Growing sea lavender, also known as marsh rosemary or statice, is an easy proposition. Not actually related to either lavender or rosemary, sea lavender is actually a member of the plumbago family. As its common name implies, limonium is often found growing by the sea, making it an ideal perennial choice for coastal gardeners, but anywhere you’ve got a sunny site, even if the soil is sandy or rocky, is a good spot for this easy care plant.
Hardy between zones three and nine, sea lavender is an herbaceous perennial that grows to about two feet high and wide. It is resistant to salt, drought, and deer. The leaves are dark green and form clumps, or rosettes, out of which the flower stalks rise. Bloom time is mid to late summer, and the long lasting flowers are generally pink or purple and small but numerous, forming open, airy masses that float above the foliage. In warmer climates, foliage is semi-evergreen to evergreen. Good cultivars to try include the pink flowered ‘Collier’s Pink,’ blue flowered ‘Blue Cloud,’ and purple flowered ‘Robert Butler’ or ‘Violetta.’ The flowers of sea lavender are attractive to butterflies.
Because it can be difficult to find in garden centers, people have taken to harvesting wild plants for planting purposes or for use in floral arrangements. Because of this, some states have declared this plant an endangered species and have passed laws forbidding the collection of plants and cuttings (which prevents seed production) from public or private property without consent of the owner, so be sure to use a reputable source for seeds and plants.
Choose a site that gets full sun, providing some afternoon shade in more southerly climates. Soil quality is not important except that it not be overly wet and heavy, as this can create rot problems for the roots and crown of sea lavender. Seeds should be planted in early spring and barely covered with soil; plants should be planted after the last average frost date for your area. If you’re planting several plants in a grouping, allow some space between plants to provide good air circulation and prevent any mold issues.
Once established, sea lavender is a very low care perennial. Generally speaking, it will not need watering, and pests are not an issue. Deadheading will prolong bloom, and the flowers, either fresh or dried, are good for use as fillers in floral arrangements. Dried flowers retain their fragrance, making them good choices for use in potpourri. To dry, harvest flowers once they have just opened, then hang them upside down in a cool, dark environment. Flowers left on the plant will dry as well and provide good winter interest.
Sea lavender can be propagated from seeds, from cuttings, or by division. Seeds can be planted in early spring and will take a couple of years to become fully established. Cuttings are also taken in early spring. Because sea lavender is not aggressive or invasive, division is usually not necessary. Division is the least effective way to propagate sea lavender because the roots are very long and difficult to fully dig up without damaging. If division is absolutely necessary, it’s best to do it in early spring.