don’t recover very well.

Gradually your lavender plant will get larger. When it reaches your desired height you can prune to maintain that height without cutting deeply into the wood.

The flowers bloom on the new spring growth, so don’t wait too long. It grows rapidly around here in Northern California in April.

Harvesting Lavender

Harvesting lavender is fun because you gather up a bunch in your handful and clip. Clip at the bottom of the stems.

Fresh Lavender: Harvesting fresh lavender flowers for the vase can be done once the buds open at the bottom of the flower head. I prefer to wait until they’re open about halfway up the head.

Drying Lavender: 

Harvesting lavender for floral crafting such as wreaths, swags and sprays, and dried arrangements: Drying lavender for arrangements and wreaths is best done when the buds are almost all open.

Bundle a handful and cut at the bottom of the stem. Secure with a rubber band. I make a twine loop around the bundle with a slip knot, leaving a long tail to tie to a rafter or something like that. Or better, put it into a vase or basket and admire the beauty and the fragrance as it dries. If they’re ready the stems won’t wilt!

If the harvested too soon, the middle of the stem wilts and makes for a very crooked flower head. No matter if you hang it up or lay it down. The normal slight curve of the flower head will get a crook in it – not too desirable.

Dry lavender in a warm, dry, dark spot, like a garage, attic, or shed. Light will fade the color. 

This harvest can clean up the entire plant.

Harvesting Lavender flowers for herb crafting: Drying lavender for long-term storage or herbal crafting is best done when only the first but have begun to open. This will capture the peak of the aromatic and volatile oils  in the buds, capturing all the fragrance and flavor.

Cut the stems in a bundle, wrap with a rubber band, and tie with twine in a slip knot with a long end, and hang to dry in a warm, dry, dark place Light will fade the color. 

Dry until completely dry. Then brush all the flower buds off and store in an airtight container, which must be stored out of the light.

Afraid of the bees? See my note on bees above.

Lavender bundle with first buds open
Lavender bundle with first buds open. 'Grosso' lavender

Post-Harvest Handling

Fresh cut lavender for fresh bouquets can be conditioned and used as usual.

Once dried, lavender is very fragile and the flowers can get knocked off easily. There are two ways to deal with this.

One is to dry them where you want them to end up, in a vase, a basket, in a swag, or craft a wreath and let the flowers dry in the wreath. Caution about the swag or wreath – let the stems dry out for a day or so to shrink the stems a bit. Otherwise thay can fall out of the wire holding them in your arrangement as they shrink.

The other way is to let the flowers sit in a damp location and give them time to rehydrate. This works for most dried flowers, but lavender needs some extra hydrating.


Many nurseries carry lavender and the best named varieties. 

Here are a few mail-order nurseries that carry good varieties; Goodwin Creek Nursery, Morningsun Herb Farm, and High Country Gardens.

Green wreath with lavender in it
Wreath with lavender, artemisia, strawflowers, chili peppers, and hops
Silvery wreath with lavender
Wreath with 'Silver King' artemisia, 'Grosso' lavender, and pink gomphrena