Q. Are lavender blooms supposed to turn brown?
Are the lavender blooms supposed to turn brown? I planted 8 small lavender bush in an area that gets 7 hours of sun a day. I put dark mulch around the plants and I rarely water as it’s been raining here in Westchester. There are some new blooms but some are purple while others are brown. Is this normal? Thank you.
Lavender has a very hard time growing in our area. It does not like the rain and humidity or the cold weather. Its ideal climate is more Mediterranean. Some types of lavender grows better here than others, so starting with the right plants is important. But even starting with the most appropriate plants, you are not likely to get many years out of the investment. The other very important element is to plant your lavenders in soil that has been prepared to allow excellent drainage, incorporating some sand and chunky organic materials. If the ground stays wet around their roots they will suffer.
The brown buds that you are seeing is a result of wetness on the plant as well as at the roots. Without examining the blooms, I can't tell you if it is a fungal infection (which prosper in damp conditions) or something else, but water is at its source with near certainty.
For our climate, English lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) are the best bet. 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote' are two popular choices. There are at least 100 cultivars of L. angustifolia,differing in flower color, scent, and growth characteristics. These varieties are worth exploring.
(Nursery-bought plants of a given cultivar may vary greatly in appearance. This is because they are grown from seed and may not breed true to the original variety. If your plant doesn't develop as expected, try another source.)
Lavandins, Lavandula x intermedia, are hybrids between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia. They are more tolerant of humidity and are hardy to Zone 7--suitable for the southern regions of the Northeast. 'Alba' (a white-flowered lavender), 'Grosso' and 'Provence' are all good choices to try.
General growing advice is as follows: all lavenders do best in very sunny locations (6-8 hours of sun per day) and need good drainage. If your soil is heavy, drainage can be improved by adding grit or coarse horticultural sand to the soil. They also prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. If your soil is acidic, add lime to raise the pH (but not above 8.5). Lavenders can also be grown in pots. Use a free-flowing medium; water and fertilize regularly. As lavenders have an extensive root system, make sure to plant in a large container.
Prune your lavender regularly to reduce woody growth--woody plants produce fewer flowers. Prune in early spring when new growth has appeared. Lavender can also be trimmed in summer when flowering is finished. Bigger plants can have a third of their branches cut back every year or two.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service