Lavender in Hawaii
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Cathy Toda
Posted on: September 4, 1999

I was given your website from Herbs For All Seasons. I hope you are able to help me. I am hoping to grow lavender in Hawaii. I understand your company to be large and able to ship lavender plants to Hawaii.

If this is so please let me know. I would love to place an order for lavender plants as well as seeds. Do you think there is a potential for growing it here?

Yes, we offer seeds, potted plants and plug trays, and yes we do ship to Hawaii. Although we are based in Canada, our plants are pre-cleared to ship anywhere in the United States, including Hawaii.

It is important to realize that there are different varieties of lavender, and some of the better strains cannot be grown reliably from seeds. Depending on your target market, and on what your growing conditions are, you will probably want to focus on the English lavender types (Lavandula angustifolia) and the hybrid lavandins (L. x intermedia). For more details on the varieties available check our online catalogue.

You need to experiment to determine which varieties are best suited in your area. Lavender grows best in full sun, in well-drained, slightly alkaline soil, in temperate areas that do not get too much rainfall and humidity is moderate to low. We have no reports on how well the English and hybrid lavandin types perform in Hawaii.

With this year’s Herb of the Year (1999) being lavender, we have noticed a renewed interest in lavender, both from home gardeners and from commercial growers.

The traditional markets are lavender oil, bulk dried flowers for the food, aromatic and medicinal markets, and whole lavender flowers for the dried flower market. By far, France is the dominant source for lavender, and as such it exercises a certain amount of control of the market. This means that new entrants to the industry must take care that they consider the market opportunities carefully. It is easy to lose money in a market when you are competing against farmers that are bigger, more experienced and more efficient than you are.

Because oil production requires access to expensive distillation equipment, and because the oil market is so heavily dominated by efficient French producers, we do not recommend that you tackle the oil market, at least not initially. The bulk dried flower and whole dried flower markets are probably easier to get into.

We see as the most exciting opportunities for lavender growers is the value-added and farm attraction segments of the lavender market. ‘Value-added’ includes such varied items as perfumes, Provence-style culinary herb blends, herbal soaps, potpourris, and others. These products are likely to be well received locally and nationally. Mailorder and Internet, as well as traditional retail and wholesale channels, are viable routes for value-added lavender businesses.

The farm attraction idea is less well developed, but we think it offers excellent opportunities. The idea is to grow lavender on a farm that is designed to accommodate visitors. Visitors will buy farm produced products, take workshops, buy plants, etc. With proper marketing, a lavender farm could be a big attraction. Lavender festivals could be held when flowering is at a peak. A farm attraction business could easily be combined with a value-added business.

Also, do you have access to any data on making products with the lavender? Do you hold any workshops? Is there someone to contact that could help me?

At the our Fourth Richters Commercial Herb Growers Conference (Oct. 23-24, 1999) Cathy Bartolic, a grower of lavender and garlic in Ontario, will discuss these two crops in the context of building a value-added business.

Generally speaking, commercial herb growers do not welcome inquiries from people seeking information on how to get started in the business. For this reason we cannot provide contacts of growers we know. This tradition of not sharing information impedes the overall progress of the industry, and because of that, we started the annual growers conference to get growers talking to each other. Coming to the Fourth conference is an excellent opportunity for you to assess your business plans and learn from other who already have build successful businesses.

There is no one book we are aware of that covers commercial lavender growing and marketing completely, but helpful books include (all available from Richters): Tessa Eveleigh’s "Lavender", Patti Barrett’s "Growing and Using Lavender",Lee Sturdivant’s "Herbs for Sale", and John Mason’s "Starting a Nursery or Herb Farm".

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