Lavender Options for Missouri Growers

April 11, 2024

After three years of research, University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialists are learning how to successfully grow lavender in Missouri.

The popularity of lavender’s fresh scent has endured since ancient times. Cleopatra reportedly used it to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. By the 16th century, people were using it to ward off disease, preserve the dead and ease indigestion.

“Lavender is more popular than ever,” says MU Extension horticulturist Kelly McGowan, who led the study.

Today, lavender’s scent is promoted in many products – detergents, body soaps, balms, perfumes, toilet tissue and much more. It is also used in cooking and medicines.

Because of Missouri’s diverse climate and topography, MU researchers planted test plots in four locations in the state. McGowan used the Springfield Botanical Garden for plots; horticulturists Katie Kammler and Donna Aufdenberg planted at the MU Extension Center in Ste. Genevieve; Patrick Byers planted at MU’s Southwest Research Center in Mount Vernon; and Jennifer Schutter grew 22 cultivars and 120 plants over three years in northern Missouri at Kirksville.

They found that six main cultivars perform well in Missouri: Dutch Mill, Grosso French, Munstead English, Hidcote English, Phenomenal and Provence. Spanish varieties of lavender do not survive Missouri winters, says McGowan. High humidity also can adversely affect some varieties. As with all gardening, perform, have soil tested before planting and follow recommendations.

Regardless of location, this member of the mint family suffers when it receives too much water. MU researchers suggest growing it in raised rows and beds, containers or high tunnels with good drainage and protection from exessive rainfall. A watering schedule that keeps plants on the dry side also is preferred.

Plants need to be covered in colder climates such as in northern Missouri, says Schutter. During the study, she covered some rows and left others uncovered. Uncovered plants died or suffered dieback and needed severe pruning in spring. Protected plants survived, with the exception of one cultivar, Blue Spear, which is not recommended in north Missouri.