French vs english lavender


Types Of Lavender: Difference Between French And English Lavender

When it comes to French vs. English lavender there are some important differences. Not every lavender plant is the same, although they are all great to grow in the garden or as houseplants. Know the differences between these popular types to choose the best one for your conditions and needs.

Are English and French Lavender Different?

They are related, but different types of lavender. French lavender is Lavendula dentata and it is not actually that commonly cultivated, although we often think of France when picturing fields of lavender. English lavender is Lavendula angustifolia. This variety is much more commonly cultivated and is typical in gardens and containers. Here are some other important differences:

Hardiness. A big difference between French and English lavender is that the latter is much hardier. French lavender is only hardy through about zone 8 and won’t tolerate cold winters.

Size. French lavender is large and will grow from about two to three feet (60-90 cm.) tall and wide, while English lavender stays much smaller and more compact, although it may grow up to two feet (60 cm.).

Bloom time. The flowers on these plants are similar in size, but they last much longer on French lavender. This variety has one of the longest bloom times, starting in spring and continuing to produce flowers throughout the summer.

Scent. If you’re looking for the characteristic lavender smell, choose English lavender. It produces the strong scent that permeates the air, while French lavender has a much lighter scent, which while nice, is more reminiscent of rosemary.

Other Types of Lavender

French and English are just two of many varieties of this popular plant. You’ll also see Spanish lavender, which like French lavender has a softer scent and is used more for landscaping than for producing the scented oil.

Lavandin is a hybrid cultivar that was developed to produce even more oil than English lavender, so it has a very potent aroma.

French and English lavender varieties are both great plants, but they are not the same. Along with the other types of lavender, you have plenty of options to choose the right variety for your home or garden.

Lavender essential oil is probably the most frequently suggested essential oil, one of the first we purchase, and the one we reach for most often. What we often do not realize until we have been using essential oils for a while is that there are several varieties, and even species, of lavender available as essential oils. Although they share some important properties, they are quite different in their chemical make-up and hence different in their safety and usage profiles.

As of this writing, a search for lavender at one essential oil retailer produces twelve non-blended products. At another retailer’s website, a search for Lavandula produces four non-blended products. Yet another offers a “Love of Lavender” kit containing four of their different lavender essential oils. How can one tell these lavenders apart?

Lavender Technical Information

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Lavandula

Common names: English lavender, French lavender, lavandin, Spanish lavender, high altitude lavender, Himalayan lavender, lavender mailette, population lavender, lavender fine, spike lavender, lavandin grosso, lavandin super, lavandin abrial, Bulgarian lavender.

Extract formats: Essential oil, CO2 extract, hydrosol*

Therapeutic properties: Emotionally calming, support respiratory system, skin-regenerating, pain-relieving, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial.

Methods of application: inhalation, topical, and oral**.

*Note: Lavender hydrosol smells very different from the essential oil.

**Lavandula angustifolia is one of the few essential oils that is sold in the United States as an over-the-counter (OTC) oral capsule. As with other supplements you can find OTC, it should only be used as directed. Not all lavenders are equally safe to use orally.

Choosing the Right Lavender Essential Oil for the Job

Lavender provides a very clear example for why knowing the botanical name of the plant used to create your essential oil as well as being able to see a GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry) report on your oil can be very important. Which of these common names goes together with which of the botanical names, together with which of the chemical constituents, which then determine the therapeutic properties and safety recommendations.

To help simplify this, you will most often see three different common names: lavender, spike lavender, and lavandin. As you will most often see the botanical names Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula latifolia, and Lavandula x intermedia, these three species will be described more thoroughly in the rest of this blog post, along with a brief note about Lavandula stoechas. For these and any other varieties of lavender you may see for sale, be sure to read the descriptions and GC/MS reports, when available, in order to determine which particular variety of lavender fits your specific need.

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavandula angustifolia, formerly known as L. officinalis or L. vera, is the lavender you will purchase most often, and which is the most commonly available. It is primarily grown in Europe and may be named true lavender, Bulgarian lavender, English lavender, high altitude lavender, Himalayan lavender, lavender Kashmir, lavender maillette, or any of several other names. The biggest difference among these various L. angustifolia varieties is where the lavender is grown.

Lavenders are well known for having a high linalool, a monoterpenol, content. What makes Lavandula angustifolia different is that it contains a high percentage of esters, particularly linalyl acetate. This monoterpenol-ester synergy is what characterizes Lavandula angustifolia.

Some retailers will identify some of their lavender as “high altitude” lavender. The higher the altitude at which lavender is grown, the more esters the lavender will contain. Since these esters are what give L. angustifolia its wonderful soothing properties, these higher altitude lavenders are particularly coveted.

L. angustifolia, an excellent harmonizing oil, is highly regarded in its ability to calm the nervous system (Buchbauer et al., 1991; Hwang, 2006; Woelk, H. & Schläfke, S., 2010) as well as regenerate skin (Mori et al., 2016). It is frequently used via inhalation to soothe frazzled emotions, ease headaches, decrease anxious thoughts, and help you relax. This lavender, with its anti-inflammatory (Peana et al., 2002) and antispasmodic properties, is also a good choice for respiratory concerns, especially for children, pregnant women, and seasonal respiratory irritations. Although this lavender, with its skin-regenerating ability, is an excellent choice for soothing burns, for that purpose, L. latifolia is more frequently recommended as the better choice.

One of the less-widely known qualities of L. angustifolia is its ability to lessen menstrual cramps. There have been a couple of studies where lavender was successfully used in conjunction with other oils, but at least two studies have looked at lavender alone. Bakhtshirin et al. (2015) used a 2% dilution of lavender essential oil massaged on the abdomen and Nikjou et al. (2016) used inhalation of lavender “essence.” Both clinical trials reported statistically significant differences in the lavender test groups on lavender’s effect on menstrual pain.

Lavandula latifolia

Lavandula latifolia, formerly known as L. spicata or L. spica, is most commonly identified as spike lavender, although sometimes it is called Spanish lavender or French lavender. It still has a significant linalool content but with far less linalyl acetate. It will also have a high proportion of 1,8 cineole, and many varieties also have a higher proportion of camphor. This is important to note as it changes the safety recommendations for this oil, as well as modifying its therapeutic properties.

The high levels of 1,8 cineole and camphor make spike lavender an excellent choice for headaches, respiratory issues, inflammation, soothing burns, and situations where a stronger antibacterial action is warranted. These constituents are also what make it a less safe choice for children and pregnant women.

Whereas L. angustifolia is known for its calming and relaxing effect, L. latifolia may be more stimulating for some people, both as the linalyl acetate, lacking in L. latifolia, contributes significantly to L. angustifolia’s calming properties and the 1,8 cineole in L. latifolia tends to be more stimulating.

Lavandula x intermedia

Lavandula x intermedia is a hybrid of these two aforementioned species, commonly known as lavandin. As you might imagine, its chemical profile contains significant amounts of linalool, linalyl acetate, 1,8 cineole, and camphor, with some varieties being closer to the L. angustifolia end of the spectrum, and others being closer to the L. latifolia end of the spectrum. Knowing the chemical profile of the particular lavandin you are purchasing will guide you as to the best way to use that particular oil. As a hybrid, lavandin can occur naturally, but for commercial purposes the plants must be cloned.

Alone, lavandin may sometimes offer the best of both worlds, being calming yet strongly antibacterial, but that also means that it is a weaker performer than either one of its “parent” plants. Lavandins are primarily distilled for the perfume and fragrance industries, so although they actually provide the bulk of the lavender being cultivated, they are not commonly sold through essential oil retailers.

A brief note on Lavandula stoechas

Lavandula stoechas, frequently called either Spanish lavender or French lavender, has a very different profile from the other lavenders. This lavender is actually very low in linalool with no linalyl acetate. It is high in ketones, monoterpenes, and 1,8 cineole. This makes it a very good essential oil for antimicrobial and respiratory concerns, but its profile is completely different from what we think of as “lavender.” This essential oil is best used under direction of a trained practitioner. Do not confuse this essential oil with the other lavenders. Again, knowing the botanical name of your essential oil is vitally important when it comes to lavender.

Which Lavender Essential Oil to Choose?

L. stoechas is best used only under the guidance of a trained practitioner, but that still leaves three different lavender species from which to choose. Each of the three primary lavenders will support the emotions, skin, muscular, and respiratory systems. At the risk of oversimplifying the situation, one might choose among these three oils in the following manner:

L. angustifolia has the calming effect of the esters in the monoterpenol-ester synergy, making it the go-to for soothing and calming anxious or busy thoughts, soothing symptoms that are related to stress (headache, occasional sleeplessness, restlessness, nausea, agitation, etc.), and helping the body to relax. Use it to calm menstrual cramps, soothe bug bites, and ease respiratory issues in children and pregnant women. Lavender soothes burns and regenerates damaged skin. As a general rule of thumb, lavender works to harmonize blends, is one of the safest essential oils, and is unarguably one of the most important essential oils to have in a first aid kit.

L. latifolia, or spike lavender, with expectorant and mucolytic properties, is an excellent choice for respiratory support and to address headache pain. It is also a good choice in cases of skin damage (burns, cuts, scrapes, stings, etc.), especially where antimicrobial support is desired. It supports the musculoskeletal system and can be used in case of muscle or joint pain. It should be used with care around children due to its 1,8 cineole and camphor content, and best not used at all with pregnant women due to its camphor content.

Each lavandin will have its own balance of constituents, hence its own chemical and therapeutic profile, which will identify its best therapeutic properties. It is with lavandins and other Lavandula species that GC/MS report results are the most important, in order to determine what the essential oil’s therapeutic properties and safety recommendations might be.

Recommended Resources To Learn More

Cavanagh, H., & Wilkinson, J. (2002). Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytotherapy Research, 16, 4, 301-308.

Nature’s Gift, at, sells quite a few different lavender extractions with detailed descriptions of each one. Their blog also has articles discussing various lavender species.

A search for “lavender” on the Herbal Academy blog produces many essential oil, as well as herbal, articles.

Although the Aromahead Blog has several excellent articles about lavender, this one is specific to comparing Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia.

Hwang, J. H. (2006). The effects of the inhalation method using essential oils on blood pressure and stress responses of clients with essential hypertension. Taehan Kanhoe Hakoe Chi, 36, 7,1123-1134.

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If you’re a fan of Lavender Essential Oil, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting true Lavender. The question that many people ask is, “Is Lavandin and Lavender the same?”

There are so many different ways that essential oil brands adulterate oils, and one of them is by replacing ‘Lavandula angustifolia’, or English Lavender, with one of thirty-five other types of Lavender plants (such as Hidcote, Munstead, Peter Pan and Royal Purple). The most common adulterant is ‘Lavandula Intermedia’, commonly referred to as ‘Lavandin’, which is the most similar to English Lavender, but also includes its own varieties (such as Grosso, Super, Sussex, Soumian and Abrialis).

The problem then becomes that Lavender essential oil can be derived from all/any of these, so it’s important to educate yourself to what the differences are between ‘Lavandula angustifolia’ and other lavender varieties.

The Different Types of Lavender Plants

If they’re both varieties of lavender and both produce essential oil, what makes
different types of lavender plants so different?

Lavandin is less expensive, and and quite a different oil with its own unique and different uses from Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) Essential oil. The Lavandin variety can still be 100% natural, but the problem occurs when someone advertises their ‘Lavandin’ as 100% Pure Lavender Essential Oil.

Different Types of Lavender

Here are some key differences between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandin varieties, so you can make informed decisions about your Lavender essential oil before purchasing:

  • The yield of ‘Lavandula angustifolia’ is less than half of the yield of the Lavandin variety, so buying something with Lavandin essential oil will be noticeably less expensive than buying Lavandula angustifolia essential oil. Since the essential oil industry is so new, it is tough to find a company selling 100% Pure Lavender Essential Oil at affordable prices, and will require a little more research than just opening up your Amazon accounts.
  • Although the two lavender plants types have similar aromas, they have a vastly different chemical composition. This might not matter much to you if you are just looking at Lavender for it’s aroma, but if you care about purity and are looking to purchase Lavender for its therapeutic benefits, it may be of interest to pay attention to GC-MS test results to notice for the chemical composition of the oils you are looking at before purchasing. If a company posts results for tests for every batch, check the quality of the oils from a few previous batches before purchasing your oils.
  • One key difference between the two lavender plants types, English Lavender essential oil and Lavandin essential oil, is that Lavandin oil contains a much higher percentage of camphor. Typically English Lavender essential oil contains between 0%-0.6% camphor, whereas Lavandin oil contains between 6%-10% camphor. Obviously this has an effect on the individual aromas of the oils, with the Lavandin oils giving off a stronger and more pungent scent, whereas English Lavender oil produces a more subtle, sweet, floral aroma. Lavandin oil has more of a strong, medicinal scent because of the camphor, whereas lavender is floral, sweet and more delicate.

However, this does not mean that oils from the Lavandin variety should be disregarded. The higher camphor content means that Lavandin oil can be more effective at clearing congestion, effective bug spray, and freshening rooms and deodorizing than English Lavender essential oil. It should not however be used on cuts or burns (which is one of the benefits of using ‘Lavandula angustifolia’) because of the high levels of camphor, which can further cause tissue scarring.

As legends say, the French scientist Gattesfosse burnt his hand in a chemical experiment a few decades back, and later accidentally dipped his hands in the oil of Lavandula angustifolia and was able to feel relief from his severe burns, leading to the invention of this sub-sect of science, Aromatherapy. Imagine if Gattesfosse had dipped his hand in a bucket full of Lavandin oil instead. The high camphor content would definitely cause more harm to his hand. And worse, perhaps Aromatherapy would never have been discovered. This is why it is so important to understand the science behind essential oils and educate ourselves on the subtle difference between the variety of crops available to us.

Which Lavender Essential Oil is Best?

At the risk of oversimplifying the situation, one might choose among the types of Lavender varieties in the following manner to figure out which lavender essential oil is best:

Lavandula angustifolia has the calming effect of the esters in the monoterpenol-ester synergy, making it the go-to oil for soothing and calming anxious or busy thoughts, soothing stress-related symptoms like headaches, occasional sleeplessness, restlessness, and agitation. Use it to soothe bug bites and ease discomforts in the body. Lavender essential oil may soothe burns and help rejuvenate the skin. As a general rule of thumb, lavender works to harmonize blends, is one of the safest types of lavender essential oils, and is unarguably one of the most important essential oils to have in a first aid kit.

Lavandula latifolia, or spike lavender, may be a good choice for respiratory support and to address head aches. It can also help support the musculoskeletal system and be used in case of muscle or joint discomfort. It should be used with care around children due to its 1,8 cineole and camphor content, and best not to be used at all with pregnant women due to its camphor content.

Each Lavandin oil variety will have its own balance of constituents, hence its own chemical and therapeutic profile. GC/MS quality report results are the most important factors to rely on when comparing the Lavandin varieties with ‘Lavandula Angustifolia’ to determine what the essential oil’s therapeutic properties and safety recommendations might be, and which might be right for you to use.

Hopefully this blog post will help you make the right choices when purchasing your essential oils. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us at [email protected]

-Puneet “Guru” Nanda

Know your lavender

The lavender must-haves are sun and well-drained soil.

Start there then choose the lavender that suits your conditions – and desires.

Photos courtesy of Plant Management Australia

Lavender must have sun and well-drained soil.

Actually native to Spain, with dark purple flower spikes in early summer on bushy shrubs, this is the lavender traditionally used in sachets and potpourri, and, with Portuguese hybrids (Lavandula spicata), produces lavender oil from flowers and leaves. Recommended for cool and wet areas with dry summers. Prized cultivars include ‘Hidcote’, ‘Munstead’, ‘Royal Purple’, white ‘Alba’ and the dwarf paler pink variety ‘Rosea’.

English lavender

Lavandula dentata

Toothed lavender is the other common name for this long-lived, trouble-free lavender, referring to the serrated leaves which makes it easy to identify. Mauve flowers on long stems are held above the foliage in winter and spring. Excellent for warmer, humid areas. Trim in early January.

French lavender

Lavandula stoechas

Spanish lavender is distinguished by its winged blooms which appear from late winter through summer. It thrives in heat and is drought-tolerant. The scent is slightly sharp, and the oil is used in air fresheners and insecticides. ‘Avonview’, above, is one of the best cultivars, along with the dashing ‘Italian Prince’.

Spanish Lavender

Lavandula pinnata

Also called jagged lavender, this one has an open habit with unusual ferny leaves and light purple flower spikes on branched stems. It’s native to southern Madeira and the Canary Islands, and is fragrant, but not long-lived, nor frost-tolerant. Try ‘Sidonie’ which flowers from late winter for many months.

Lace lavender

Lavendula pendunculata hybrid

A brilliant, compact lavender from Plant Management Australia’s lavender breeding program. Small flower heads with long ribbon-like bracts are held above the foliage. It tolerates drought, repels deer and rabbits, draws bees and butterflies and tolerates the cold. Like all lavenders, this one needs a full sun position. Grows 70 x 70cm.

Fairy wings

Princess collection

Bred in Australia and selected for its intense colour and lengthy flowering season. ‘Princess’ has vibrant hot pink bracts atop dark pink flowers; ‘Ghostly Princess’ has pink flowers above silver foliage. Neat and compact, main flowering is in spring with spot flowering through summer. Dry tolerant once established. Clip back to two thirds of size in late summer, and apply slow release fertiliser.

Ghostly Princess

Lavandula pedunculata

Purpose-bred for large wings atop the flower heads, with compact, mounded habit and high resistance to disease. Use them as a low ornamental hedge by spacing plants 45cm apart. Water needs are low once established, but provide an occasional long soak during periods of extended heat. Plant in a full sun position in a well- drained soil. Tip prune after flowering.

Blueberry Ruffles

Come with us

To our Gardens of Victoria tour where we visit the beautiful Swiss Lavender Farm just outside Daylesford. Call and we’ll send out the itinerary.

Have you ever come across a mesmerizing field of lavender? It’s one of the most relaxing experiences and the smell enhances the whole experience. Growing lavender in your home or yard is a wonderful addition since the plant is known for its longevity and hardiness.

With their vivid color, lavender flowers are also wonderful in any home. Giving or receiving lavender flowers symbolizes love and appreciation. If you love lavender, there are many types to choose from, making it easy to become a collector! Read on to find out which type of lavender is best for your home.

Lavender Plant Overview

Lavender dates back about 2,500 years and is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India. There are numerous uses due to its unique beauty and lovely floral scent. Today, lavender is seen in household and bath products like candles and skincare, and can even repel mosquitos!

The name lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.” Interestingly, Romans used lavender for their personal items such as beds, clothes and soaps, and even in their hair.

The plant is part of the mint family which has over 200 genera and more than 6,000 species, including herb plants such as thyme, rosemary and basil. The mint family also includes various shrubs and trees, as lavender is partially considered a shrub. Since lavender is related to many other herbs, its leaves and flowers are edible fresh or dried.

12 Types of Lavender

There are 450 varieties of lavender that are categorized into 45 different species. There is the potential of more varieties of lavender that have yet to be discovered, especially since there are a handful of hybrids. Below we’ve outlined 12 of the most recognized types of lavender that majestically cover our earth.

1. Ballerina, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas)

This French lavender has very distinct bulbs and blooms white flowers that fade to pink and purple as the plant matures. It thrives in climates with mild summers and winters. It flowers as early as May then blooms twice more in June and late summer or early fall.

  • Sun: full sun
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 8-9

2. Kew Red, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas)

This lavender gets its name from the crimson-violet flower heads that have pale pink petals on top. It has a long flowering season from late spring to fall, and flowers can be seen year-round in mild climates.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 7-9

3. Anouk, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas)

Blooming earlier than most French lavender, the Anouk flowers from early to mid-spring and has plump deep purple heads with lighter purple petals. This lavender can also withstand hotter summers than other types.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: drought resistant
  • Climate: hot summers and mild winters
  • Hardiness zones: 6-10

4. Betty’s Blue, English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

The flowers on Betty’s Blue are quite large and colored in deep violet-blue. The plants are dome-shaped and compact. This variety of lavender has a very sweet fragrance and only blooms once in the middle of the summer. Since the flowers are so fragrant, they are usually dried and used in potpourris.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9

5. Lavenite Petite, English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

A very unique variety of lavender, the flowers are pom-pom shaped and very dense. They are extremely fragrant with a popping light purple color. Known as one of the most beautiful strains of lavender, the plant blooms in mid to late spring. Lavenite Petite attracts many butterflies and bees.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: warm summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9

6. Hidcote, English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

One of the more popular types of lavender, Hidcote blooms dark purple flowers and has contrasting blue-green foliage. When this lavender is dried, the flowers keep their color, which is great for crafts and decorations. The plant blooms in late spring or early summer depending on the climate.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: warm summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9

7. Impress Purple, Hybrid (Lavandula x Intermedia)

This lavender is popularly used in bouquets for its bunches of dark purple flowers that are quite long. The flowers are the richest purple of all lavenders. To enhance blooming, removing faded flowers will do the trick. The lavender blooms from mid to late summer and is highly fragrant.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: hot summers and warm winters
  • Hardiness zones: 6-8

8. Hidcote Hiant, Hybrid (Lavandula x Intermedia)

This lavender has light violet flowers that tower on long steps and spread beautifully. Hidcote Hiant is an award-winning lavender for not only its beauty but also its strong fragrance. This lavender is popularly used in bouquets. It tends to bloom mid to late summer and is a magnet for bees and butterflies.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-8

9. Grosso, Hybrid (Lavandula x Intermedia)

Grosso is a tall variety of lavender standing at about two feet tall. The blossoms are a very dark purple with narrow fragrant leaves. This variety can withstand cold winters as low as 15ºF and can last for years if pruned directly after flowering in the late summer. Grosso is very commonly used to extract lavender oil.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and cold winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-8

10. Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula Latifola)

Portuguese lavender, also known as spike lavender, has flowers that are simpler and more elegant than other types. The flowers produce small pale lilac bulbs in levels along the stem. This lavender is commonly used in culinary dishes and drinks. The leaves are sweetly fragrant and attract butterflies and bees.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: warm summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9

11. Egyptian Lavender (Lavandula Multifida)

Egyptian lavender is also known as a fern-leaf lavender due to its furry bipinnate leaves. This variety has a different smell and is less sweet than others. The plant can be ignored once established as long as the lavender is planted in well-drained soil and has plenty of room to grow. The flowers blossom in late spring.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: mild summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 8-11

12. French Lavender (Lavandula Dentata)

French lavender is more delicate in smell and color than other lavenders. The blooms last the longest out of any type of lavender, throughout the entire summer and potentially through fall. This variety is quite large and will grow two to three feet tall and wide. Another major difference is that French lavender does not tolerate extreme temperatures.

  • Sun: full
  • Water: low
  • Soil: sandy
  • Climate: warm summers and winters
  • Hardiness zones: 8-9

Lavender Plant Care

Most lavender requires the same type of care, including lots of sun, low watering and well-draining soil. Look over the details below for information on growing lavender indoors or planting outside. Also, see our houseplant care printables for further information.

Growing Lavender Indoors

Growing lavender indoors has quite a few different requirements. Since you will be using a pot instead of ground soil, having the correct pot size is extremely important for your plant’s health. Lavender should be planted in a pot that is only one to two inches larger than the plant’s root ball. In a larger pot, there is too much soil and the roots won’t be able to absorb the necessary water.

Being a Mediterranean plant, lavender thrives with lean soil. Lean soil can be created by filling your pot first with an inch or two of limestone gravel and then topping with a basic soilless mix. Since lavender loves the sun, placing the plant near a window is essential. Water the lavender one inch deep and only when the soil is dry to the touch. Pull back watering in the winter months.

Planting Lavender Outdoors

In colder areas, lavender should be planted in the spring and early summer. In warmer areas, lavender should be planted in early fall in order for the roots of the plant to get comfortable during the cool and moist season.

Outside, lavender grows best in low to moderate fertility soils, so it’s advised to skip spreading organic matter over the soil before planting. The plant is more likely to mature fully in soils that are neutral to slightly alkaline. Squeezing lime juice over the soil to reach a pH of around 7.0 helps with this.

When ready to plant, dig a hole that’s twice as deep and wide as the lavender plant. Lightly spread the roots if they seem to be squished. Place your lavender plant in the soil and align it with the top of the soil. Water the new lavender plant only if the rest of the soil seems to be very dry.

Common Lavender Questions

We all want our astonishing lavender plants to continue to grow for years to come. If you have any concerns with upkeep, here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about lavender.

When does lavender bloom?

All types of lavender typically bloom around early to mid-summer and flowering lasts about three to four weeks with potential second or third blooms through the early fall.

Does lavender spread quickly?

All lavender grows just as tall as it does wide, about 20 to 24 inches each way. Unlike other herbs, lavender doesn’t spread as quickly. Lavender will grow to full maturity in the right conditions.

Is lavender a perennial?

Lavender is part perennial and part subshrub. This is because the lavender plant has the potential to die off when pruned. A plant is considered a perennial when it lasts for three years or more.

Can lavender survive the winter?

Lavender is a woody perennial, meaning that the plant will continue to blossom yearly, but only the stems remain through the winter. With proper pruning, lavender will last for years.

Lavender is a very beautiful and stunning plant that smells wonderful. Other than looking pretty and smelling nice, lavender has quite a few benefits such as improving sleep, boosting mental health and relieving pain! Incorporate lavender into your life with one of the many types or even lavender flowers. Your obsession with lavender has only begun!

Compact Lavenders

What’s not to love about lavender? Flowers of many varieties have a fragrance so heady that they’re used to make potpourri, soap, and perfume; some are also used in cooking.

Most lavenders dry beautifully for bouquets and attract bees and butterflies. There’s a species for just about every region, from the coast to inland valleys, mountains, and deserts.

Dwarf lavenders, which stay under 2 feet tall (see list below), are compact alternatives to the common varieties that can grow to 4 feet or taller. They’re particularly suitable for small beds, border edgings, even containers.

Best of all, they’re simply smaller lavenders with all of the same great qualities as their parents.

When you shop, keep in mind that ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’, two well-known compact varieties, are often grown commercially from seed rather than cuttings; that means their growth habit and flower color will vary. Always buy these varieties in bloom (or from a nursery that sells only cutting-grown plants) so you know what color you’re getting.

12 small lavenders

Of the many dwarf lavenders we grew in Sunset’s test garden, the ones mentioned here are some of our favorites. Heights listed include foliage and flowers; when not in bloom, plants range from 8 to 14 inches tall.

Many lavenders are sold under more than one name, which we note in parentheses.


Thomas J. Story

With their fragrant blooms and totally unfussy nature, it’s no wonder lavenders have been grown for centuries. Flowers can be pale purple, violet, pink, or white and many varieties are intensely aromatic. In the garden, plant as an informal hedge, in mixed borders, as accents in containers, or in large masses for swaths of color. All varieties need well draining soil and low to moderate water.

Lavandula angustifolia. Most dwarf types are varieties of English lavender, all with wonderfully fragrant flowers. Foliage is gray-green unless noted. All grow in Sunset climate zones 2-24 from the Western Garden Book.

‘Compacta’. Light purple flowers. Very compact growth to 1 1/2 feet tall.

‘Hidcote’ (sometimes sold as ‘Hidcote Blue’). One of the darkest purple flowers of any lavender; short stems. Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Look for cutting-grown plants.

‘Irene Doyle’ (‘Two Seasons Lavender’). Light purple flowers. Medium green to gray-green foliage. Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.

‘Loddon Blue’. Dark violet-purple blooms. Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.

‘Martha Roderick’. Light purple flowers. Gray foliage. Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.

‘Nana Alba’ (‘Dwarf White’, ‘Baby White’). White flowers. Very compact growth to just 1 foot tall.

‘Rosea’ (‘Jean Davis’). White to pink buds, pale lilac-pink flowers. Light green foliage. Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.

‘Sarah’. Purple flowers. Medium green to gray-green foliage. Grows to 1 1/2 feet tall.

‘Silver Frost’. Deep lavender-blue flowers. Silvery white foliage. Grows to 15 inches tall. A hybrid of woolly lavender and English lavender.


L. stoechas. Blocky flower heads produce showy top bracts that look like rabbit ears or wings. Spanish lavenders bloom from spring into summer and will usually repeat bloom if flowers are sheared off after they fade. Flowers have a piney lavender scent. Foliage is gray-green. Zones 4-24.

‘Dwarf’. Rosy purple flowers. Grows to 1 1/2 feet tall.

‘Fairy Wings’. Particularly long lilac-pink bracts. Grows to 1 1/2 feet tall.

‘Ron Lutsko’s Dwarf’. Medium purple flowers on short bloom stalks. Very compact growth from 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall.


If you can’t find the varieties you want at your local nursery, try these mail-order sources.

Dutch Mill Herb Farm, 6640 N.W. Marsh Rd., Forest Grove, OR 97116; (503) 357-0924.

Goodwin Creek Gardens, Box 83, Williams, OR 97544; or (800) 846-7359.

Lavender basics

PLANTING. Choose a spot in full sun with well-drained soil, or plant in raised beds or containers. Keep soil off the crowns (base) of the plant. In hot climates that experience humidity in summer (most notably the Southwest during the monsoon season), plant in an area that gets good air circulation and avoid crowding.

WATERING. Young plants need regular watering to keep the soil moist. Once plants are established, slowly cut back on frequency so the top 2 inches of soil go fairly dry between waterings.

FERTILIZING. A light application of organic fertilizer in spring should be sufficient (plants are not heavy feeders).

PRUNING. To keep plants bushy, cut off spent flowers and about one-third of the foliage after bloom.

Learn a little about the differences between French Lavender vs English lavender including a few of my favorite varieties.

I was recently fortunate enough to receive this gorgeous French lavender plant from my sister-in-law. It smells so great and looks so pretty. As a tender perennial, hardy only to zone 8, I’ll need to keep it as a houseplant, though I’ll probably move it outside for the summer.

French Lavender

French lavender has the scientific name Lavandula dentata where dentata translates to “toothed” referring to the scallops on the leaves as shown above and is sometimes confused with Spanish lavender or Lavandula stoechas.

Spanish lavender has showier than French lavender and their leaves are not scalloped but straight like English lavender. Sometimes you will see it referred to as Rabbit Ears due to the shape of the flower petals.

Neither French or Spanish lavender is used much today in cosmetics but they are valued more for their ornamental use. Also, both French and Spanish lavender prefer warm climates and are only hardly outside in Zone 8. For those of us living in cooler regions, it just means that you will want to keep yours in a pot and bring it indoors during the cold months.

English Lavender

If you live in the north, you may want to plant English lavender or Lavandula angustifolia. I have grown several plants over the years and it is one of the toughest plants in the garden.

There are lots of different English lavender varieties but my two favorites are Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote.’

Munstead, named after Munstead Woods in England, the home of famous gardener Gertrude Jeckyl, is hardy to zone 5. It has a great mounding shape and gets about roughly 1.5 feet tall and wide. 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. Did you know lavender can help you sleep? Check out an article I wrote last year about ways to use lavender in the home here.

Munstead’s cousin, Hidcote is pretty much the same except that it is slightly smaller and much deeper in color.

Here is some Hidcote lavender that I dried.

Note: if you want to dry your lavender make sure you pick it in bud form. If you wait too long it will flower like the pic above and will not keep well.

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 accordingly. Also, at the beginning of the season prune them a little and thin out the middle. This will allow for plenty of airflow.

Bottom line; whether it’s English or French, lavender is a wonderful plant, and everyone should be growing it.

P.S. You may also like this roundup of 20 Ways to Use Lavender in the Home or this post about Cooking with Lavender. Did you know that lavender is calming? See more in this post about How to Use Lavender to Help You Sleep.

Everything you need to know about lavender is a lot. Remember the Encyclopedia Britannica? The final hardcover edition—with 32 alphabetized volumes and 32,640 pages of cold, hard facts—was about the amount of space it would take to cover all aspects of the endlessly fascinating and fragrant flowers that belong to the lavender family.

At Gardenista headquarters, we don’t have the 100 full-time editors and 4,000 contributors (including Pulitzer Prize winners and the odd US President) that Britannica boasted in its heyday. But we do have personal experience to call upon. As I type, five of my favorite lavenders are thriving in my garden in northern California (USDA zone 10a, where average winter temperatures don’t dip much below 38 degrees Fahrenheit).

Not all members of the Lavandula clan are equal (some have refused to grow in my garden, which we’ll address later). So let’s start with the general tips. Here’s what lavenders like: Sun. Warmth. Well-drained soil (lavenders are drought tolerant and, once established, can go weeks without water).

Here’s what lavenders hate: Cold. Fog. Wet roots. Snow. Ice.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at five of my favorite kinds of lavender, currently blooming in my garden.

Photography by Leslie Santarina, except where noted.

Above: Pick a posey. In this jumble are the five happiest lavenders in my garden: Lavandula pinnata var. buchii, L. dentata, L. dentata candicans, L. dentata ‘Blanc Dentelle’, and L. stoechas.

In early spring (March), tender, young lavenders have soft stems, velvety leaves, and delicate, tight flower buds. Later in the growing season, at the height of the summer, these same plants will look battle-weary, with browning leaves at the base of long, bare stems—and big, fat flowers.

Here’s a cheat sheet about lavenders, for when you’re shopping at a plant nursery.

Colors: In addition to the soft, dusty purple shade that lends lavender its name, cultivars can flower in deep purple, blue, pink, or white hues. Purple tones are dominant.

Growing conditions: Lavenders are perennial flowers in USDA growing zones 5 to 10. To review, they like a Mediterranean climate: dry, hot, and sunny.

Companion plants: In the garden, lavender works well if planted in clumps or as a low hedge. It mixes well with roses (they like the same growing conditions, and lavender’s bushiness will hide spindly, thorny stems) and with wildflowers such as poppies and Echinacea. In an edible garden, lavender’s strong scent can distract aphids and other pests from the vegetables.

Lavender Oil Guide

Lavender Oil Guide – Characteristics, Composition, Properties and Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender oil is one of the most popular and widely used essential oils among the aromatherapists because of its calming aroma and numerous benefits. Because of its popularity, it is also one of the most adulterated essential oil in the market. There are not only unrelated oils which are sold as lavender oil but also there are many varieties of lavender oil available in the market. Read on to know further.


Lavender is group of more than 30 known species of small aromatic flowering plants in Lavandula genus, commonly known as Lavender. It belongs to Lamiaceae family, or mint family. Some of the main species in the Lavandula genus are:

  • Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
  • Lavandula dentata (French Lavender)
  • Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender)
  • Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender)
  • Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin)

Lavender is native to Mediterranean region and is now grown across Europe, northern and eastern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America, southwest Asia and northern India, especially state of Kashmir.

Bulgaria is one of the largest producer of lavender in the world. Some of the locations that produces best quality lavender oils are Bulgaria, France, Italy and Kashmir.

Although lavender is not widely cultivated in Kashmir, the quality of the Kashmir lavender oil is considered to be one of the best, possibly because distilling lavender at a high altitude allows for lower temperatures and lower pressure for distillation of the oil, which allows the volatile phytochemical to come through and be present in the final product.

  • One of the distinct feature of French lavender is that it has linear or lance-shaped leaves with toothed edges. It grows to around 60 cm tall.
  • Spike lavender grows wild over a large part of the Mediterranean area, preferring warmer and lower regions than lavender and lavandin.
  • Lavandin is a hybrid species derived from True lavender (lavendula augustifolia) and spike lavender (Lavendula latifolia).


Please note that some species are known in reference to country names like English lavender, French Lavender, Spanish Lavender and Portuguese lavender but it is not that they are grown in these countries only. Most of these species are grown widely in other countries also.

  • Lavender is commonly known as English lavender, garden lavender, common lavender, small-leaf lavender or Lavandual officinalis.
  • French lavender (Lavandula dentata) is known as fringed lavender.
  • Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) is also known as broad-leaved lavender or Portuguese lavender.
  • Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is also known as topped lavender or French lavender (mostly in UK). This may create some confusion with Lavandula dentata.

History of Use of Lavender

Lavender has rich and long history of use since centuries, specially in Mediterranean region. It was cultivated by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for its fine floral, refreshing fragrance, versatile therapeutic actions and multi-purpose usefulness. The Romans used it in baths, beds, clothes, and hair.

Lavender oil was distilled and used in medieval times in Persia and France. At that time, Spike lavender was much more widely used essential oil. Lavender was used in first commercial level production of scent in the United Kingdom, in Mitcham, Surrey, in the seventeenth century.

Extraction of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is extracted from flowers and leaves of the plants using steam distillation. Around 100-150 KG of the herb produces 1 kg oil yield.

Characteristics of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is a mobile clear to pale yellow fluid. It has a light sweet-herbaceous floral odour, with faint fresh overtones and mild woody undertones.

Name Lavender Oil
Botanical Name Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) | Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) | Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender) |Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender)
Family Lamiaceae
Genus Lavandula
Colour Light Yellow
Aroma Sweet-herbaceous, Floral
Note Middle-Top

The scent of Spike lavender is stronger and more pungent than English lavender scent due to higher presence of camphor.

Composition of Lavender Oil

Hundreds of compounds have been identified in lavender oil. Some of the compounds found in lavender oil are:

Please bear in mind that the composition of lavender oil varies from species to species; however, the majority is dominated by linalol and linalyl acetate.

Quality of Lavender Oil

Lavender essential oil is one of the most sought after essential oil in world. There is very high chances of adulteration with lavender oil.

  • It is often adulterated with cheaper Lavandin oil or simply cheaper, more large-scale industrial versions of the same species, including from the clonal varieties.
  • Lavender oil may be adulterated with synthetically created compounds like linalool, linalyle acetate, terpenyl propionate, isobornyl acetate, terpineol and fractions of Ho leaf and Rosewood oils.
  • Sometimes other unrelated species such as Lavender sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), Lavender oregano (Origanum dubium ct. linalool) and Lavender tea tree (Melaleuca ericifolia) are being sold as ‘lavender’ oil.

Following are few characteristics compositions of lavender oil of fine quality.

  • The amount of linalool and linalyl acetate should never more than 80%.
  • The amount of cis and trans ocimenes (common monoterpene hydrocarbons) should at least be 9%.
  • Lavadulyl acetate should be at least 4.5%.
  • The concentration of camphor should be below 0.5%.

Blending with Lavender Oil

Lavender oil blends well with other essential oils such as bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, clove, patchouli, peppermint, pine, rose, rosemary, sweet orange, vetiver and ylang ylang.

Properties of Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has analgesic, anxiolytic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, calmative, sedative and skin healing properties.

Benefits of Lavender Oil


One of the most well known benefits of lavender oil is as relaxant and anxiolytic because of its unique mix of calming, balancing and somewhat uplifting effective qualities.

Lavender oil is effective in dealing with tension, anxiety, fear and depression associated with anxiety or agitation. It also helps in reconcile emotional conflict and balancing mood swings.

It is also useful as first-aid treatment in case of motion sickness due to its calmative action. Blend with peppermint or ginger oil to enhance this effect.

Sleep Aid

Lavender oil is suggested as natural remedy to treat insomnia and improve the sleep quality. Lavender oil improves the quality and duration of sleep and general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects.

According to study, diffused lavender oil might be used as a temporary relief from continued medication for insomnia and reduces the side-effects of these drugs. In another study, administration of lavender odour showed a trend towards an improved quality of daytime wakefulness and more sustained sleep at night on hospitalised patients.

For a restorative sleep add four drops of Bulgarian lavender with two drops of Roman chamomile in a diffuser.


According to studies, lavender oil is helpful in dealing with mood changes and instability during menopause.

Its calming action makes lavender useful for relieving premenstrual tension, alleviating insomnia and promoting restful sleep. Aromatherapy massage with lavender accompanied with rose geranium, rose, and jasmine in almond and primrose oils once a week for 8 weeks is reported as an effective treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, and pain in climacteric women.

Skin Care

Lavender oil is a natural skin care agent. It promotes healing and regeneration of skin. For any skin-care challenge, lavender is your number one go-to oil.

Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties is beneficial in a number of skin conditions like allergic reactions, acne and aging effects.

Blend four drops of Bulgarian lavender and four drops of helichrysum in 15 ml (three teaspoons) of aloe vera gel and use to nourish the skin.

Would Healing

Lavender oil stimulates new cell growth, kills bacteria, prevents scarring, and reduces pain. Its regenerative and healing properties stimulate tissue repair and aid in wound healing, especially in case of cuts, burns, insect stings. It is also helpful in soothing skin irritations, razor bumps, and sunburn.

Apply a few drops of lavender oil on the affected area.

Hair Care

Lavender oil is possibly effective in treatment of hair loss, particularly associated with alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. Research shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.

Headaches and Pain Reliever

Lavender oil is an effective natural treatment for acute as well as chronic or intractable pain. Use of lavender oil is shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, wakefulness, and pain in patients.

Inhalation of lavender essential oil is suggested to be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

Cosmetic and Perfumery Products

Lavender oil has been a popular choice in manufacturing of cosmetics and perfumery products like bath room sprays, toilet waters, perfumes, colognes, massage oils, sachets, salves and skin lotions due to its excellent and soothing aroma.

Other Usages:

  • Anti-inflammatory: Lavender oil is beneficial in treating inflammatory and allergic conditions including neuritis, otitis, bronchitis, vaginitis, cystitis, gastroenteritis, phlebitis and coronaritis.
  • Urinary Tract Infection: Lavender oil is beneficial in treating urinary tract and bladder infections. Its antiseptic properties make it an effective treatment for vaginal yeast infection when used as a douche. Blending it with tea tree or juniper berry oil can enhance this effect.
  • Relieve Respiratory Disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
  • Cooking: High grade therapeutic lavender oil may be occasionally sparsely used in cooking to flavour foods like cookies.

Safety With Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing oil. Conduct a patch test before using topically. Dilute with a carrier oil before each use, especially if you sensitive skin.

Consult your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children.

Care must be taken in storing lavender oil. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. The shelf life of lavender oil is around 4-5 years.


The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.

References Kymberly Keniston-Pond. Essential Oils 101
Konstantine, Ramit. “Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Healing With Natural Herbal Remedies, Alternative Therapies, and Using Essential Oils For Beauty, Essential Oils For Stress and Weight Loss
Susan Burgess. Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Beginners: Au Naturoil: A Guide for Stress Relief, Healing Remedies and Natural Cleaners – With Over 100 Essential Oil Recipes
Jean Valnet. The Practice of Aromatherapy

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