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9 July 2021

How to grow lavender

Lavender ticks all the boxes: it has colour, scent and is bee-friendly. Discover our best lavender varieties and tips for how to grow them.
CT
Ceri Thomas
Lavender

Lavenders have been a mainstay of our gardens for hundreds of years, loved for their scented flowers that can be dried after their finish blooming. Bees love them and they thrive in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties in the north and south of the UK over two years to see which would give us the best display and be hardy enough to get through UK winters.

How to grow lavender: month by month

January
February
March
April
May
June



PLANT/PRUNE
PLANT
FLOWERING
July
August
September
October
November
December
FLOWERING
PRUNE




Best lavender varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best Buy lavenders
What it looks like
Variety name
Height x spread
60 x 85cm
This evergreen shrub was one of the taller varieties, but it had a lovely dense, compact shape, even when it was in full flower. It had masses of pale-blue blooms, which kept the bees busy, even when the flowers looked like they were going over. The green-grey foliage was strongly scented.
What it looks like
Variety name
Height x spread
50 x 90cm
Although bees are said to be attracted to purple flowers, we found this white-flowered variety attracted its fair share in both of our trial gardens. The plants had a very good shape, with neat mounds of long, narrow leaves and dense sprays of flower stems. The backdrop of grey foliage helped the white flowers to stand out beautifully. The plants also had a strong and sweet lavender scent that was really lovely.
What it looks like
Variety name
Height x spread
50 x 90cm
A relatively new variety, which was bred at Downderry Nursery in Kent, and another Best Buy from our previous trial, this one can certainly give the classic lavenders a run for their money. Long purple flower heads topped the mass of upright stems and attracted lots of bees. The plants were very consistent in their shape and timing of flowering, too, which would make them ideal for growing as a low hedge.
What it looks like
Variety name
Height x spread
50 x 100cm
A Best Buy from our previous trial too and an RHS AGM, this archetypal English lavender lived up to its reputation, with a glorious display of colour. Plants were bushy and evenly shaped, the amount of flower over the whole plant was fantastic, and the colour was gorgeous. It was also another variety that was very popular with bees. There was a mass of bloom and it was the longest flowering variety in our Scottish trial site at seven weeks.
What it looks like
Variety name
Height x spread
60 x 90cm
Also a Best Buy from our previous trial, this variety was a cool customer with light, lilac flowers set off beautifully by the silver-green, aromatic leaves. The plants grew strongly into good-sized bushes that were swamped with a forest of poker-straight flower spikes topped with wide, tufty flowerheads. In our north-London trial site, it was in full flower for 10 weeks (six in our Scottish trial site), and was popular with both honey and bumble bees.

How we test lavenders

We grew three plants of 16 types of English lavender and four varieties of L. x intermedia at Capel Manor in north London and in the Winter Gardens in Glasgow Green park. They were planted in spring and we grew the plants for two years and assessed them regularly. We watered them after planting and kept the soil moist until they were established and growing well. After that we didn’t water them again, nor did we feed them.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Lavender plants grow quickly, so it’s fine to start with a 9cm-sized pot. Plant in well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun for most of the day. If you have heavy or clay soil, either improve drainage by adding plenty of well-rotted compost or some grit at the base of the planting hole, or grow lavender in pots instead using a Best Buy compost for containers. Water your plants until they’re established.

Pruning

Lavender thrives in poor soil, so there’s no need to add any feed. To keep them compact, trim lightly in either late summer or spring. Remove old flower spikes and the top 2-3cm of growth.

Don’t prune lavender into old wood that hasn’t got leaves as it won’t regrow. It’s best to replace old, woody plants. You can take heel cuttings very successfully, so there’s no need to buy a new plant if you don’t want to.

Common growing problems

Dieback

Lavender roots can rot in wet or heavy soils, so if plants start to die off in sections, check the drainage and see if it can be improved.

Rosemary beetle

Rosemary beetle can attack leaves and flowers. Damage is caused by larvae and adult beetles, and is usually seen in spring or late summer. The larvae are off-white, while the adults have iridescent green shells with purple stripes. Plants can cope with a light infestation, which can be removed by hand. A heavier infestation may need to be sprayed with an insecticide when plants are not in flower.

Read more about rosemary beetle