By Gail Maifeld, Master Gardener
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) is a cutting gardener’s favorite that combines function and beauty. The distinctive fragrance and attractive foliage make lavender a companion plant for a rose garden by covering the lower rosebush canes. Essential oils are said to revive the spirits and fragrant blooms are said to have a calming effect.
It has been a difficult plant to grow in zone 4 despite the alkaline soil that lavender prefers. Lavender often died in Minnesota until new research from the Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Trials (2017) showed which varieties are hardy in their USDA Zone 5 conditions. Based on an evaluation process the following seven types are hardy in zones 4 and 5: Imperial Gem, Royal Velvet, Munstead, Super Blue, Jean Davis, Niko, and Sharon Roberts. With a winter mulch of chopped leaves plus some topsoil, to keep the leaves in place, gardeners in the Twin Cities metro area have been successful with the Munstead variety. Ideally 2 feet of snow will protect the plant, also.
Growing lavender in this area requires full sun, and well-drained soil—gravelly or sandy soils are ideal. Growers should plant early in the spring to allow for the longest growing season. Maintenance needs are few since lavenders do not need irrigation or fertilizer. Deadheading is the gardener’s choice but it will keep the plant neat looking. Cut the plant back one-third after blooming. Do not cut back to the ground in the fall. The gardener may need to trim the branches in the spring for reshaping. Natural oils of the lavender plant repel most grazing animals such as deer and rabbits.
The fragrant blooms may be harvested and dried to make fragrant lavender pockets for sweaters or the lingerie drawer. Other uses include baking, teas, a drop in an infuser, or drop on a pillowcase to improve sleep quality.
Chevallier, Andrew. Herbal Remedies. Easy-to-Use Visual Reference Guide
Lavenders for Northern Gardens, Richard G. Hawke, Plant Evaluation Manager and Associate Scientist, Chicago Botanical Gardens. 2017
Good Lavenders for the North! Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor. Extension.umn.edu