Growing Lavender in the Frozen North


Ah, lavender, most popular and romantic of herbs!
Ugh, lavender, bane of gardeners in the Frozen North!!!

Which is it? Lavender is hardy to Zone 5, so why do so many of us have trouble with winter kill??? Yes, we can help; the really hot tips are in Green.

There are a couple of dozen species of lavender and they are native to the Mediterranean, where the climate is much warmer than ours, the days are full of abundant sunshine and the ground is very well drained. Only one of these species, Lavandula angustifolia, is hardy to Zone 5.

Lavandula angustifolia is often referred to as English Lavender. You may also find lavenders labeled as French or Spanish; take these all with a grain of salt. These labels are often used inaccurately and interchangeably. Look instead for the angustifolia species, or, better yet, track down the varieties 'Munstead' or 'Hidcote'. These are the two hardiest angustifolia species, with 'Munstead' being perhaps the tougher of the two.

In addition, look again at the conditions lavender experiences in the Mediterranean: warm, sunny, dry. These make lavender happy and the happier your lavender is, the more apt it is to survive the winter. So, plant lavender in full sun and mulch it with white marble chips to reflect all the light you can onto the leaves.

And please remember this: Cold doesn't kill lavender in the winter - Damp Kills! Keep lavender roots as dry as possible, especially in the winter. We do this by growing it in raised beds and by burying a two inch thick layer of chicken grit under the root system of lavender when we plant it.

Lavender doesn't need much fertilizer - a yearly application of compost is plenty - but it does like a pH around 7, so lime your soil if it is acidic. Make sure lavender has plenty of room for good air circulation - this also helps keep it warm and dry.

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Hummingbird Farm
Brian and Cindy Tibbetts
202 Bean Street  Turner, Maine 04282
(207) 224-8220
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