How to harvest and dry lavender
We grow and dry lavender at a large scale here at Celtic Farm, and have an absolute love affair with these plants. We grow Provence and Grosso varieties, known for their beautiful long stems and fragrant blooms. Lavender is attractive and aromatic out in the field or garden, but don’t stop there. This lovely plant has several applications in the house, the most of which begin with dried lavender. The lovely purple blooms may be harvested to produce dried lavender bunches or dried lavender buds for potpourri or sachets. Fortunately for all of us, drying lavender is not difficult if you follow some simple guidelines.
How to Harvest Lavender
One of the top questions we get is “What is the best time to harvest lavender?” We recommend harvesting when one third of the lavender spike has blossomed. This is the perfect time for hanging and drying as the stems will be stiff, and oil development is close to its peak within the buds. So where do you prune the stems? If you look at lavender growth, it is quite apparent where the woody, stiff brown growth transitions to new and fresh green growth. Lavender likes an aggressive cut back at harvest, but be sure to not go into the brown old growth or you may not get more growth. Leave a minimum of 2 or so inches of new growth at the tip, usually right at the base of the flower stem.
Don’t worry if all the flowers are fully bloomed, these stems are perfect for drying and harvesting the dry buds for potpourri or sachets.
How to Dry Lavender Flowers
Drying lavender is easy. As you harvest, bundle lavender stems together in bunches the size of the circle you can make by touching your thumb and pointer finger. Apply a rubber band to each lavender bunch a few inches from the cut end. We double tie with the rubber band and use pre-bought “s” hooks to make hanging simple. Hang bundles upside down in a dark, warm and ventilated area to dry. To preserve the finest color, keep drying lavender away from direct sunshine, and lay a sheet beneath the bundles to collect any falling buds or blossoms. Depending on humidity, dried lavender bunches should be ready in seven to ten days.
Lavender can also be dried by putting loose stems in a basket or on a screen. If possible, keep them in a single layer. Gardeners in arid regions may spread loose lavender stems on a sheet or tablecloth on a deck or driveway, covering blossoms with another sheet to keep debris out. Depending on relative humidity, this procedure normally takes a week to ten days to produce dried lavender.