Choosing Lavender To Meet Your Needs

Often home gardeners are disappointed in their efforts at growing lavender.  We see those images online of lush lavender fields growing in the Mediterranean, then are puzzled that one little plant does not do well.

9259 UK lavend2

English lavender has a smaller thin bloom than French or Spanish varieties.

The key to lavender success is choosing the correct variety.  The types of lavender typically available are English, French or Spanish.  When you compare the three types, think of English lavender as a functional variety while the French and Spanish lavenders are more decorative for use in landscaping.


English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is grown for its fragrance, a scent that is calming and relaxing. It is the one grown in large fields for distillation of oils. The blooms are skinny, colors vary, and its smell is most potent just before it blooms.  It is the most hardy variety to grow. Known to repel deer, moths and slugs, it should be pruned twice a year. Prune in the spring to remove dead stems and again, just before the flower buds open into blooms. Never prune into the woody part of the plant. It can be dried by hanging upside down out of direct sunlight and used for culinary purposes or crafting. Two favorite types are Munstead and Hidcot.

French and Spanish lavender are known for being attractive landscaping plants. The bloom on the lightly scented French lanvender has a wooly look. Ornamental Spanish lavender blooms can best be described as bold with a resinous smell.  Both plants bloom longer than English varieties which makes them the best choice for landscaping. By frequently dead heading, you are able to get an even longer blooming season. Both kinds do well in dry heat.

10 Facts About Lavender:

  1.  Lavender likes sun, a little on the dry side with rocky, sandy soil.
  2.  Lavender does not like wet feet.
  3. Lavender is a good companion plant for succulents such as sedum.
  4. Bees love lavender, making it a delicious honey plant.
  5. There are over 450 varieties of lavender.
  6. Lavender is in the mint family.
  7. The term “true lavender” refers to the English kind.
  8. In plant symbolism lavender represents calmness, serenity and grace.
  9. The first lavender grown on a commercial scale was by the Shakers.
  10. Lavender was used in the mummification process 2500 years ago.

Submitted by: Johnnie Riley Davis, Marshall County, Extension Master Gardener