Learn a little about the differences between French Lavender vs English lavender including a few of my favorite varieties. They are all fragrant and beautiful but when it comes to growing them, there are several differences.
I was recently fortunate enough to receive a French lavender plant from my sister-in-law. It has a beautiful fragrance and looks gorgeous. As a tender perennial herb, it has a plant hardiness to zone 8. This means that it can only grow outdoors in warmer climates so I will need to keep it as a houseplant. However, I can still move it outside during the summer season.
French lavender has the scientific name Lavandula dentata where dentata translates to "toothed" referring to the scallops on the leaves as shown above. It's sometimes confused with Spanish lavender or Lavandula stoechas.
Spanish lavender is native to the Mediterranean and has showier flower spikes than French lavender. The flowers grow on upright stems and their leaves are not scalloped like French lavender, but straight like English lavender. Sometimes you will see it referred to as Rabbit Ears due to the shape of the flower petals or bracts.
Neither French nor Spanish lavender is used much today in perfume and cosmetics but they are valued more for their ornamental use. Also, as I mentioned, both French and Spanish types of lavender prefer warm climates and are only hardy outside in Zone 8. For those of us living in cooler regions, that means that you will want to keep yours in a pot and bring it indoors during the cold winter season.
If you live in the north, you may want to plant English lavender or Lavandula angustifolia, a semi-evergreen perennial shrub. I have grown several plants over the years and it is one of the toughest plants in the garden. They are drought-tolerant and perhaps more importantly, deer resistant.
Most English lavender varieties have violet-blue flowers but there are also varieties that are pink or white.
Two of my favorite cultivars are Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead' and Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote.' Both have pretty gray-green foliage, grow well in my USDA zone 5 garden, and bloom from early summer to early fall.
Both have pretty gray-green foliage, grow well in my USDA zone 5 garden, and bloom from early summer to early fall.
Munstead, named after Munstead Woods in England, the home of famous gardener Gertrude Jeckyl, is hardy to USDA zone 5. It has pretty purple flowers, a great mounding shape, and gets about roughly 1.5 feet tall and wide in size. This lovely plant is also drought tolerant and deer resistant.
In addition, bees love it, it works great as a cut flower, can be dried for use in many crafts, and is even used in cooking.
Munstead's cousin, Hidcote is pretty much the same except that it is slightly smaller and the flowers are a much deep purple color.
Here is some Hidcote lavender that I dried. I love the dark purple flower buds it produces.
Tip: Make sure you harvest it when the flower is in this tight bud form. Hang it or lay it flat to dry then you can use it for sachets or potpourri.
Note: If you want to dry your lavender make sure you pick the flowers in bud form. If you wait too long like the flower heads in the pic above and will not dry well.
My newest type of lavender is called Sweet Romance® from Proven Winners. Its scientific name is Lavandula angustifolia 'KERLAVANGEM'. I have three of these plants in my full sun garden at the end of the driveway. They have grown so well and as you can see they have a nice compact size and the blooms are very abundant and vibrant.
Growing English Lavender in the Garden
The important thing to remember about English lavender is that they like well-drained soil. Most can take cool temps but not soggy feet so make sure you plant them in an area with good drainage. They also tend to have trouble in areas with high humidity. To help them even further make sure to prune them early in the season by thinning out the middle of the plant, foliage, and flowers. This will allow for plenty of airflow to keep the plants dry.
What About Lavandin?
Lavandin or Lavandula x intermedia is actually a hybrid between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavendula latifolia aka spike lavender. You may have seen gray-green leaves and the beautiful long stemmed 'Provence' or the popular 'Grosso' varieties of lavender plants in the nursery. This type of Lavender has a strong fragrance and is often used in the perfume industry. However, they have more camphor oil making their scent a little sharper than "true lavender," English lavender.
Growing lavender no matter what type is a rewarding practice. Their beautiful flowers are adored in the garden by butterflies and bees and can be used in a wide variety of recipes, home decor projects, and crafts.