Growing Lavender in Central Virginia

Growing Lavender in Central Virginia

  • By Eileen DeCamp
  • /
  • June 2018 - Vol.4 No. 6
  • /

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Our guest author Eileen DeCamp fell in love with lavender on a trip to Provence and has been growing it in Albemarle County since 2008.  She took a course on growing lavender, and as her expertise grew, she became involved with other lavender growers, and joined the newly-formed United States Lavender Association in 2013. 


Lavender is a beautiful addition to any garden, and there are over 450 lavender varieties and cultivars for the gardener to choose from!  Lavender belongs to the Lamiaceae, or mint family, and comes in many sizes, foliage colors and flower colors.  All lavenders are great for pollinators and are just a beautiful addition to your garden.




Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and carpenter bee. Photo: Eileen DeCamp.

The two most popular types are Lavandula augustifolia — commonly called English lavender or just plain “lavender”  —  and Lavandula x Intermedia, commonly known as “lavandin.”  The lavandins are a hybrid cross of the English species and the spike or Portuguese lavender (L. latifolia).  Although the lavenders and lavandins are similar, the lavenders have a sweeter aroma and the lavandins are a bit more camphorous. It is just a scent preference. You have probably seen a third type —  Lavandula stoechas — with its cylindrical flower heads topped with leaf-like bracts that look like butterfly wings. You will have to prune this type all summer to get continual flowering, and it is not hardy in our zone 7.

Lavandula × intermedia ‘Provence’
Photo: Eileen DeCamp

Lavenders are native to southern Europe, where the soil is rocky and lean. Those of you who have been on vacation in the Mediterranean know that it is dry with lots of sunshine. Here in Central Virginia  — with clay soil, wet springs and summers and lots of humidity — growing lavender can be a challenge, but it can be done with a little planning and preparation of your selected site.

How to Grow Lavender in central Virginia

If you are thinking of planting lavender in your garden, step one is to test your soil. Lavender likes a neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.5, so you may need to add lime to our acidic local soil.  When you submit your soil for testing, be sure to indicate that lavender is what you intend to plant.  Then the soil test results from Virginia Tech’s Extension Service will tell you exactly how much lime to add.  If you are planting lavender with other plants, try to choose plants that have the same requirements.

Lavender and yarrow, a beautiful combination.
Photo: Eileen DeCamp

Well-drained soil is key to success with lavender. Lavender does NOT like wet feet, and without proper drainage, it will develop root rot. If you have clay soil, you will need to amend with organic matter, preferably compost.  Remember, lavenders grow well in rocky, sandy, dry soils, so your clay may benefit from the addition of small stones or gravel.  You can also plant your lavender on mounds or on a slope, which will help with drainage.  If you are planting a row of lavender, make sure you have enough room around each plant for air circulation, which is especially important in our area due to the humidity. You also want a site that receives 6-8 hours of full sun. Lavender doesn’t need much fertilizer. Once lavender is established, you could use a low-nitrogen fertilizer to establish stronger roots. Do not mulch your lavender with regular wood mulch because that will hold in moisture, which can cause root rot. You can mulch with pea gravel or white rock, which will reflect the sun under the plant to dry out any water from heavy rains.

After the lavender has bloomed, which is usually anywhere from the end of May to mid-July, you will want to prune it to keep it from becoming woody or leggy. This also helps protect the lavender in the winter from breaking open from heavy snowfall. I usually prune my lavender in early September so it has time to recover before the cold sets in. I usually cut it back by 1/3.

Which varieties to plant?

Lavandula x Intermedia ‘Grosso’
Photo: Eileen DeCamp

I recommend a few varieties that have been very successful in my gardens.  The first is the cultivar Grosso (Lavandula x Intermedia ‘Grosso’), a lavandin which becomes quite large, 32-36 inches in height, with stems of 20-24 inches.  Grosso has a gorgeous dark purple color. If you have the room in your garden, this is a great one to try.


Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’





The cultivar ‘Hidcote’ (Lavandula angustifolia) is a good one to try in a smaller space. Its stems are shorter — about 6-8 inches, the plant height is 12-20 inches, and the flowers are a lovely dark blue color. This is an excellent lavender to try in recipes or lavender lemonade.

If you would like to try a pink lavender, then ‘Melissa’  is an excellent choice. It is also used in culinary dishes, and its stem length is 8-10 inches and the plant height is 30 inches. If you have a really small area, then try ‘Wee One’ (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Wee One’ ), a dwarf variety which only gets 10 inches tall and has short blue flower spikes.

I must also mention a new cultivar that is getting rave reviews — Lavandula x Intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ — a lavandin which reportedly stands up to our humidity and weather conditions better than others.; county.

If you would like to learn more about lavender, I would recommend The Lavender Lover’s Handbook by Sarah Berringer Bader. This is an excellent resource, featuring 100 varieties with information on growing, harvesting, cooking, and crafting. The photos are lovely and accompanied by helpful information on each variety.

I know from experience that it can be challenging to grow a Mediterranean plant like lavender in Central Virginia, but with a little work and care, you can do it!


The Lavender Lover’s Handbook: The 100 Most Beautiful and Fragrant Varieties for Growing, Crafting, and Cooking (Bader, 2012).

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’,

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ county

“Lavender: History, Taxonomy, and Production,” North Carolina State Extension,



    1. Eileen deCamp

      Hi Sung,
      I’m so glad my article was helpful to you! Good luck on your future attempts. Keep trying because I think it is worth it to grow this beautiful plant! 🙂

      1. denise

        could you please recommend a lavender plant for central Virginia that will bloom first week in July? (daughters wedding July 3) I would love to plant but nervous to plant 2 very long rows to not bloom when I need

        1. Eileen deCamp

          Hello Denise,
          If you are talking about this July, 3 2021….you would need to have planted the lavender last year. You will have a hard time finding plants in gallon size pots that are large enough and blooming for a wedding. Usually the plants at the nurseries are small 4″ inch pots and you can find some gallon size sometimes. It depends on what kind of lavender you are looking for. The large long stemmed lavenders are ones such as Grosso, Phenomenal or Provence. The smaller stemmed lavenders are the English lavenders such as Hidcote, Munstead, Folgate, etc.
          Usually the Grosso and Provence are blooming mid June to early July but it depends on the weather, amount of sun, etc. Hard to predict if lavender would be blooming precisely when you need it.

  1. Colleen Zanin

    Eileen, I finally got around to reading the newsletter. Really appreciated your article on lavender. Your fields look beautiful. Good reminder about the soil and “wet feet.” Time to get my soil tested again! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule.

  2. RS

    Any idea where Wee One Lavender can be sourced? We want to plant it here in Louisiana but I can’t find plants or even seeds anywhere. Thank you for all of the information in this article!

    1. Eileen deCamp

      You could try your local garden centers first but I have purchased Wee One Lavender from High Country Gardens online in the past. That is a nice small lavender. You might have to wait until spring now to purchase it!

    1. Eileen deCamp

      Hello CJ,

      Yes, definitely plant lavender in May! It is a great time to plant. I initially planted my first lavenders on May 11th in 2011. I can’t believe I remembered that!
      Thanks for reading my article and have a great day!

  3. Essex Ja Wong Scales

    Do you have any suggestions of where locally to go view lavender growing in Central Virginia? Local Lavender farm recommendations? I believe there are at least three within a 40 or 50 miles. Local gardens? Harrisonburg, Richmond, Charlottesville gardens?

    1. Eileen

      Hello Essex,
      Yes…there are a few lavender farms that are open to the public within an hour to 2 hours away.
      White Oak Lavender in Harrisonburg, Evergreen Lavender Farm in Appomattox, Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Catlett
      You can also go to the United States Lavender Association and look for members in Virginia.
      Hope this helps!

  4. T DiServio

    Awesome article, and thank you so much for breaking down a few of the different types that can thrive in Central VA.
    My mother’s cousin, who is quite the plant and gardening aficionada, once told me that lavender does well in sand, or sandy soil. Which sadly I do not really have… but would you recommend adding sand to soil here in Central Virginia? Or would the sand just end up getting too wet?

  5. Eileen deCamp

    Yes, unfortunately here in Virginia adding sand will just really make a cement like soil. I would try to find a spot that doesn’t get too wet, gets plenty of sun and maybe plant on a slope if you can. The main thing is to make sure you have good drainage, good air circulation and a neutral pH. Lavender does very well in lean soil, so do not add too much compost, etc. When I visited the lavender fields in France, the lavender is planted in a rocky, lean soil not really sandy. They also have a lime rich soil which lavender loves. It is a Mediterranean plant and that is why it does so well in places like France, Spain, etc. They also don’t have our humidity that we have here in Central Virginia.

  6. Donna Lacy

    Hi Eileen, We have an 80 acre farm transitioning from horse breeding to agriculture in Louisa, Va and are increasingly interested in researching wholesale growth and/or distillation of lavender. We came across the Celebrate Lavender Conference in Wytheville and am interested in your experience w the conference or other similar learning opportunities.

    Thank you,

    Donna and Jamie

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