Lavande (French), 薰衣草 (xūn yī cǎo, Mandarin), લવંડર (Lavaṇḍara, Gujarati), الخزامى (alkhuzamma, Arabic), lavanda (Spanish)
Lavender is an ancient aromatic herb initially used by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks and remained popular through the Middle Ages in Europe. It was brought to the Americas during European colonialism, and today lavender leaves, flowers and oil are common ingredients in beverages, desserts, and teas as well as toiletries, perfumes, cosmetics and deodorizers. Lavender does well in a Florida garden, and it is popular in container gardens and dry landscape environments.
The earliest evidence of lavender dates from the ancient Egyptian period, through the Classical Greek and Roman periods and into the Middle Ages. The herb was prized for its aromatic properties as well as culinary use, and it was also valued for medicine. By the 17th century, Queen Elizabeth in England popularized lavender jam and tea. Popularity of the herb began to fade during the 19th century, yet a revival was launched in the 1970s with the inclusion of lavender in a blend called ‘herbes de Provence’ by wholesalers targeting an American audience. In the 21st century, use of lavender surged worldwide as an ingredient in teas, desserts, liquors, vinegars, baked goods and beverages as well as an aromatic essential oil in perfumes, deodorizers and cosmetics. Today it can be found in clay pots and herb gardens in many dry and hot regions of the United States including Florida.
Lavender has been widely used for its medicinal, aromatic, and culinary properties. Both leaves and flowers are used, and they are most potent when dried.‘English lavender’ is the variety most commonly used in cooking sweet and savory dishes such as cakes, candies, chocolates, scones, and shortbreads. It is often paired with other flavors. Lemon and lavender is a popular pairing for sweets. Mint and lavender are combined in many beverages. Lavender and rosemary are common for cosmetics. In addition to flavoring, lavender flowers are often used to decorate cakes and cupcakes, artisanal chocolates, and candies.
Lavender has significant amounts of vitamin A, calcium and iron.
Direct sow lavender seeds in a sunny location in September through December and harvest January through March. Lavender does best in well-drained soils as well as in a clay pot with full sun. Cultivar names often indicate flower colors, and there are many which flourish in Florida gardens. To plan a heritage garden, download the ‘Planning a Florida Heritage Garden (PDF).’