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Lavender Production in Massachusetts

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Lavender

In 2001 - 2002 as part of an Extension outreach project, lavender was grown in southeastern Massachusetts. The goals of the project were to:

  • Determine the management practices for commercial lavender production in Massachusetts.
  • Determine the cost of commercial production of lavender for cut flowers and/or oil production.
  • Evaluate the market viability for lavender production in Massachusetts.

The following information was learned as a result of this project.

Propagation

  • Can easily be propagated from softwood cuttings.
  • Hardwood cuttings can also be propagated, but more difficult.
  • Tissue culture from callus derived from leaf buds is possible.
  • To maintain varieties lines lavender should not be propagated from seed.

Soils

  • Lavender requires well-drained soils.
  • Sandy, sandy loam, or gravelly soils are ideal.
  • Lavender does well in low-fertility soils.
  • Soil pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

Spacing Between Rows

  • Between rows: 4 ft., with a range of 3-6 ft.
  • Between plants: 1-3 ft., 30" most common
  • 3,000 - 5,000 plants per acre - 4,000 about average.

Price of Plants

  • Plugs: 128 plug tray $50-60, less for large quantities ($30-40).
  • 2" pots: $3-$4 retail, $1.50-2.00 large quantities.
  • 4" larger pots:- $4-$6, large quantities for around $3.00

Establishment

  • Plants should be "hardened" off before being put into the field.
  • In Massachusetts spring planting is recommended.
  • Flower buds should be trimmed off during the first year, and sometimes the second to speed up establishment.

Irrigation

  • Drip tape recommended.
  • Needed primarily in the first year, sometimes second.
  • Some irrigation may increase production in mature plantings. Overhead irrigation may increase disease problems.
  • Overhead irrigation may cause older plants to break open in the middle.

Fertilization

  • Composted manure and bone meal used at planting.
  • Up through year three, around 100 lb. N per acre can encourage vegetative growth.
  • Mature plants need no more than 50 lb. N per acre.
  • Excessive applications of N can decrease oil quality, and make plants unhealthy (also leads to increase weed competition). Phosphorus and Potassium requirements are also very low.
  • Periodic liming may be necessary to keep pH at 6.5 or higher.

Weed Control

  • Probably biggest production issue - critical for good yield and high quality.
  • Landscape fabric/weed barrier - expensive but dramatically decreases weeds.
  • Mulches - with young plants can help - organic mulches can trap moisture against plants.
  • Sand, gravel, oyster shells, etc. can be used. Light colored soils or mulches increase production and improve plant health/vigor.
  • Drip Irrigation to discourage weeds between rows.
  • Herbicides - pre-emergent herbicides effective but registration in question.
  • Cultivator between rows & hand weeding in rows is most common. Mature stands shade out most weeds.

Pests & Diseases

  • Root rot - Phytophthora and Armillaria - proper soil drainage is key to preventing.
  • Spittle Bug - common, unsightly, but causes only minor damage.

Hardiness

Cultivars

Confusion exists with cross-naming, inconsistency in cultivars worldwide Lavandula angustifolia ("True," English, French)

Examples:

Lavender Munstead Lavandula angustifolia' Munstead'
Lavender Sarah Lavandula angustifolia ‘Sarah' (munstead selection)
Lavender Hidcote Lavandula angustifolia ' Hidcote'
Lavender Hidcote Pink Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Pink'
Lavender Jeana Davis Lavandula angustifolia 'Jeana Davis'
Lavender Bowles Early Lavandula angustifolia 'Bowles Early'
Lavender Martha Melissa Lavandula angustifolia ' Melissa'
Lavender Fred Boutin Lavandula x intermedia 'Fred Boutin'
Lavender Fat Spike Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso'
Lavender Dutch Lavandula x intermedia 'Dutch'
Lavender Provence White Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence alba'
Lavender Provence Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence'

Flower Yields - 'Grosso'

  • Approximately 150 stems per bundle.
  • 4-7 bundles per plant - 5-6 average.
  • 12-15 bundles to yield a pound of dried buds.
  • Buds per plant – l/4 to ½ lb. per plant dried buds.
  • Bundles per acre 4,000 x 5 = 20,000.
  • Buds per acre: 1,000 - 1,500 pounds dried buds per acre.

Oil Production

  • L. angustifolia  yield between 3 and 15 quarts of oil per acre (about 5 to 25 lbs.)
  • Lavandin yield between 20 and 95 quarts of oil per acre (about 35 to 180 lbs.).
  • 1998 prices for lavandin oil, around $10.50/1b., true lavender oil about $22.50/1b.
  • Thus, on the wholesale market, lavandin varieties will generate around $400 to $2,000 per acre for oil production. True lavender L. angustifolia will generate around $120 to $350 per acre.
  • It is highly unlikely that most U.S. lavender producers can compete in the wholesale essential oil business with producers in some other parts of the world.
  • Oil production for small producers should be aimed at high quality, value-added markets.

Harvesting - Pruning

  • For oil production, mechanical harvesting is a must.
  • Hand harvesting is necessary for bundles, buds, and fresh flowers.
  • U-pick is an option that some farms use on a limited basis.
  • Proper pruning and shaping of plants extends life, improves production.

Marketing

  • Most U.S. lavender producers must develop their own products & markets, or partner with someone who will.
  • Value-added products are often key to marketing.

Products

  • Culinary uses and markets for lavender are rapidly growing - L. angustifolia is valued around $7.00 per ounce for premium quality culinary quality buds.
  • Lavender can be used to produce products such as lavender jelly, cookies, ice cream, culinary herb blends, lavender tea, honey, etc. Bath products - soaps, shampoos, bath oils, lotions, bath salts, spritzes, etc.
  • Perfumes, candles, incense, etc.
  • Sachets, potpourri, wands, pillows, etc.
  • Bundles, dried arrangements, wall hangings, wreaths, etc.

Prices

  • Retail about $6 -$10 per dried bundle, typically around $7.00 (125-150 stems/bundle).
  • Wholesale price about $2-3 per bundle. $30/1b. high end retail price for clean, colorful buds.
  • As low as $6.00 per pound for low quality buds - typically around $ 10.00 per pound is as low the price/pound goes for buds in this area.

Prepared January, 2002

by Paul Lopes, Floriculture Specialist, University of Massachusetts, Extension Floriculture Program

Last Updated: 
Jul 25, 2016
Topics: 
Commercial Horticulture
Commercial Horticulture topics: 
Crops
Flowers