Ahh lavender… the scent immediately makes me happier and calmer… It also transports me back to Provence where our BnB hostess gifted us with lavender sachets that still smell heavenly years later! Little did I know then that I would be growing and drying lavender of my own and making hundreds of my own lavender sachets to give away myself! In this post, I’ll show you how to harvest and dry your own lavender. Then make sure to check out my post on how to make Easy DIY Lavender Sachets!
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden at home, or even a small patio where you can have a few potted plants, I definitely recommend that you plant some lavender so that you can have buds of your own to dry. Dried lavender sachets make the best DIY gifts for birthdays, holidays, Mother’s Day or any special occasion! The scent of lavender is beloved around the world and is known for its healing and calming benefits.
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Grow Lavender in the Garden
Growing lavender is super easy. They’re an easy-care and low-water use plant, they look great and they smell AMAZING when they’re in bloom! We have about 22 English lavender plants in our front yard that fill us with delight every summer with their beautiful blooms and amazing scent. An added bonus is that bees love them!
We planted our lavender when they were tiny and within a year, they were pretty big and produced lots of stems and flowers for harvesting. Our bushes provide more lavender buds than we can harvest each year to make DIY lavender sachets. The only downside is that they need to be cut back each year, otherwise they would be huge! Make sure to plant them at least three feet apart to allow for growth.
Grow Lavender in Pots
Another option is to grow them in pots or containers. I’ve seen small lavender plants for sale at Trader Joe’s that you can transplant into a larger pot or container at home. They should also be readily available at nurseries in late Spring or early Summer. Make sure to use a large enough pot to allow for rapid growth. I recommend at least a 12-16″ pot with a hole in the bottom for drainage. Lavender plants like a lot of sun, so be sure to place them somewhere they can get direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day.
Types of Lavender
Lavender comes in many varieties and they’re all beautiful. English lavender (Lavendula angustifolio) contains more oils than other varieties, and are the most commonly used variety for making essential oils, aromatherapy and bath products, as well as for culinary purposes. Other common types of lavender include French and Spanish lavender. We have 5 varieties in shades of purple, magenta and white and we love them all! We only harvest the purple English lavender for drying though.
The Best Time to Harvest Lavender
Lavender is fairly easy to harvest and dry – there are just a few guidelines to remember. The most important is timing. You’ll want to cut and harvest the stems when the buds are formed, but before they open (before the flower petals come out). Harvesting them at this time is best because this is when their scent strongest. For my plants in the S.F. Bay Area, that’s usually in June. In other areas it may be July or August. I usually wait until a few buds have flowered, but the majority of them haven’t.
On days that you harvest them, try to cut them in the mid-morning when the plant is completely dry from any morning dew, but before the day gets hot. Strong sun rays and higher temperatures make the fragrant oils evaporate, so cutting them before the hot summer sun is out helps to preserve the aroma.
Cutting the Lavender
When cutting the lavender stems, aim to cut them an inch or two above the leaves. This way, you’re also pruning the plant and protecting the plant to continue growing throughout the season by leaving the leaves intact. If you plan to do a separate pruning of your plants at the end of the season, you can cut them shorter (higher up), which makes them easier to handle. Make sure to not cut into the thick woody part as this can hurt the plant.
I usually gather a small bundle, about 8-10 stems, and cut them together to save time. You can either place them on the ground or in a basket while you continue cutting.
It’s important to use a sharp pair of scissors when cutting the stems since an incomplete cute can damage the plant! I love these Japanese floral scissors that I got from Amazon (similar brand here if those are out). They’re very sharp, strong, smooth and so comfortable to hold.
Gather Small Bundles to Dry
After cutting the stems from the plant, you can trim them a bit shorter if they’re very long and also tidy up your bundle to make them easier to handle. Gather them into small bundles for drying. I usually tie no more than 20 stems together. Having more will make it harder for air to circulate while drying and may lead to mildew or mold. In addition, smaller bundles are just easier to handle after they’re dried!
You can then tie the bundles together with a piece of twine (easier to remove than rubber bands) that can be reused year after year. I cut my twine around 16 inches long and use them for hanging also. You can find twine at many places such as Amazon, Michael’s, Home Depot, and Target.
Store in a Dark area
Once you have your bundles tied together, it’s time to dry them! You can hang them from the piece of twine that’s holding them together. If you plan on using them for decoration as small bouquets, you’ll want to hang them upside down to keep the stems straight. (If you’re only planning on using the dried buds to make sachets, you don’t necessarily have to hang them upside down.) Drying them in a dark room will also help preserve the purple color.
I hang the bundles from clothing racks, unused guest bathrooms, storage rooms, on a string in the garage, etc. When I run out of dark rooms to hang them in, I simply stick them into small vases, buckets or containers to dry in areas without direct sunlight, making sure there’s enough space separation between the bundles so that they don’t get tangled together and have enough air circulation. Note that the stems may bend while drying if they’re not upside down. You can also hang them outside in a shaded, protected area if that’s available.
Leave the bundles alone for 3-4 weeks to completely dry before extracting the buds for use.
Extracting the Buds and Storing Them
After the lavender buds are completely dry, it’s time to harvest the buds for use. Be warned that this step can get quite messy! Make sure to work in a dedicated space and have a vacuum cleaner ready for clean-up afterward. We recently purchased a super light-weight Dyson vacuum cleaner and love it sooo much! I also recommend working in a well-ventilated area, or even outdoors if possible since the scent of lavender can be quite intense indoors when you’re working with a lot of them.
Take care when you’re handling them after drying – there may be a good amount of fallout of dried brown plant bits. Make sure to not tangle the bundles together – this will create an even bigger mess! The first thing I usually do is to carefully take a few small bundles outside and give them a good shake to remove any dried brown bits. I do this because I want mostly lavender buds for use and the dried brown bits are hard to separate from the buds once they’re extracted. Don’t worry – the buds are hardy and won’t come off easily with a little shaking.
I then take them to a table with a tray and start running my fingers over the buds to remove them. They should come off pretty easily. Once I’m done with a few bundles, I pour the buds into wide-mouthed glass jars. Mason jars are perfect for this! I fill the bottles to the top and cap them immediately and store them in a dark closet until I’m ready to use them. The glass jar with the snap-tight lid in the picture below is from Ikea.
I put the harvested stems into a large paper bag for composting afterwards.
There you have it! With just a little work and some patience, you’ll easily have several jars of fragrant lavender buds to use! A quick and easy way to make lavender sachets is to buy bundles of small cotton/muslin drawstring sachets from Amazon!
How Long Do Dried Lavender Stay Fragrant?
If harvested at the right time and properly dried and stored, the buds should stay fragrant for several months to several years. I have some unused buds from several years ago that still smell amazing!
Make Your Own Easy DIY Lavender Sachets!
Now that you have a ready supply of dried lavender buds, you can use them in a variety of ways! One of the best uses is to make heavenly scented lavender sachets with them. Check out my post on how to make easy DIY lavender sachets that requires no sewing! They make such wonderful and special gifts, especially when personalized with your friend’s initials!