Lavender is undoubtedly one of the most famous herbs. The fragrant plant with its purple flowers adorns many balconies, gardens and window sills. But the lavender can do much more than just being pretty. As a medicinal herb it relieves many ailments such as insomnia, nervous weakness or migraine. Even in the kitchen leaves and flowers can be used for many dishes.
Profile of lavender:
Scientific name: Lavandula angustifolia
Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)
Other names: true lavender, English lavender, garden lavender, lavender, narrow-leaved lavender
Sowing time / Planting time: from March
Flowering period: May – September
Harvest time: June – September
Soil quality: dry, rather sandy, calcareous, nutrient-poor soils
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: depression, difficulty falling asleep, nervous restlessness, stress, bloating, bloating, inflammation of the gums
Use as spice herb: meat dishes, fish dishes, desserts, sauces
Use in: flowerbeds, edges, single position, group planting, planter, Rose companion, dry walls, borders
Winter hardiness: hardy
Bee and insect friendly: yes
Plant characteristics of lavender
Origin of lavender
Lavender comes from the Mediterranean, where it grows wild on rocky or dry slopes. Benedictine monks brought the herb in the 11th century across the Alps to the monastery gardens of Northern Europe. Since then, the lavender species has been used as an anti-moth agent, as a fragrance herb and as a medicinal herb, among other things against stress, inner restlessness and to increase concentration. The botanical name comes from the Latin word “lavare”, which means “to wash” and refers to the fact that the Romans made a refreshing addition to the bathwater from the flowers. “Angustifolia” comes from the Latin term “angustus” (“small”) and points to the narrow leaves of the plant.
Plant order of lavender
The lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, sometimes also Lavandula officinalis) is a representative of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It also belongs to the botanical subfamily Nepetoidaea, which includes many other well-known herbs such as rosemary, sage, savory or peppermint.
The genus of lavender plants (Lavandula) includes more than 30 different types. In addition to the true lavender, the topped lavender (Lavandula stoechas), the broadleaved lavender (Lavandula latifolia) and the fringed lavender (Lavandula dentata) are well-known representatives of this genus.
Characteristics of lavender
Lavender is an evergreen, perennial, branched and pincushion-shaped subshrub that forms a deep tap root and grows up to 60 cm (24 in) high. The branches grow upright and lignify only in the lower third. The upper branches are four-sided and soft woolly hairy.
Lavender has narrow-lanceolate, opposite, gray-green, entire and finely silvery hairy leaves that look like needles.
The aromatic fragrant flowers are blue violet, but there are also varieties with light blue, pink and even white flowers. They stand together in terminal, up to 10 cm (4 in) long pseudospiklets and appear from May to August.
After flowering, inconspicuous nutlets are formed with the seeds of the lavender.
Lavender – cultivation and care
Lavender thrives splendidly on slopes exposed to the sun, with calcareous, well drained and nutrient-poor soils. It is therefore advisable not to cultivate the plant in commercially available potting soil or in clayey garden soils. If optimal substrates are not available, the soil should be mixed with additives such as pumice, lava or zeolite.
The soil should be medium heavy to sandy-gritty and dry for the lesser lavender. In any case, there should be a good drainage – this is especially true for the culture in the pot or tub, where a layer of gravel or expanded clay should be used as a drainage layer.
You can propagate lavender in a number of ways:
- By layer. Around March / April, press a branch on the ground. To keep it there, simply fix it with a tent peg. Now remove the leaves at this point and cover the bare spot with soil.
- By cuttings. You can use the branches you have cut in the pruning as cuttings.
- By sowing. See next…
Sowing is best done in pre-culture on the window sill or in a room greenhouse. Since germ temperatures of around 20 ° C / 68 ° F are required, the lavender seeds should also have a correspondingly warm environment. Ideally, the preculture should take place between the end of February and the end of March in order to replant the young plants outdoors or on the balcony. The germination period can last between three and four weeks. It may be advantageous to use a mineral growing substrate for sowing. A mixture of 50:50 of vermiculite and pearlite appears optimal. Always keep the seeding soil a little damp, but not too damp.
Sowing outdoors is also possible, albeit a little more difficult. It should be ensured that night frosts no longer occur. The seeds can be easily pressed into the soil at a distance of about 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in). Since the seeds need light to germ, they should only be pressed slightly into the soil. The best time for sowing outdoors is in the months of April and until the end of May.
Lavender is used to nutrient-poor locations and therefore does not require an extensive supply of fertilizers. It is usually sufficient to provide the plants with compost or light NPK fertilizer once a year. If you have plants in containers or smaller pots, you should fertilize a little more often.
The Mediterranean herb requires very little water. Therefore, watering should only take place when the soil is almost dry. The plant manages without water for a while without any problems. An excess supply of water is significantly more harmful. Too much water can cause root rot and other diseases.
The fine seeds of lavender can be sown in March on the windowsill or in the warm cold frame in shells with potting soil. After a germination period of about four weeks you can then plant the young plants at a distance of 30 x 30 centimeters into the garden. Alternatively, preferred plants are offered in pots.
So that the plant is not aged and new bushy growth is stimulated, you should cut back the subshrubs regularly after flowering and in early spring. Here, the one-third two-thirds method has proven itself: After flowering, the plant is cut in by a third, in spring then courageously by two-thirds.
Lavender is considered to be partially frost tolerant, meaning the plant can withstand sub-zero temperatures for a short time. If you want to overwinter the plant outdoors, you should take some measures. The cover with very coarse mulch material, straw, brushwood and leaves appears optimal. The latter primarily protects against dehydration. Without covering, the water freezes in the near-surface layers of the soil, which means that the plant can no longer absorb water. It is important that the branches are be cut back in late summer, otherwise frostbite may occur. Plants in tubs can be stored in the garage or in the basement in unheated but frost-free areas.
Diseases and pests
The lavender keeps with its essential oils pests away and there are hardly any diseases on the subshrubs.
Varieties of lavender
From Lavandula angustifolia there are some varieties that differ in growth and flower color:
- ‘Annelies fragrance lavender’ is about 80 cm (32 in) tall, has typical blue flowers and comes from the Balkans
- ‘Blue Cushion’ is only 30 cm (12 in) high and forms bright blue flower cushions
- ‘Cecilia’ is a large-leaved variety with almost pure blue flowers
- ‘Hidcote Blue’ is a popular variety with dark blue flower spikes and compact growth
- ‘Lady’ is only 30 cm (12 in) high and is perfect for low mountings
- ‘Miss Katherine’ has pink flowers and grows up to 80 cm (32 in) high
- ‘Munstead’ is characterized by flowers in fresh blue
- ‘Rosea’ has pink flowers
- ‘Alba’ bears white flowers and thus forms a great contrast to blue-violet blooming species
Use of lavender
Lavender in the garden
Lavandula angustifolia is well suited as a scented shrub in dry stone or rock gardens. In addition, you can use the lavender to edge flower beds and enrich Mediterranean landscaped gardens. With the pleasant scent of the flowers, which also attract bees and other insects, it also comes in pots and tubs in the vicinity of seats to advantage.
If you want to use it as a fragrant plant or kitchen herb, you cut the flowers immediately before they open in the summer with stems and bundles them to dry. But you can also use them fresh. In the kitchen, lavender is used to refine salads and soups, as a herbal mixture “herbs of Provence” and for seasoning lamb or casseroles. Dried branches enrich potpourri or come filled in small bags as an anti-moth and air freshener in the wardrobe.
Lavender in the kitchen
Lavender is considered an excellent culinary herb that can be used for numerous recipes. Both the flowers, the leaves and entire branches are used. Care should always be taken to use the true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and not the Spanish lavender. The true lavender has a distinctive spicy and camphor-like taste that is sometimes floral and slightly bitter.
Rubbed or chopped lavender leaves provide a refined taste in many types of cheese such as goat cheese, soft cheese, Gorgonzola or raclette cheese. The aroma of lavender is also suitable for hearty cream soups. In principle, the dosage should always be used very sparingly, since the leaves are usually very aromatic and produce an intense taste.
Its flowers are also often used for desserts. For example, fruit salads that contain berry fruits can develop a very excellent aroma if a few lavender flowers are added. It is also ideal for cakes, truffles and ice cream.
A specialty is lavender honey, which tastes lovely and has a fine floral aroma. The lavender taste comes into its own with high-quality honey. Lavender honey is also considered very healthy due to its many minerals.
Rubbed leaves are occasionally found in herbal blends like Provencal herbs. However, the herb is not an ingredient in the original French herbal mixture. Many sources list lavender as an ingredient, but this seems to be a different way of mixing the herbs of Provence with it.
Lavender as a medicinal plant
The lavender is a well-tried medicinal plant and contains essential oil, resin, saponins, rosmarinic acid and tannins and bitter substances. Dried, processed into tea or oil, Lavandula angustifolia has a soothing, antispasmodic and nerve-strengthening effect. Internally used as tea or as a relaxing oil, the herb is therefore used against internal restlessness, sleep disorders, headaches and lack of concentration. A bath helps with low blood pressure:
Preparation of a lavender bath
For the preparation of a herbal bath with lavender, about 50 grams of its flowers should be poured over with a liter of boiling water in a container and left to stand for about 15 minutes. The container can then be poured into the pre-filled tub. Even if the bath is definitely relaxing and calming, the bath should be ended after 25 minutes at the latest.
Lavender can be used for these ailments and diseases
- nervous restlessness
- Bile duct disorders
- slight indigestion
- promotes sleep
- slightly biliary-promoting
Overdosing of lavender tea over a long period should be avoided. The plants oil should never be taken neat, because it can cause irritation in the stomach.
Preparation of a lavender tea
Depending on the variety and the weather, the lavender blossom starts between June and August. The ideal time to harvest is when the first flowers of an inflorescence open while other flowers are still closed. Cut off the stems, preferably in the midday sun, when the morning moisture evaporates, and tie them together into bouquets. A bouquet should not be thicker than a hand can easily include to ensure a good drying and prevent mold growth. Hang the fragrant bunch of flowers upside down in the dry.
How to prepare:
- Put two teaspoons of dried flowers in a tea strainer in a cup
- Dash the flowers with boiling water
- Let the tea cover for eight to twelve minutes
- Remove the lid from the tea and let the condensed drops on the lid flow into the tea, they are rich in essential oils
- Remove the tea strainer and enjoy the relaxing tea
The taste of lavender is a bit strange at first. If the tea is too intense for you, you can also mix it with other teas.
But also note that lavender tea should not be drunk in excess, as it can otherwise irritate the mucous membranes. Do not drink the tea for more than six weeks, take a break for at least two weeks.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buying lavender – what should be considered
Lavender is available in all imaginable forms these days. Plants can usually be bought in supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centers in early summer. If you also want to buy the herb as a useful plant, you should definitely pay attention to the botanical name (Lavendula angustifolia). Sometimes the Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) comes into the trade, which looks very similar to the true Lavender.
In addition, care should be taken to ensure that the leaves do not hang, the soil is not too moist and that the ratio of plant height to pot size fits. A plant that is three times the height of the pot should not be bought.
Dried lavender leaves and flowers, which are used for teas, recipes and herbal baths, are available from many herbal retailers, sometimes in larger supermarkets or in numerous online shops. The botanical name should also be checked here. The herbs should be packed aroma-tight and spread a strong aroma of lavender when opened. The flowers are usually significantly more expensive than leaves. The prices are usually between 15 and 25 EUR/$ per kg (2 lbs).
Ready-made lavender oil can also be purchased for aromatherapy, scented candles, soaps or a bath. If you want to use oil for aromatherapy purposes, you should make sure to get true lavender oil. Many synthetic products are also available, but are unsuitable for this. The prices for 10 ml of naturally pure oil are between 3 and 10 EUR/$, depending on the cultivation and plant quality.