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How to grow lavender in Ontario

lavender bloom in purple on a stem
Lavender Bloom

Oh lavender, the name brings to mind fields of purple flowers on grey-blue stems, seen for miles. Can you smell the scent? Does it offer calmness, relaxation and a sense of well-being? Lavender has long been used for its medicinal and culinary purposes. Ontario isn't the Mediterranean, however, we can still enjoy growing these wispy stems that move back and forth in a breeze or send up it's divine scent when your leg brush up against it. Have you smelled lavender after a fresh rain??

The name "lavender" comes from the Latin word "lavare," which means "to wash." This is because lavender has historically been used for its aromatic and cleansing properties. In ancient Rome, lavender was commonly added to bathwater for its refreshing scent and believed cleansing properties.

The Latin word "lavare" eventually evolved into "lavendula" in Old French, and later into "lavender" in English. The name reflects the plant's historical association with bathing and its use in various cleansing rituals.

The scientific classification of lavender

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Magnoliophyta

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Lavandula

There are several species within the Lavandula genus, but the most commonly cultivated and known species is Lavandula angustifolia, also known as English lavender or true lavender.

Lavender bush in front of a field of purple lavender
Lavender Field


Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, specifically the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It is believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, including countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Lavender has been cultivated and used for various purposes in this region for centuries. It has since been introduced and cultivated in many other parts of the world due to its popularity and versatility.

Lavender is part of the mint family. It belongs to the family Lamiaceae, which is commonly known as the mint or the deadnettle family. This family includes a wide range of aromatic and culinary herbs, such as mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil. Lavender shares some similarities with other members of the mint family, including the square-shaped stems, opposite leaves, and the presence of essential oils.

How to grow lavender in Ontario:

Soil conditions for growing lavender

Lavender thrives in well-drained soil with a slightly alkaline pH. Here are some key considerations for the best soil conditions to grow lavender:

  • Soil Type: Lavender prefers sandy or loamy soil with good drainage. Avoid heavy clay soils that retain water, as excessive moisture can cause root rot.

  • pH Level: Lavender prefers a slightly alkaline soil pH between 6.7 and 7.3. If your soil is acidic, you can amend it with lime to raise the pH level.

  • Organic Matter: Lavender prefers soil with low to moderate organic matter content. Excessive organic matter can retain moisture and lead to root rot, so it's important to strike a balance.

  • Soil Texture: The ideal soil texture for lavender is well-drained and loose. If your soil is heavy or compacted, you can improve it by adding sand or perlite to improve drainage.

  • Sunlight: Lavender thrives in full sun, so choose a location with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

It's worth noting that different lavender varieties may have slightly different soil preferences, so it's a good idea to research the specific variety you intend to grow for any additional requirements. Additionally, regular pruning, proper watering practices, and adequate air circulation around the plants are also important for the overall health and successful growth of lavender.

Lavender field with a sunrise
Lavender Field

Sun requirements for growing lavender

Lavender thrives in full sun conditions. Here are the sun requirements for growing lavender:

  • Full Sun: Lavender plants require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. They need ample sunlight to develop strong stems, vibrant flowers, and optimal essential oil production.

  • Southern Exposure: If possible, plant lavender in a location with a southern exposure in the Northern Hemisphere or a northern exposure in the Southern Hemisphere. This orientation maximizes sun exposure throughout the day.

  • Avoid Shade: Lavender does not tolerate shade well. Insufficient sunlight can lead to weak growth, fewer flowers, and decreased overall vigor. Ensure that the planting location is free from shade caused by nearby trees, buildings, or other structures.

  • Morning Sun: Lavender benefits from morning sun exposure, as it helps dry any moisture accumulated overnight on the foliage. Morning sun also promotes healthy photosynthesis and overall plant growth.

  • Protection from Intense Afternoon Sun: While lavender loves sunlight, it is important to protect the plants from intense afternoon sun, especially in hotter climates. In regions with scorching summer temperatures, some afternoon shade or filtered sunlight can help prevent excessive heat stress.

It's worth noting that different lavender varieties may have specific sun requirements, so it's a good idea to research the specific variety you intend to grow for any additional considerations. Additionally, adequate air circulation around the plants is also important to prevent moisture-related issues and ensure optimal growth.

Which varieties of lavender grow in Ontario?

In Ontario, Canada, certain lavender varieties are well-suited for growing conditions in the region. Here are a few lavender varieties that are commonly grown in Ontario:

  1. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): English lavender is one of the most popular lavender varieties and is well-suited for Ontario's climate. It has narrow leaves and produces aromatic flowers in shades of purple, blue, or white. Varieties such as 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead' are commonly grown in Ontario.

  2. French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): French lavender is another variety that can be grown in Ontario, particularly in warmer regions or with proper winter protection. It has broader leaves and distinctive bracts on top of the flower spikes. 'Anouk' is a popular French lavender variety suitable for Ontario's climate.

  3. Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia): Lavandin is a hybrid lavender that is a cross between English lavender and spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia). It tends to be more heat and drought tolerant compared to English lavender. Varieties such as 'Grosso' and 'Provence' can be grown successfully in Ontario.

It's important to note that Ontario's climate can vary across different regions, so it's always a good idea to choose lavender varieties that are recommended for your specific hardiness zone. Additionally, providing proper winter protection, such as mulching and situating plants in well-drained locations, can help increase the chances of successful lavender cultivation in Ontario.

Do you grow lavender in your garden? Let us know in the comments and share your tips for growing this incredibly aromatic plant.

Purple lavender plants on a stalk
Lavender Blossom

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