Two tips on growing lavender in Western New York

lavender in Niagara Falls garden
Lavender can be a dramatic addition to your Western New York garden if you keep its feet dry and keep the soil neutral. This photo was taken in Niagara Falls. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


by M.L. Wells, Master Gardener Volunteer, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County

When I gave visitors a tour of my gardens in July during the From the Earth event held by Allegany County Cornell Cooperative Extension, one visitor was amazed by my flourishing lavender plant. She asked, “Mine always dies, why does yours look so great?”

As with most things, knowledge is power! To be a successful gardener you need to understand your plant’s needs, then apply a liberal amount of elbow grease and persistence.

Lavender is a Mediterranean plant. We have been told our winters were too cold to grow this beautiful, fragrant plant, and that is partly true. However, there are some varieties, such as Munstead and Hidcote, which will thrive here if – if! – their feet are kept dry and if the pH of the soil is close to 7.

So here’s the plan. Pick a spot where the rain water doesn’t stand in any season. For one plant, dump a bucket or two of sand and dig the sand into the top 6-8 inches of soil. Plant high. Don’t be afraid if the soil mounds after adding two buckets of sand – that is a good thing. Mulch with 2 inches of pea gravel. Test your soil’s pH and add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it as the test indicates.

My lavender has a home in a 20 x 4 foot raised mound with a southern exposure (sun all day). It shares this space with other herbs and flowers (sage, thyme, pasque flower and thrift) that thrive in a well-drained soil of neutral pH.

If you make your plants happy by attending to their growing needs, then you will be happy too.

Editor’s note: You can plant lavender now!

6 Comments on “Two tips on growing lavender in Western New York

  1. I live northern Erie county and have 3 potted English lavender plants. 1 is in Terra Cotta and the other 2 are in plastic pots. I’m thinking that I should have pruned them back a few weeks ago in August. I planted the seedlings for the first time over the Memorial Day weekend. They were tiny. The Terra Cotta had lots of purple flowers by July. The 2 in plastic grew like wildfire, more than Terra Cotta, but didn’t get a few flowers until mid August. They are still flowering but not as much as Terra Cotta. Terra Cotta seems to be finished and I pruned it back 3 weeks ago. Should I prune the 2 plastics now while they have a few flowers or wait for spring? Thanks.

  2. I have read that you should plant in late fall through zone 6. Do you recommend this for Western NY or is it better to plant in spring?

  3. I grow the Phenomenal variety of lavender. It maintains a better shape. I added no sand nor gravel to my decent garden soil. It has been growing for 3-4 years without any problems, great blooms.

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