Drying lavender is essential if you want to benefit from that gorgeous fragrance all year round. We love to grow lavender and have several hedges around the garden.
The drying process is designed to remove moisture but not diminish the colour and aroma of the lavender. To dry it completely you can chose one of these five methods. I will issue a word of warning around using the oven or microwave, please do not leave them unattended!
When To Harvest The Lavender
This can be a little bit tricky as you do want to leave some to bloom fully to be enjoyed whilst still growing outside. We have positioned our lavender to be on the edge of a path through the garden and this can mean we want to see the bees buzzing around too!
To get the most intense scent in our dried flowers you will be able to pick them just before they bloom. By choosing to pick them before the midday sun, you are limiting the amount of essential oils that are lost in the heat. So go for early morning.
Pick longer stalks if hang drying. To be honest this is the main way we dry ours out and it is really the traditional way too. You will find that you can hang just a few bunches in your home, but if you go to the large scale lavender fields that we have in the UK and England they will also be air drying their lavender.
Whichever method you use, pick good stems that have healthy growth and no signs of dead leaves. Try to shake as many little bugs off as possible. We are not going to be washing the stems as it can almost be detrimental to the blossoms.
These processes will massively vary depending on the type of lavender you have grown! Always buy from a reputable nursery though and we have based this article on a Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ variety. This is a perfect hardy perennial and will cover any pathway in a really lovely manner.
How To Hang Dry Lavender
- Cut healthy stalks with enough of the stalk to tie together in bunches, but before masses of leaves.
- Tie between 20-25 stems together. use an elastic band to tie them together as opposed to using twine. Twine will make the stalks too compact, whereas an elastic band will mean that there are air gaps between the lavender stalks. This will allow for air to circulate when the stems are drying.
- Use a paperclip to make a hook through the elastic band. This will mean you can then slide it on to a door frame or windowsill anywhere around the house.
- Hang the bunch in a dark, cool and airy location. You can choose the garage for instance, however you wont benefit from the aroma as you is dries this way. I like to air dry our bunches of lavender in the kitchen, as it is fairly dark in there.
- After 2-4 weeks the lavender should be dry. To check you can unhook the bunches and bring them down. Gently run your fingers over the flowers. If they drop off they are dry. So do this over a clean, dry mason jar. You should be able to use your finger and thumb to sort of gently rub the flowers off of the stalks.
- You can then store the dried lavender in a cool dark place. As long as the jar is air tight you will not have any of the ingredients required for mold. This is perfect for keeping the blossoms fresh for a long while.
- You can use the stalks on fires to put mosquito’s and other biting bugs. Simply make a little tin foil parcel and break the stalks up. Pierce the parcel and put it on the fire. Alternatively use directly on the fire.
Drying Lavender On A Block Of Wood
This is an ideal way to dry smaller bunches of lavender.
- Take fresh healthy cuttings of flowering stems. Make sure the get the blooms before they open up to get the full strength of aroma.
- Lay them out on a block of wood in the garden. Avoid using metal as the tray will heat up and cook the lavender releasing the essential oils along the way. This is not quick process and if you have any fears of rain they will not dry out and will encourage mold instead.
- A few sunny days should do the trick and you can tell they are dry when the stalks snap, rather than bend.
Not really advisable in the UK as we have such unpredictable weather and it is hard to know that the flowers will have a good chance of drying out. If you have any fear of strong winds or dampness it will be even harder to get the stalks to dry, before damp and mold arrive.
Using A Dehydrator To Dry Your Lavender
This is going to be the right method if you want to dry the lavender flowers quickly.
- Choose blossoms that have already opened but that are not yet dying off. Leave a little less stalk on the flowers than normal
- Lay the lavender single layer on the trays and set the dehydrator to herbal and leave for two hours.
- There is real inconsistency with the different varieties of lavender and you may want to monitor this more closely as you can over dry the stalks very quickly.
- If when you check on them they are still pliable and the stalks do not snap, then leave them in for a further hour.
- When they are dry completely the stalks will snap to the touch and the petals will feel like paper. Let them cool before separating and storing.
As I said, we don’t tend to use the food dehydrator, but it is quick and easy, but I wouldn’t leave it on and go out. Keep an eye on it and make sure to not over dry the lavender.
Using A Microwave To Dry Lavender
Keep a close eye on this one too!
- You will just be putting the flowers in the microwave. No stalks. So start by separating the blossoms from the stalks.
- Place a microwave proof plate inside and lay the blossoms thinly on this.
- Microwave on full for 30 seconds. Then check and give 10 second blasts until the blossoms are papery and dry.
- Do not leave in the microwave unattended, make sure to only dry for the last few times with short blasts.
We don’t use the microwave method as it can be a very slight difference between just dry enough and savaged!
Oven Drying Lavender
We like to oven dry several herbs that you cannot hang and air dry. Ones like oregano that you will thank us for removing the leaves first.
- Go for a nice low heat, 100 Celsius is ideal.
- Use a flat baking tray with a layer of baking paper on.
- Cover thinly with lavender stalks
- Leave the oven door slightly ajar and place the tray inside for around 10 minutes.
- Check to see how brittle the stalks are. If they are bendy, pop back inside for a little while longer.
- Once cooled remove the blossoms and put the stalks into a separate container ready for a fire pit.
With the oven method it is imperative that you leave the oven door open to allow for the moisture to escape. This is the purpose of heating the stalks. Just be very careful not to walk away in case the stalks get too dry and too hot.
I would recommend that you give it a go and enjoy the drying process. Then get a bit more adventurous and start to grow more unusual lavender varieties.
We also preserve herbs in many other ways. Drying is a good starting point but oil infusions and freezing can also work very well for herbs like rosemary.