Courtesy [Annie Spratt, Unsplash]

When you hear the word “lavender,” you might immediately think of a lighter shade of purple. But there’s more to this herb than its colour.

Origin of this plant is believed to be from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India. According to online publications, its history goes back some 2,500 years.

In ancient times, lavender was used as a holy herb. Additionally, it was used to freshen up and give a scent to a variety of personal items, such as clothes and hair.

Lavender is a flowering plant of the mint family known for its beauty, sweet floral fragrance and multiple uses.

The plant is popular in Kenyan homes, usually placed close to the windows to give an amazing fragrance to the room. Hosea Kipng’etich gives us tips on how to grow lavender.

Placement

For indoor growing, lavender should receive as much light as possible. It needs three to four hours of direct sunlight. “You can rotate the pot or container weekly for uniform growth and flowering. Without enough light, the lavender plant will produce weak, will cease to produce flowers, and will be more susceptible to disease,” says Kipng’etich.



Indoors, good ventilation and air circulation are important, but do not place the plant where it will be exposed to the direct flow of forced-air heat. Ideal indoor temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees celsius at night and 18 to 21 degrees celsius during the day.

Watering

Drench thoroughly when watering and allow the soil to become slightly dry between waterings. Check soil moisture by feeling soil with your finger. Over- watering and allowing the soil to stay constantly moist may cause rot.

He says: “Do not allow the soil to go completely dry, or the lavender will react with yellowing lower leaves.” 

Pruning



Cutting branches for flower harvest causes new growth to sprout and promotes bushiness. Tip prune occasionally if more bushiness is desired. Be aware that flowers are produced at the branch tips and constant tip pruning will reduce flowering.

Fertilising

“Fertilise with water soluble fertiliser every four weeks,” says Kipng’etich.

Health Benefits

  1. Reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

Chronic high blood pressure puts added stress on the heart, increasing the risk of health complications like stroke and heart attack.

But a small study published in 2017 in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research found that when 40 people inhaled lavender essential oil after open-heart surgery, they reduced their blood pressure and heart rate, suggesting the oil had a positive effect on their vital signs.

  1. Could relieve asthma symptoms

Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of lavender, it may also improve bronchial asthma. A study on mice published in July 2014 in the journal Life Sciences found that lavender essential oil had a positive impact on respiratory health, relieving allergic inflammation and mucus hyperplasia.

  1. Lessens menopausal hot flashes

Hot flashes (or hot flushes) are a common menopause symptom that affects many older women. It causes a sudden feeling of heat over the body, and it can make the face flushed and trigger perspiration.

But lavender aromatherapy for 20 minutes twice a day may help reduce menopause flashing and improve quality of life, according to a study published in September 2016 in the Journal of Chinese Medical Association.

  1. Help combat fungus growth

There are also a number of studies highlighting the potential antifungal activity of lavender. Studies suggest lavender essential oil may be effective in inhibiting the growth of certain types of fungus, such as C. albicans. The oil could also act as remedy for treating ringworms and athletes foot which are also caused by fungus

  1. Potentially promotes hair growth

In yet another study, lavender essential oil applied to the backs of mice once a day, five times a week, for four weeks, resulted in an increase in their number of hair follicles and a thicker dermal layer. This leads researchers to believe that lavender could potentially be used as a hair growth promoting agent, though more research is needed.

  1. Safety considerations

Lavender poses a low-level toxicity concern for pets. Dogs and cats that have eaten large enough amounts of the foliage have been known to experience gastrointestinal blockages. As always, use caution and your best judgement when bringing a new plant into your home.

Potential pests and diseases

Given the proper growing conditions, diseases or pests cause no major damage to lavender plants. Chronic overwatering or compacted soil may lead to root rot. Inadequate sunlight results attracting aphids especially during the growing season.

Avoid these problems by planting lavender in coarse, well-draining soil, watering only when needed, and growing the plant in direct sun exposure.

Cost

The plant is mostly sold in online shops. You can find it at the side of the road in flower markets and plant shops. Cuttings go for Sh100 to Sh500 depending on the size.