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Lavender

Distinctive cultivars for this easy-care plant.

There's no question that lavender is one of the best aromatic flowers around. This delicate beauty not only smells amazing, but it lends itself to many different uses, including teas, soaps, potpourri, insect repellent and even as an anti-inflammatory. Perhaps one of the best characteristics about lavender, beyond its incredible fragrance, is that it's really easy to grow.

A low-maintenance plant

Lavender grows best in a sandy, free-draining soil, especially on a sloping hillside. It doesn't like wet feet or soil with rich organic matter. This Mediterranean herb is also drought tolerant and therefore doesn't need a lot of moisture. In fact, depending on how dry your climate is, watering needs may be met with natural rainfall alone, and no supplemental irrigation may be needed. If it's a fresh transplant however, you'll want to water every few days until it's well established.

Don't amend your soil with compost when planting lavender. It will rot if you give it really rich soil.

Fertilize once a year with a tablespoon of all-purpose fertilizer for each plant. Each plant can get fertilized in spring, and let rain wash it in. Prune lavender once a year — ideally in early autumn after the flowers fall.

Lavender cultivars
Valued not just for its soft gray foliage, some lavender cultivars can also flower for 15 to 20 years. Purple- to blue-flowering 'Grosso' and 'Provence' are fragrant French lavender selections that are long-lasting in the garden. They should be planted about 48 inches apart.

On the flipside,Lavandula angustifolia 'Blue Cushion' is a dwarf English lavender cultivar that's ideal for containers or along the front of a perennial border. It gets about 12 inches tall by about 12 inches wide at maturity. When growing it in containers, use an all-purpose potting mix with some additional sand and gravel to facilitate drainage.

Don't think you're limited by the purple and blue selections. There are other cultivars that come in different colors. For instance, Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Pink' has light pink flowers and grows about one to two feet tall and wide.

White French lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Alba') has white flower spikes and grows to two feet tall and wide. One thing stays the same though – that distinctive lavender smell.

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