Learn about Lavender

  • Study Lavender Growing
  • Start a Lavender Farm
  • Sell Lavender Products
  • Cater to Tourists
 Lavender flowers and leaves can be used for medicinal, craft, cosmetic and even culinary purposes; and is sold as ‘bunched lavender’, stripped flowers for crafts and distilled oil – making it a profitable commodity world-wide.

Commercial lavender production is a significant industry globally; and one which like the wine industry, can offer significant rewards to anyone who approaches it in a considered and well planned way, and is able to develop and produce a competitive, quality product.

In this industry it is all about producing quality; and this course can be the first step toward a serious understanding of the commercial lavender industry.

Open Learning Lavender Course

Lavender has been a popular cultivated plant for many centuries and is perhaps the most common, and certainly one of the most versatile herbs you could ever consider growing. It can be grown as a shrub, a tub plant or a hedge; you can keep it cut low or let it grow to over a metre tall, depending on the species.

Commercially lavender is grown in France, England, Spain, Italy, USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Japan. Each region growing species that are best suited to local conditions - many trials have been conducted world-wide to isolate the best species for specific local conditions.

Some well known lavender farms have been operating for decades researching suitable species and refining production: Norfolk Lavender Farm in England, Bridstowe Lavender in Tasmania (Australia) being just two.

Lavender is also popular with gardeners for its flowers, foliage and scent. Some producers grow lavender exclusively to supply this market.


  • 10 lessons
  • 10 assignments
  • 100 nominal hours of study

1. Introduction: Classification and identification of lavender, general characteristics of the group, contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)

2. Soils, Fertilisers and Nutrition for Lavender: Soil structure, pH, organic matter, ameliorants and organic growing.

3. Cultural Techniques for Lavender Growing: Pruning, water management (mulching, irrigation, drainage, etc.), planting and establishment methods, crop scheduling, no dig gardening.

4. Lavender Propagation: Propagation from cuttings, propagation growth media, other propagation methods.

5. Commercial Alternatives: Managing a Market Garden, standards, mulches, problems and their control, weed control without chemicals, economic outlook for herbs.

6. Plant Variety Selection and Breeding: Breeding and selecting new varieties, lavender clone selection for essential oils in Tasmania.

7. Building Plant Knowledge: Lavender types and other varieties, advantages and disadvantages of different varieties.

8. Harvesting, Post-harvest Treatment and Storage: Harvesting, distillation and oils, post harvest preservation of fresh herbs, drying lavender.

9. Processing and Making Lavender Products: Lavender crafts, using herbs in cooking, selling herb products.

10. Marketing Lavender Produce: how to market your produce, considering your market, market research, selling successfully.


There are a number of practical tasks students will carry out in this course. If students have problems accessing facilities or resources for practical tasks, alternative tasks can be set. Practical tasks include:

  • Prepare a collection of 20 different types of lavender in the form of pressed, dried, labelled specimens
  • Compile a resource file of contacts relevant to lavender and lavender growing
  • Contact a number of lavender related organisations for information on their activities in the industry
  • Collect and test at least three different soil samples
  • Identify and (optional) manufacture a potting mix suitable for lavender growing
  • Collect information on organic and inorganic fertilisers from fertiliser companies
  • Research information on machinery used in horticulture by contacting the companies that produce it
  • Produce a no dig garden or an organic garden
  • Manufacture a propagating mix for lavender cuttings
  • Take lavender cuttings for propagation
  • Contact a herb nursery to observe their operation
  • Research irrigation equipment by contacting irrigation suppliers
  • Cross pollinate lavender and grow the resulting seed
  • Compare various types of lavender
  • Harvest a number of different types of lavender
  • Produce a small quantity of lavender oil
  • Produce two non edible and one edible product containing lavender
  • Visit a shop selling lavender products to observe marketing procedures


Harvest lavender on a sunny day early in the morning and again late in the afternoon to ensure that the volatile oils are at their most concentrated. During warm to hot weather the oils tend to dissipate into the surrounding air in the middle of the day - so harvesting at this time is best avoided.

During harvest the cut lavender is placed on mats that are rolled up and transported to the drying shed before evening dew falls; this discourages fermentation by keeping the flower spikes as dry as possible before distillation or drying in bunches.

Harvest periods also depend on how the material is to be processed; lavender to be sold as bunches is usually harvested earlier then that destined for distillation. For bunching, the flower spikes are usually harvested before they are fully open i.e. still tight in the spike. There will be variability throughout the crop ie. some flowers may be ready for harvest earlier then others.

Time the crop as ready for harvest when the flowers spikes are still in bud. However as there will be variability, there may be one or two florets on the spikes that have already opened. This is the perfect time to harvest. When several florets on the spike have opened or the flowers are wilting it is too late to harvest for bunching.

Spikes for distillation are harvested when they are fully open to ensure a full concentration of esters.

Time the harvest for oil distillation when about one third on the florets on the spikes are open , one third have started to wither and one third are still in bud through to when most florets have withered and there are virtually no buds or open florets left

Harvesting is usually undertaken rapidly within a week in dry, sunny, windless weather. If the weather turns cold, foggy or misty harvest should cease; ester concentration is low in cold weather

Lavender is easy to dry by simply picking fresh, tying in bundles and hanging upside down in a dry (preferably warm) dark room. Bunches must dry rapidly as this ensures minimal discolouration. Do not hang in a moist room or shed, or harvest during humid weather particularly in warm to hot climates. There must be good air flow around the plant material and for large quantities - forced air (fan) assisted drying is preferred. Natural drying will take place within a few weeks if day temperatures are reaching maximums of 20 to ‘30 degrees centigrade consistently.

Another technique (for very small quantities) - involves drying small amounts laid on paper towel in a microwave (you need to experiment - length of time and microwave setting will vary according to what you are drying). Lavender can be dried several other ways: on wire racks, in slow ovens, using solar drying devices, etc. The flowers are the best part of lavender to use dried, though the foliage is also able to be dried and used. Generally, foliage is best dried when it is in rapid growth (usually late spring or summer); selecting unmarked leaves, free of insects or disease.

Proper harvesting and after care of your crop is essential if you are to reap the benefits of all the hard work that went before. By treating your harvest properly you can reduce your waste to virtually nil.