Growing Lavender in Tucson

Beverly Hills, CA

Hello all,

I hope I am posting in the right area. There was not a forum for lavender so I thought best to ask the people who live in the same climate as I.

I consider myself a somewhat experienced gardener. I lived in England for a long time and learned from the various gardening programs they have there. At any rate, one thing I loved most about my English garden was the lavender I had growing on each side of the garden path. The smell was out of this world.

I would like to grow lavender in Tucson and I am preparing a 8' by 5' bed which will have a rose in the center, lavender (hopefully) on the left and right sides and a variety of wild flowers and bulbs that will create year round interest. What I am planting will perform nicely in the planting medium I am creating. Lavenders require well drained, gravely type soil which I will indeed provide for it. I have some ideas for particular varieties but wanted to poll the members of this forum what (if any) varieties you use and what your success rate is. I was thinking of going with the standard English Lavender 'Munstead' and go from there. I have heard that the Spanish Lavenders do well but this is not the variety I particularly want.

I thank you kindly in advance for any thoughts, suggestions or ideas.

All the best,

El Mirage, AZ(Zone 9b)

Well, Ben, I live in the Phoenix area and have killed five different lavender plants in the past two years so I'm no help at all! I just wanted to say "Welcome."

I do know there are several people on this forum who successfully grow them, so I'm sure someone will be along shortly.


Beverly Hills, CA

Hi Jane,

Thank you for the post and the welcome. Much appreciated. I love the forums here and the SW forum is the best! Well, I am a bit partial I reckon. There is so much to read here and I am learning a lot. It seems it is almost a "I double dare ya" to grow plants not really meant for this region. For example I am attempting to make a tree peony thrive. That has been a bit of a challenge but I think I will get there.

Thank you again and it will be interesting to learn if anyone has had successing with growing English lavender here.

All the best,

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Welcome Ben!

Yep, there are lavender growers on here somewhere and they'll pop in, I'm sure. There are also some trying their hand at peonies, so hopefully you'll get some feedback there, too. And it's "double dog dare ya" around here lol but we're brave and we march forth, trying everything we can get our grubby little hands on.

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Welcome Ben. Sorry I will be no help with the lavendars. I have killed at least 5 myself.
Speaking of peonies Rodica what happened to yours??? Kim???

Tucson, AZ

Good afternoon Ben.
This is going to be a lame answer for your question. Yes you can, but I have no idea what type mine are. I got them from Mesquite Valley Growers in the spring and they have done very well each year.

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Hi Ben! I've managed to keep a French one alive for about 4 months now if that is of any help. I don't know the difference between the names and whether or not the french is any different from any of the others but that is what the tag said so I am sticking to it!! It is planted in the front yard where it gets almost full sun all day other than a bit of filtering in the afternoon. When I planted it, I was lazy and just scooped some of the landscaping rocks from around the hole into the bottom. The rest of the hole was filled with the dirt I had removed originally. I just started gardening in January 2007 and have killed many a plant to include Spanish lavender due to to much watering on my strawberry plant next to it. Sigh, not sure it helps but there you go! Good luck and I would love to see a picture of the design you were describing!!!


Beverly Hills, CA

Hello Everyone and thank you for the replies. Nice one.

To: azreno: I love that mentality -- trying everything we can get our grubby little hands on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am learning it is a case of where you position the plant. For example I have several varieties of geraniums and a few of those are the hardy geraniums from Britain. Well, they are not performing exceptionally well but at least living due to only getting a little morning sun and then shade for the rest of the day. In this same area I have some ivy geraniums which look real good actually. They will be moved to a sunnier locale when the daytime temps cool. According to Chuck George that will be the beginning to middle of October! Smiles. It's a challenge but a rewarding one at the same time. It would be so much simpler to only use native plants and have a fail safe garden but where's the fun in that!

To: marieortiz: Yeah, lavenders are a challenge. I am doing a lot of preparation though so I will hopefully have some success. Before moving to Tucson I lived in Pearce. I was fresh off the plane after living in England for so long. The first thing that came to my head was "Wow! look at that sun! I bet I can make anything grow here!" Hah! I arrived in early August and got to work on the landscaping. I ordered by mail some fuschias! HUGE mistake. They croked almost immediately. Oh, and I decided to put some hostas under the shade of the mesquites. Oops! One other thing I did was to create a bed along a fence intended for lavenders. I convinced the boss (despite my previous failed endeavours) to purchase a dozen Munstead Lavenders. Well, first let me say Pearce is 10 degrees cooler than Tucson so heat was not necessary the problem -- BUT -- When planting I put bone meal at the bottom of every hole as recommended by the vendor. I had the bed looking beautiful and I envisioned a lovely row of lavenders that would only increase in size over the years. I was pleased with my work for the day and called it a night. In the morning I went out to water and low and behold every single lavender was dug up and strewn across the bed. HOW HORRIBLE! It turns out javelinas REALLY like bone meal so I removed every trace of it and placed rock all over the bed and after several nights of being dug up were finally able to rest and grow. Well, that was the plan. After their ordeal PLUS being planted in a bed not really suited for lavenders they started to die off. One by one. I thought them dead. I didn't know if I watered them too much or what so I just left them and set the whole bed up with a drip. They never seemed to grow back but if you were to cut into one of the stems, there was wick so I thought I would leave them. Well, fast foward a few years and moving away to Tucson I thought that bed would never reach its full potential. I went back recently and those plants are doing pretty okay actually. They kind of came into their own and actually had blooms. Sorry a long story but thought it worth sharing.

Hi rayman: Yeah, there are some but I don't know if they are the English variety which have the real long stems and branch out beautifully. I think I am going to order some Munsteads and see how we go. If you all are interested, I can keep you updated on the progress of the bed, planting and success or failure of the planting.

Thank you all again and take good care!

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Ben sounds like you will fit right in here!! Ray can fill you in on the black tights and tutu remarks that you will see occasionally pop up in a thread out of now where. Oh and the flying monkeys too.

I just received a plant that said good to zone 7. I guess I was not paying attention when I ordered that one. It should be dead with in a week or two.

This message was edited Sep 13, 2007 2:29 PM

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Come on Marie, it may be a challenge but I'll bet you find a spot for it and make it flourish!! LOL! What kind of plant was it?

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I have the tag at home but it was a vine I wanted. I am thinking something meant for zone 7 is not going to survive the furnace we live in :o(

Beverly Hills, CA

Hey Christina!

That does help actually. I have been looking at some french varieties over in the plant files. How funny I have the plant files open in one window and this post in another. I really should be working I think.

I just purchased some Munsteads. That may be a safe bet. I am now looking at the French varieties. I may alternate with thise. Good suggestion!

I will keep this thread open and provide photos of my building the bed, planting and the finished version. Of course the wild flowers and bulbs won't make their appearance for a while but at least there will be something to look at. The cool thing is that the bed is going to be made of cinder blocks and I am contemplating going two high. I am going to put thyme, alyssum and other easy going trailing plants in every hole. The aim is to have so many things draping down that the grey of the blocks won't be as evident. I also read somewhere that rubbing compost all over the blocks is a good effect too!

Thank you for the D-Mail by the way. I am going to check out the thread now!

Take care,

This message was edited Sep 13, 2007 3:03 PM

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Hmmm....I am liking the cinder block idea!!! We have a few areas where the concrete is too close to the wall so nothing can grow. Building up with the blocks would be an interesting fix for several of the areas I can't use at the moment! Now, to figure out what types of plants...

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Javelinas! Oh, that must've been heartwrenching :(

Marie.....anychance the zone 7 was a refernece to cold? What was the plant, it's killing me!

Beverly Hills, CA

Hi Christina,

The end result should be pretty cool actually. I envision for my bed a center piece which in this instance will be a Rosa Rugosa. You can't really go wrong with this plant and my my are these roses fragrant!!! Then I wanted to flank the bush with the lavenders and interwine some ground covers and provide gaps for the wild flowers and bulbs to come through. Should be an interesting result when it fully takes off.

I completely recommend the rugusa as a starting point and then perhaps some penstemons. I am not sure where Tolleson is but here in Tucson we have a park called Tohono Chul and they are going to be having a special penstemon sale from October 12th.

I am going to start on this project this weekend so I will post images as I go.

To Marie: I feel right at home! I am intrigued by the flying monkeys now. Regarding your vine, I bet if you give it some shade it will do okay. I hope it grows for you!

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

It was some vine I was after earlier this year. I wanted the red but got the white, which make it a double mistake. When I get home and find the tag I will let you know Lynn.

It was chinese something or another.

Gilbert, AZ

Welcome Ben: I hope you enjoy gardening in Az. I know it will be a big difference from England but this a great group and I am sure they can help you.
Good gardening

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Oh, I know what it is....magnolia vine, right? It should do fine for you Marie, find a cool spot for it, one thing is for sure- it ain't freezing this winter :o}

Phoenix, AZ

Hi Ben! Welcome :)

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Yeah that is it Lynn. Believe it or not I cannot even remember where I planted it last night. I really need to make a garden map.

Tucson, AZ

Hi Benny,

I've grown lavender successfully, and unsuccessfully, here in Tucson for quite a few years. Recently, aside from the attack of the overgrown basil, I've been pretty successful. Did you say you were creating a raised bed or an in-ground bed? I ask this because, as you know, lavender needs to be in a location that drains VERY well. So, be sure to water the holes where you want to plant them and check them for drainage. Caliche can be underneath, which will prevent adequate drainage. In my yard, there's not a "caliche reef" but there are pockets of soil with hunks of caliche that tend to clump up and prevent drainage. I always do a drainage test before I plant anything. I find that lavender grows best here in absolute full sun. Some folks will disagree with me on this but that's my opinion. I amend the soil really well with compost and composted manures (sheep, llama, even some horse) and let it sit for a couple of weeks. If the bed is going to be for herbs only I'll also add some sand. If I'm planting other things as well I'll add sand to the planting hole for each lavender. The varieties I've had the best luck with are sweet, french, Provence, Spanish, and Munstead. Of course, nothing lasts forever but the longest I had one single plant was about 8 years and then it started looking pretty ratty. I have all of my herbs on drip irrigation and will provide less to the lavenders by using a smaller emitter. During monsoon season, if I'm in town, I'll turn off the irrigation completely to the lavender bed and hand water only if necessary. The excessive heat combined with the humidity can kill a lavender plant in no time.

I hope you have great success with your lavenders, etc. Why not join us at the Tucson get together at my house on October 27? I should have my herb bed cleaned up by that time.

Lincoln, NE(Zone 5a)

Nice to meet you, Benny! Glad you came to join us!

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

momherb I think you really want this to be on the 27th. Is there something we should all know about this date???
Benny it is on the 20th :o)

Tucson, AZ

Yikes! I did it again. I'll remind him that it's on the weekend before. What's up with that????

Blythe, CA(Zone 10b)

Benny, I started with 4 lavenders plants. They all did good until the big freeze of last winter. The only one that survived it was sweet lavender. It's still living quite well and even bloomed this summer.

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Welcome Ben :)

No help here either, with lavenders, but I sure would enjoy having some if they'd make it.

Hope yours do well, and look forward to the lovely pictures

Beverly Hills, CA

Hello Everyone!

Sorry for the lack of replying. I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you to all for the warm welcome! It is much appreciated and great to meet a network of people with common interests and goals. As they say in England... Nice one!

To Linda: Thank you! I DO enjoy gardening in Arizona. It is the challenge of it all that really intrigues me. Before I even came back to the U.S. I bought a book from Amazon called "Gardening In The Desert" by Mary Irish. I had to say when I received it I was immediatlely fascinated by the variety of plants you could grow here. Though Mary talks about native plants she suggests other varieties which would tolerate a desert climate. I was naive to think that anything could grow here. Hence my previous mentioned learning experiences. Yes, it is quite different gardening here as opposed to England but in a good way. I will tell you the most impressive thing I had ever seen in all my years of gardening was seeing cacti in bloom. Oh wow! Every cactus here creates amazing flowers. There is a specialized cactus nursery called Bach's on Thornydale Road just past Cortaro Farms. I went there for the first time in late spring and could not believe my eyes. I have attached some photos. So, Linda, yeah I miss my garden back there but am loving the diversity of a desert garden!

To Fish_knees! HEY! How's it going?? Thank you for the welcome and thank you again for all your help from before. You will be pleased to know that the ivy geraniums are at last perking up. One is even blooming. Here in our new home I have a covered patio and they are happy as can be receiving some brief morning sun and living in the shade the rest of the time. Long may it continue! At any rate, good to see you on this thread! Nice one!

To momherb: Hey there and thanks for the welcome and advice. Hey... 8 years is a LONG time to have a lavender plant. While I have seen some rural cottage gardens that have had lavender there for many years, I am pretty confident this is not the norm. If memory serves from watching "Gardener's World" there comes a point when lavenders are no longer productive and it is advised to simply replace them. So, I have to say, hands down you have had astounding success growing your plants. You should be congratulated! Do you harvest your lavender? As I am sure you will agree, there is nothing quite like going out in the morning and stripping a stem and immediately smelling the blooms in your hand.

I was hoping to get to my raised bed project this weekend but alas I have to go out of town. Looks like it will be started next weekend. As the days go by, the mental picture of the flower bed becomes more clear. As mentioned, I am going to put a rugosa in the center so I will have more compost there in the middle section for it. On the left and right sides that will flank the rose, I am going to create a soil mixture that I will think will suit the lavenders perfectly. It is going to be made up of mostly gravel with a tad of compost. For that added insurance of proper drainage, I am going to slope each flank and use small pebbles to keep the slope in place. Let's hope all the prep work pays off eh?? Once the core plants are in, I will interweave the collection of bulbs, etc.

Cheers for the invite to your house! I noticed the sticky when I first opened up the Southwest forums. Remind me nearer the time as it sounds real lovely! Nice one.

Thank you so much for your advice and for the invitation! I look forward to meeting you and anyone else who is planning to attend.

To betterbloom: Sorry about losing the plants. That freeze was something wasn't it? Too bad they didn't make a comeback. Sometimes they do. At least you still had one that you got to enjoy! I hope you are able to get some more planted. I read about the sweet lavender by the way. That is one I am probably not going to put in this bed but put it in a sunny corder with some penstemons and autumn sage. Good luck with the gardening!

To piggypoo: Hey there! I am really hoping they make it. Did you want some dried blooms or seed? Either way.. No worries. I am going to start posting pics of the project next weekend. It will be cool. You all can see it from beginning to end.

I thank you all again and wish you a pleasant evening. Enjoy the cactus photos!

Thumbnail by BennysPlace
Beverly Hills, CA

Here is another photo of cactus in bloom at Bachs....

Thumbnail by BennysPlace
Beverly Hills, CA

And another....

Thumbnail by BennysPlace
Beverly Hills, CA

And hey, while I am at it... Here is one during the blooming of the Night Cereus at Tohono Chul. This was the 2006 blooming. I missed this year's BUT I have better camera gear so I will be going in 2008 for sure. I have a flash that will take a crystal clear picture in pitch black. I am excited! The last time I went I followed the bloke from the Arizona Daily Star around because he had a light and when he lit up a plant I would take pics too. He was cool about it because it turns out he was friends with the guy who did my wedding photos. I think towards the end I got on his nerves a bit though. :)

This message was edited Sep 14, 2007 9:04 PM

Thumbnail by BennysPlace
Tucson, AZ

Nice shots Ben. I love cactus flowers. I wish they lasted longer.

Beverly Hills, CA

Hey rayman!

Cheers!! I too love the cactus flowers and like you I wish they lasted longer. We have a huge cactus on the grounds where I work and I always notice too late when it is in bloom. I bring the camera in the next day and low and behold they are all on the ground. Oh well. I will just have to start carrying it around all the time. I have a new zoom lens so this May I am going after the saguaro blooms in Saguaro State Park and/or Catalina. I am pretty certain I can get a shot rivaling some of the postcards I have scene. That is my mission this coming late spring. Let's all pray for enough winter rain for a decent wildflower show this coming year! I have more shots. I will have to dig some more up and upload some more.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Welcome from me too, Ben! My Husband to Be is from the U.K. also. I think Rodica is the lavendar queen, if I'm not mistaken. She had gorgeous, huge lavendar bushes. Hopefully she'll chime in with her expertise. Me, I've killed everyone I've had here, but in retrospect, I know why. And I'm not gonna say why here, because everyone probably told me not to do what I did. Anywhooooo, we're (we being Dear Husband to Be and myself) much more successful these days with our "try growing anything" attitude, but also much smarter.... creating micro-climates, being diligent with the drip emitters (yes, I watch the plants daily and do have to adjust the emitters as the temps and climate changes, which is why I now use only adjustable drip heads).

We'd love to see the progress of your efforts... so pics are great!

This message was edited Sep 14, 2007 10:14 PM

Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)

evenin Benny...funni this thread should come up today!....this afternoon i just found and bought the most beautiful lavender x intermedia
Lavandin....though after researching it in APPEARS to be of the Old English variety......i will take all the advice i've read in here and see what success comes my way! good one!

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I love dried lavender!!!!! But I would really like to grow some here, if that were possible. Maybe when I get some more shade going. The only place I have to plant right now is in a very hot area of my yard.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Rodica??!!! Yours is in a hot sunny place, is it not?

Phoenix, AZ

Plant it on a mound of rocks and water it when you think of it.
I've had very good luck with Spanish, French and English.
Good drainage, poor soil, heat.

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