If there is a popular plant that is notoriously difficult to cultivate in East Texas that I’m often asked about, it is lavender.
Lavender is attractive and smells wonderful. You see the pictures of them growing ... somewhere far from here ... in beautiful rows and think, “I want just one of those in my yard!”
But this popular herb is difficult to grow. Lavender, a woody plant, demands dry conditions. Excellent drainage is essential. Overwatering or damp weather causes disease and death. It grows best in full sun and in sandy soil with minimal water. Grow lavender in raised beds to improve drainage.
Most lavenders are natives of the Mediterranean region, the islands of the Atlantic, Asia Minor, and India, but are now grown all over the world. There are 28 known varieties.
Two varieties just might tolerate the hot, humid summers here in East Texas:
■ Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) displays fragrant royal purple spikes with gray-green foliage. It can be used as a low hedge in your garden or can be grown in a container. It is ideal for cutting and drying flowers to be used in potpourri. It likes full sun, requires average watering (do not over water), and grows to an average height of 28-36 inches.
■ Fernleaf lavender or French lace lavender (Lavandula multifida) displays flowers that occur in winged spikes, like a pitchfork, and are a deep lavender color. It has green, fern-like leaves from which the name multifida, meaning “much divided,” comes. It blooms very heavily in late spring through the summer but is very tender and needs protection indoors in the winter, as it is frost sensitive.
The flowers of the Fernleaf or French lavender do not dry well. Unlike other lavenders, its fragrance is pine-like. It likes full sun and will grow to a height of 18-24 inches.
Again, do not over water.
What you can grow here that has the same shape and color is the Russian sage (Perovskia). The grayish-green leaves are pungently scented, apparent when they are crushed or brushed against.
Its tall, clear blue spikes lend a cool, airy look to the garden, just like the much sought-after lavender. Cultivars such as “Longin” and “Blue Spire” and “Blue Mist” are superior to seed grown plants.
These are hardy, drought-tolerant plants that will persevere in humidity and excessive rain.