How To Harvest And Dry Lavender

Having Lavender grace your garden with its beautiful fragrance and lovely colors is a delight and being able to bring these aromatic flowers, fresh or dried, into your home is most satisfying.

Lavender is harvested during springtime in the early morning before the sun becomes too hot. The buds and the stems are cut from the plant and are tied into bunches for drying. The Lavender is dried by hanging bunches upside down in warm and dry areas with good circulation.

Growing and keeping the Lavender plant healthy will ensure an abundance of lovely buds that can be harvested and dried.  Choosing a good flowering variety is essential to produce a good harvest, and using the correct drying methods will ensure aromatic and beautifully dried Lavender.

The Best Lavender Varieties For Harvesting

Harvesting Lavender

The best Lavender for harvesting will depend on fragrance, color, and the longevity of the dried stems.  English Lavender varieties that have a strong and sweet aroma are:

  • The Hidcote (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) plant has grayish-green needle-like foliage, and the summer blooms are a bright purple-blue attracting many pollinating insects. 
  • The Munstead (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’) plant is compact and grows well in gardens and containers. This plant blooms in spring, and the colors are blue-lavender purple with a beautiful scent which makes it perfect for harvesting.
  • The Thumbelina Leigh, dwarf Lavender that bears an abundance of beautiful short purple spikes and holds color very well, is another ideal variety for harvesting.  It grows well in containers and path edges.

Read more: When Does Lavender Bloom (Plus 6 Important Growing Tips)

Requirements For Growing Lavender Plants For Harvesting

Lavender can be planted along walkways, patios, herb gardens, and informal knot gardens.  Choosing a good location for your Lavender and deciding which Lavender to plant is the first step to creating your little patch of aromatic beauty. Planting a Lavender garden is low maintenance; follow these easy tips:

Soil And Temperature

The Lavender plants grow well in well-drained, sandy soil (pH 6.7 and 7.3).  Nourish the soil before planting young seedlings with well-rotted manure or a fertilizer (NPK 20-20-20).  The soil must be well watered, and take care not to add too much fertilizer as too rich soil will result in excessive foliage but fewer flowers.

Lavender needs at least 6 – 8 hours of daily sunlight and prefers a moderate and dry climate.  Soil temperatures above 65°F are ideal, although the plant can tolerate lower temperatures.

Watering Guide For Lavender Plants

Young Lavender that has just been planted need to be watered more frequently than mature plants.  New plants need to be watered every third day to develop a strong root system.  After two years, many mature plants rely solely on rainfall (exceeding 15 inches annually). 

Water Lavender for 20 minutes once a week in areas with little rainfall.  Make sure that the plants are not overwatered but also not too dry, especially during the month before harvesting (June-July)

Bud Indications That Lavender Is Ready To Harvest

A young woman harvesting lavender

Knowing when to harvest your Lavender is essential to create a high-quality product.  As spring approaches, stems grow taller, and the spikes are tightly closed.  The buds form on the spikes and change from green to a greenish hue of Lavender. 

The Lavender blooms when the flowers emerge from the buds, and the ideal stems to harvest for drying are those with 25% – 50% buds in bloom.

How To Harvest Lavender

The best time to harvest Lavender is in the morning (before 10 am) after the dew has dried. It is essential to harvest before the heat of the day as Lavender loses its sweet-smelling oil in the heat. Cut the Lavender plants with a scissor, pruning snips, or a hand sickle. 

When cutting the Lavender, follow the stem down from the flower until you find a junction where two side leaves, new buds, or branches have begun to form.  Clipping the stem just above the leaves or side branches will allow the two side shoots to grow rapidly and produce new blooms.  If you require a longer cut stem, follow the stem down to the next junction and cut there. 

Once you know where to cut the Lavender, you could cut a handful of the stems at one time; remember not to cut into the woody base as this will stunt the next year’s growth.  Tie the bundles together with rubber bands or twine in readiness for drying.

Pruning After The Harvest

Prune your Lavender twice a year; the first is the initial pruning when harvesting and then again after the harvesting process.  Harvesting or removing the spent flowers (deadheading) is good for the plant’s overall health and promotes new growth.  Follow this with a harder pruning session and cut back at least a quarter to one-third of the Lavender plant.

Methods To Dry Lavender

After harvesting the fresh Lavender, it is now ready for drying.  Below are a few methods to dry Lavender:

Hanging Lavender To Dry

Hanging Lavender to dry is the simplest method to dry fresh Lavender.  Take the Lavender you tied together when harvesting and hang them upside down to dry.  It is best to create several bunches of Lavender as dense bunches will dry more slowly as they receive less airflow.  The Lavender will also be more susceptible to mold. 

Do not tie the Lavender bunches too tightly, as this can also cause mold. Hang the Lavender in a warm and dry area.   Good air circulation is required, so hang these bunches near an open window or fan.  Drying the blooms out of direct sunlight will help to keep their color.

The drying process can take up to a couple of weeks to a month, depending on the climate.  Test the Lavender by breaking one of the stems to see if the stem is dry.  When completely dry, the stem will snap instead of bending.

Laying Lavender To Dry

The fresh Lavender is not tied together but laid out in single layers on screens or in airy baskets to dry.  Full lavender stems or just the buds can be dried in this way.  You could also dry the Lavender in multi-tier dry racks used for herbs.  Some gardeners place loose Lavender on large material sheets and cover them with another sheet to keep free from debris.

Warm and dry conditions are required for this laying method of drying, and spreading the flowers out allows for good air circulation.

Harvesting lavender

Drying In A Food Dehydrator

Using a food dehydrator is another easy method of drying Lavender, and it ensures that all moisture is removed, but do be careful not to overheat the blooms.  Set the food dehydrator at the lowest temperature, no more than 100° to 105°F.

Only using the fresh buds that have been harvested, lay them out in single layers on the dehydrator trays.  Line the trays with parchment to prevent any buds from falling through. Place the trays into the dehydrator and slow dry for 24 to 48 hours at a low temperature. 

Test the Lavender by breaking apart a bud, it should feel dry and crumbly, and the middle stem should snap and not bend.  Once the buds are dry, store them until they are ready to be used.

Storing Dried Lavender

After the drying process, the Lavender buds can be left on the long stems, which are ideal for making dried bouquets or used in floral arrangements. Dried buds or flowers can be removed from the stems and stored depending on the intended use. Here are some tips to correctly store dried Lavender:

  • It is essential to make sure that the Lavender is dry enough. Flowers and leaves will fall off the stems when they are properly dry. 
  • If Lavender is stored while still moist, it can cause mold, which will destroy the flowers.
  • To protect the Lavender from humidity, the colors from fading, and the essential oils from degrading, do not store the stems in direct sunlight but rather in cool, dry, and dark areas. 
  • Store in airtight containers to prevent the fragrance from fading.  Containers such as mason jars, non-transparent jars, plastic storage boxes, glass, and metal containers are good for storing.

Also Check: Will Lavender Survive Winter? Important Points to Know

How Long Does Dried Lavender Last

Dried Lavender buds will keep their delightful fragrance for a season, but if correctly stored, they can last for a few years and still have nice color and smell good. Should the smell fade over time, add some lavender oil to the buds to enhance and freshen up the scent.

Conclusion: How To Harvest And Dry Lavender

Harvesting and drying lavender is easy and most rewarding. It is essential to keep the Lavender plant healthy to ensure good quality blooms, and pruning after the harvest will promote new growth.  When drying the Lavender, make sure that the buds are dry and moist-free to prevent mold.

Storing the Lavender in airtight containers will help maintain the buds’ beautiful scent and color for a full season and even a few years.  Wherever dried Lavender is placed within your home, you can be assured of wonderfully fragrant blooms.

References

https://www.southernliving.com/garden/plants/how-to-harvest-lavender

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/lavender/lavender-harvest-time.htm

https://www.thespruce.com/growing-munstead-lavender-5101145

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