Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Madeira. Lavender grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5b through 10b, depending on species, and needs full sun for optimum flower growth and fragrance.
Lavender should be planted in full sun, defined as an area that receives six or more hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day. The hours do not have to be continuous. An area that gets three hours of sunlight in the morning and another three hours in the late afternoon is considered full sun. The more hours of sunlight your lavender receives, the better it will do.
There are ways you can increase the level of sunlight in your garden. Prune back any trees or tall shrubs and vines that are blocking sun from your yard. Use light-colored mulch, such as straw or white rock, to reflect sunlight up to your lavender. If you plant the lavender along a fence, paint the fence white or hang sheets of aluminum foil to reflect sunlight to your plants. You can plant your lavender in a lightweight pot and then move it around your landscape during the day to get the required sunlight.
Beside full sun, lavender needs little care to be successful. Lavender will thrive in poor, rocky and slightly alkaline soil and doesn't need any extra fertilizer while growing. If your soil is acidic, you can add lime in the autumn to help neutralize it. Water your lavender deeply when soil is almost completely dry. It is important to plant your lavender in well-draining soil so it doesn't become too wet. Prune your plants by one-third to one-half every year to keep them compact and neat looking. Remove older branches as they become woody.
Lavender flowers can be harvested, dried and used in cooking and potpourris. Harvest lavender just as the lowest flowers on a stem open, cutting it just above the first set of leaves. Cut your stems first thing in the morning when the fragrance is strongest. Hang cut lavender in bundles upside-down in a cool, dark place until dry. This will ensure your dried lavender maintains its color and fragrance. Harvesting your lavender often will encourage more flowers to grow throughout the year.