What plants well with lavender?

Plants That Look Like Lavender

fresh rosemary with flowers image by joanna wnuk from Fotolia.com

It’s helpful to learn about lavender look-alikes, whether as perennial garden substitutes or simply as an identification tool. Purple or blue flowering spikes, silver needlelike foliage, and bushy growth are the three traits most people associate with lavender’s visual charms. Several plants possess one or all of these traits. Although it grows happily in unfertilized and low-water gardens, lavender may fail in extremely cold or humid climates. Gardeners often turn to hardier plants like Russian sage or catnip to evoke the mood but none of the problems of lavender.

Russian Sage

Perovskia atriplicifolia looks strikingly similar to lavender, but survives harsh winters with greater ease. Cultivars of the plant range from 2 to 4 feet tall and wide. Choices from the dwarf ‘Little Spire’ and the delicate ‘Blue Haze’ and ‘Filigran.’ Not technically a sage (or even from Russia), Russian sage nonetheless has a pungent, sagelike scent that helps repel deer, said University of Arkansas Extension in naming it one of its “Plants of the Week” in 2000. Give it plenty of sunlight and dry soil.

Hyssop

Where Russian sage resembles the more blue-toned of the lavender varieties, hyssop mimics the deep purple types. Common hyssop reaches about 4 feet in height, with needle-like leaves. Rock hyssop, which stays under 2 feet, looks like some of the dwarfing lavenders. Give the plants dry soil in a sunny location. If your soil tends toward the acidic, use wood ash or garden lime to raise the pH level. The plant has culinary, fragrance and medicinal uses.

Catnip

Although this foliage-heavy mint cousin doesn’t have quite the spiking purple presence of lavender, from a distance the plants are similar. Unlike lavender, Nepeta cataria tolerates partial shade and slightly humid conditions. “Herb Companion” magazine notes that some varieties feature white blossoms, so for those seeking the hues similar to lavender the magazine suggests sticking with the nepeta varieties N. sibirica, N. grandiflora, N. subsessilis, and N. yunnanensis. While some gardeners use the terms “catnip” and “catmint” interchangeably, catmint is usually considered a smaller version of nepeta and may prove unsuitable as a lavender substitute. Grow catnip in sun or part shade, and in dry soil. Use the herb in teas or as mouse and ant repellent.

Pitcher Sage

Salvia azurea, also known as pitcher sage, blue sage and prairie sage, has similar height, width and growing conditions to lavender. A favorite of Southeast gardeners, according to the Herb Society of America, pitcher sage boasts blue flower spikes and grayish-green foliage. Like lavender, pitcher sage is prized as a potpourri ingredient. It differs from lavender in that its flowers don’t begin emerging until late summer.

Rosemary

Rosemary possesses silvery, needle-like foliage strikingly similar lavender’s. In addition, when the herb flowers in late summer, its pale blue or pink flowers share the same hue and spiky habits of some lavender cultivars. In warmer climates, rosemary grows as tall as 6 to 8feet, with the same bushy habit and love of sunny, rocky soil as its fellow Mediterranean herb, lavender. ‘Joyce DeBaggio’ and ‘Tuscan Blue’ have the most lavender-like intense coloring.

Purple Flowering Shrubs

Purple flowering shrubs are one of the most popular shrub categories. This popularity is obvious since purple colors are eye-catching and often bring on a second glance. There are many shades of purple, so therefore, a wide range of shrubs. The shrubs most used in landscapes include Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia), Lilacs (Syringa), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus sgriacus), and Russian Sage (Perouskia). It may be a bit of an overstatement, but a shade of purple from these species should satisfy anyones taste for the color purple!

Selection from these aforementioned plants are available in many heights, foliage colors, and spreads. It is relatively easy to meet a specific landscape requirement with a purple flowering shrub. These shrubs are all deciduous and perennial bloomers. There are often minute differences of shades in purple flowers. The discussion of these differences, such as shades of purples, lavenders, and some blues, is in the eye of the beholder, and not written in stone! For more information click on any picture or call Nature Hills at 888.864.7663.

Plants with purple flowers

Purple-flowered plants work well in most colour schemes, pairing just as effectively with whites and pastels as they do with hot reds and oranges.

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For a striking pot or border, try combining purple blooms with the acid greens of Alchemilla mollis, or euphorbias like Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. Red poppies and orange kniphofias would also work well here.

For a more classic look, combine different shades of purple flowers with pink- and white-flowered plants.

Another benefit of growing purple-flowered plants is that they’re highly attractive to pollinators, with some showing an innate preference for purple flowers.

Discover some of our favourite plants with purple flowers to grow, below.

Teasels

Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) are UK natives that every garden could make room for. Sow a few and they’ll take care of themselves, providing food for pollinators, seeds for birds and beautiful winter seedheads in the process. Check out more UK native wildflowers to grow.

Sweet rocket

Sweet rocket, Hesperis matrionalis is a pretty annual with mauve blooms, that’s perfect for dotting in borders or sowing in containers. It has fantastic evening scent, too. Discover more plants with rich, evening fragrance.

Alliums

Most ornamental alliums range in colour from white, through to pink and purple. They’re especially popular with pollinating insects and provide interest in borders with their drumstick shaped blooms. Discover 10 great alliums to grow.

Salvias

There are salvias to grow in an array of colours, but purple-flowered cultivars like ‘Amistad’ and ‘Ostfriesland’ are probably the most numerous. Check out this advice from an expert grower on how to care for salvias.

Catmint

Catmint (Nepeta) are bushy perennials producing masses of nectar-rich flowers in summer. For sensory gardens, the aromatic foliage is ideal. They thrive in a position of full sun, with light, well-drained soil. Cut the first flush of blooms back hard to encourage a second flush. Try using catmint to create this nectar-rich container display.

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis is a popular garden perennial, though being half-hardy, is often grown as an annual. Unaffected by slugs, it’s great for providing both height and long-lasting colour in borders. Popular with pollinators.

Clematis

There’s an abundance of purple-flowered clematis to grow, with blooms from pale mauves to deep, royal purples. For spring flowers try Clematis alpina, or for summer grow a variety of Clematis viticella. Check out Monty Don’s advice on how to plant clematis for best results.

Wisteria

This fragranced climber is synonymous with spring, as the beautiful lilac blooms open. Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is less vigorous than Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and has longer flowers. Find out how to prune wisteria in summer.

Lavender

Lavender has become a garden stalwart due to its rich scent, colour and ease of growing. Be sure to take plenty of cuttings, and use the extra plants to make lavender bath oil or lavender bath bags. Grow it in full sun, in well-drained soil.

Buddleia

Buddleias are deciduous shrubs commonly known as butterfly bushes. They grow particularly well on chalky, lime-rich soils and are one of the best, if not the best, plants for attracting butterflies. Here’s how to prune buddleia in spring or summer.

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More plants with purple flowers

  • Paulownia tomenstosa
  • Cercis chinensis
  • Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’
  • Jacaranda mimosifolia
  • Magnolia ‘Joe McDaniel’
  • Perovskia
  • Liriope muscari
  • Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
  • Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’
  • Purple thalictrums

Lavender can help protect your garden as a companion plant. The biggest reason is that deer, rabbits and other wildlife nibblers tend to ignore lavender due to its strong odor.

Lavender is easy to cultivate in most U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones. The aromatic, herbaceous perennial adds a delightful scent to the air. The popular, colorful plants provide an attractive contrast to neighboring plantings.

Below are some companion planting tips that will help you grow fragrant, beautiful lavender plants.

Bushels of lavender. Kat Shereko/ Insteading

Companion Plants For Lavender

Companion plants that help lavender grow:

  • basil
  • mint
  • rosemary
  • thyme

Lavender will help these plants grow:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • celery

Why Lavender Is A Great Companion Plant

Companion planting works well as a means of repelling insects and preventing disease when certain plants are growing next to or near each other. Experienced gardeners say that companion planting is based more on observation than science.

Lavender benefits the garden by attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies that love its heady, sweet fragrance. The foliage of lavender is a standout in the garden where its silvery or gray-green hues contrast nicely with its neighbors.

Bee amongst lavender. sagesolar / flickr (Creative Commons)

Lavender repels many harmful insect pests, making it especially useful when planted as a border around the vegetable garden. It is a great companion plant for a variety of other plants. For example, lavender is highly effective in repelling cabbageworms that infest vegetables. It also repels larger pests, like deer and rabbits, which don’t like lavender’s strong scent.

Where To Grow Lavender

Lavender is found in all parts of North America. It has culinary value and amazing medicinal properties. Lavender is a great cash crop, and you can easily grow some as a side business. Your local nursery or extension agent can help you determine which varieties do best in your part of the country.

Lavender is a bit picky about the type of land it grows on. Lavender loves being near large bodies of water. It thrives close to bodies of water, but requires dry soil in which to grow. Lavender cannot tolerate soggy or continuously damp ground. Lavender cultivated in excessively humid locations often display problems with gray mold.

Lavender is disease and drought resistant. The aromatic subshrubs are popular in herb gardens or as a perennial border. Lavender is tolerant of pollution, so it works well in urban settings.
Lavender requires bright sunny days and relatively mild winters and easily adapts to Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9. However, several hybrid varieties of lavender, such as English Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia), are winter hardy and do well in U.S. Plant Hardiness Zone 4 and to its north.

Lavender plants cultivated south of Zone 6 tend to develop fungal diseases when grown in areas of high humidity. If you live in that area, plant lavender far enough apart to allow for adequate air circulation as the plants mature.

Varieties Of Lavender

There are more than 30 species of lavender, and hundreds of different varieties. These three are some of my favorites.

English Lavender – English lavender prefers warm sunny days with long hours of sunlight. The hardy perennial is popular as a landscape plant and used in fresh or dried floral arrangements. It has an intensely sweet aroma. This variety is one of the most popular kinds of lavender.

Lavandin– This variety is grown primarily for its essential oils, which are used in perfumes, lotions, and body potions. This species yields up to five times more essential oils than other types of lavender.

Spanish Lavender- Spanish lavender is ideal for warmer climates in Zones 7-10. It’s lovely in bouquets or dried for sachets. Spanish lavender is the easiest variety to cultivate. It also blooms sooner in the spring than other varieties. This variety is one of the most popular kinds of lavender.

Other Kinds of Lavender

Drought tolerant Lavender Grevillea is one of the most popular varieties of lavender. It grows fragrant pink flowers. So does the Miss Katherine Variety. Provence Blue and Hidcote, varieties of English lavender, are also favorites of home gardeners.

Blue Mountain White and Artic Snow are white flowering lavender varieties hardy in Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9. Ballerina, Seal, and densely flowering Rosea are also easy to cultivate and offer intense aroma and color stability.

Lavender Cultivation

Select Size – Carefully choose the site to plant your lavender, keeping in mind the size of the plant at maturity. Some dwarf varieties are less than eight inches wide, while others have up to a five foot spread. Be sure to allow room around the plants for adequate air circulation. Allow at least one foot between each mature plant. Several varieties of lavender grow to a mature height of two feet or more.

Soil Preparation – Work the soil until its soft and loose. Lavender does not do well in compacted soil. Add gardener’s sand to improve drainage if needed. Do not use beach sand, as it contains salt residues that will kill lavender plants. Lavender flourishes in a slightly alkaline soil. Take a sample of your soil to your local extension office for a soil test, and adjust pH as recommended. Lavender grows best in soil with a pH of 6.0-8.3.

Planting & Pruning – Remove lavender plants or plugs from the pot and gently spread out the root mass. Transplant lavender in soil to the same depth as the when potted. Carefully prune the new planting. A bit of trim will encourage stems to branch and put forth fresh growth. You’ll find this encourages a lush, attractively shaped, and full plant at maturity.

Watering – Lavender requires full sun for vigorous growth. However, afternoon shade is beneficial on hot summer days. Lavender plants are drought tolerant once established, but will produce more flowers if they don’t dry out. Lavender does best with one inch of water per week. Good drainage is required, as lavender plants will wither and die in soggy, wet ground.

Fertilizer – In most soils, fertilization is not necessary. If the soil is too rich, lavender plants will produce more foliage than flowers.

Harvesting – Most varieties of lavender flower from early June through August. Plan to harvest lavender in late morning on a sunny day to avoid trapping moisture from dew or rainfall. Harvest when flowers first bloom to capture all of the aromatic essential oils. Heat can cause oils to evaporate.

Drying – When you harvest lavender, trim it in uniform bunches. Secure it with a twist tie or rubber band. Doing so will keep the bundles from coming loose as they contract during the drying process. Hang the lavender upside down to dry in a warm, dark place to prevent flower color from fading.

Propagating -To retain color and size, most lavender farmers propagate new plants from cuttings rather than seeds. When you trim your lavender plants, place individual cuttings in a seed tray filled with a potting soil mixture. Keep them moist in a sunny location until roots are firmly established. When the plant has reached a size appropriate for repotting, move it to a permanent location in the garden.

Problems – Many varieties of lavender are susceptible to root rot and leaf spot. They may not survive winter temperatures if soil is not well drained and the ground is not covered with an insulating blanket of snow.

Growing Lavender As A Business

Lavender is a great cash crop: lavender flower buds, spikes, and tips have a diverse array of commercial and culinary uses. Growing lavender in the urban or rural homestead is a terrific way to turn a passion for herbs into a side business. A few dozen plants can provide plenty of fresh or dried lavender bouquets to sell at the farmer’s market.

  • Lavender Production and Products, ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Information Services
  • Propagating Your Own Plants, Better Health
  • Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’, Missouri Botanical Garden
  • What’s Going On With My Lavender? Cooperative Extension
  • Lavender, National Center For Complimentary And Integrative Health

When she’s not planting and weeding in Northwestern Montana, Marlene Affeld writes about gardening and her love of nature.

For me, lavender conjures images of a top-down drive through the south of France. Fields and fields of purple unfold as I coast my hand out the window to catch the fragrant wind. Le sigh.

Until I can make my French fantasy a reality, I’ll settle for poundcake. Test Kitchen contributor Jessie Damuck just developed an excellent lemon-lavender pound cake (a perfect addition to an Easter brunch, I’d say). While it’s no Provence, it will satisfy the longing for now.

Look for culinary lavender at specialty food stores, tea and spice shops, or online. Photo: Alex Lau

Alex Lau

You’ll find lavender fresh and dried, often at the farmers’ market in the summer, and as a part of Herbes de Provence (a mixture of pungent herbs like marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and lavender). Lavender is a pretty amazing thing to have in your culinary arsenal but it can easily veer toward potpourri-town if you’re not careful. Keep these things in mind when you start to experiment:

  1. No matter what you plan to do with it, make sure to buy “culinary lavender.” Like coconut oil, lavender is produced for uses other than cooking. It’s true: We made several batches of popcorn with cosmetic-grade coconut oil a few weeks ago. While we didn’t die or anything, we did feel a little bit weird about it. Lavender falls under the same umbrella. Culinary lavender is suitable for consumption while ornamental lavender isn’t (necessarily). And while it probably won’t kill you, just buy the stuff that you’re sure is safe to eat.

  2. It’s no fun biting into a piece of cake and coming away with a mouthful of leaves. We like to use lavender as an infusion, so either grind it (say, with sugar for baked goods) or strain it out of a liquid (cream or syrup) before using. You’ll still get great lavender flavor without the chalky chew.

There is only one teaspoon of lavender in this Lavender Shortbread with Fruits, Flowers, and Herbs. Photo: Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

  1. A little goes a long way. If you’re not following a recipe you trust, use lavender sparingly. Its flavor is strong and can easily overwhelm baked goods or savory dishes if you’re heavy-handed. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

  2. Lavender has a strong flavor, so pair it accordingly with other assertive flavors. In baking, be sure to use a light touch or balance its low notes with something bright like lemon juice and zest. Herbes de Provence go great with lamb, or grilled or roasted chicken.

A few more ideas if this got the creative juices flowing: Infuse simple syrup with a sprinkling of lavender and use to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, or even to flavor meringue. Grind some lavender into sugar and use it in simple butter cookies or infuse cream for lavender-scented whipped or ice cream. Make your own dry blend of herbs and flowers (we like lavender with mint and rosemary) and rub on lamb chops or chicken wings before grilling. You can even candy the blossoms and use those to garnish. Now go make this cake.

Get the recipe: Lemon-Lavender Pound Cake

Culinary Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. In today’s upscale restaurants, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as enhancements to both the flavor and appearance of food. Learn about Edible Flowers.

As a member of the same family as many of our most popular herbs, it is not surprising that lavender is edible and that it’s use in food preparation is also returning. Flowers and leaves can be used fresh, and both buds and stems can be used dried. Culinary Lavender is a member of the mint family and is close to rosemary, sage, and thyme. It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory.

English Lavender (l. angustifolia and munstead) has the sweetest fragrance of all the lavenders and is the one most commonly used in cooking. The uses of lavender are limited only by your imagination. Culinary Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

History of Lavender:

Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries. The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man. As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years.

In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word “lavo” meaning “to wash” that the herb took it’s name. Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece. Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.

The ‘English’ lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas.

Queen Elizabeth I of England valued lavender as a conserve and a perfume. It has been said that she commanded that the royal table should never be without conserve of lavender and she issued orders to her gardeners that fresh lavender flowers should be available all year round! She also drank an abundance of Lavender tea to help ease her migraines and used it as a body perfume.

Queen Victoria of England is most notable for making Lavender popular across England and it could be found, in one form or another, in every one of her rooms, as she used it to wash floors and furniture, freshen the air, and had it strewn among the linens.

During the First World War, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes. To this day, the French continue to send baby lamb to graze in fields of lavender, so their meat will be tender and fragrant.

Drying Lavender Flowers:

When drying lavender, lavender stems are bunched together with a rubber band or tie that will allows for shrinkage of the stems as they dry. Group about a dozen lavender stems together in each bunch.

Rubber bands on the stem can be attached to hooks hanging from the ceiling easily. The lavender bunches are hanged upside down (flowers on the bottom).Lavender needs to be dried in a dark, dust-free place with good ventilation to allow for quick and complete drying.

To retain the flavor and fragrance of dried lavender, store them in glass or pottery containers with tight fitting lids so the oils will not escape from the flowers.

Lavender Skin Care:

From Lavender Oil: The new guide to nature’s most versatile remedy, by Julia Lawless.

Lavender is one of the most useful skin care oils. Although it has excellent antiseptic properties, it is also very mild to the skin. Lavender has been used as an ingredient in cosmetics for centuries and its effects have been well tried and tested.

Cleanser/Toner for skin care:
(especially dry or mature skin)

Blend 15 drops each of rose and lavender essential oils with 25 ml of witch hazel and 75 ml distilled water (or another flower water) and apply morning and night before moisturizing the skin.

Moisturizing the skin:

Bland 3 drops of lavender essential oil with 1 teaspoon wheat germ oil (or a moisturizing cream). Apply twice daily.

Sunburn:

Due to its excellent healing and analgesic properties, lavender can provide instant relief from heat rash or red and sore skin. It can also prevent blistering. Make a lotion using 12 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 tablespoon of distilled water. Dab the area gently.

Cooking with Lavender – Culinary Lavender:

In cooking, use 1/3 the quantity of dried lavender flowers to fresh lavender flowers.

The key to cooking with culinary lavender is to experiment; start out with a small amount of flowers, and add more as you go.

NOTE: Adding too much lavender to your recipe can be like eating perfume and will make your dish bitter. Because of the strong flavor of lavender, the secret is that a little goes a long way.

The lavender flowers add a beautiful color to salads. Lavender can also be substituted for rosemary in many bread recipes. The flowers can be put in sugar and sealed tightly for a couple of weeks then the sugar can be substituted for ordinary sugar for a cake, buns or custards. Grind the lavender in a herb or coffee grinder or mash it with mortar and pestle.

The spikes and leaves of culinary lavender can be used in most dishes in place of rosemary in most recipes. Use the spikes or stems for making fruit or shrimp kabobs. Just place your favorite fruit on the stems and grill.

Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. Dried lavender blossoms used in perfumes and pot pourris.

NOTE: Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Harvesting Fresh Lavender:

Harvest flowers as you would fruit, selecting those that look most perfectly ready, with the fullest color, and passing over any that seem wilted or less ripe. The fresher the flower, the more flavorful its taste, so pick your flowers as close as possible to food preparation time. Cutting the lavender flowers is best done in the morning when the dew has evaporated and before the heat of the day.

Stem flowers may be put in a glass of water in a cool place until you are ready to use them. All blooms should be thoroughly rinsed. Immerse them in water to remove any insects or soil. Then lay the flowers gently on paper or cloth towels and dab dry, or gently spin dry in a salad spinner. If necessary, layer blooms carefully between moist paper towels in the refrigerator until meal time.

Favorite Recipes Using Culinary Lavender:

Chicken with Herbes de Provence

Cottage Cheese-Herb Bread

Crostini with White Truffle & Olive Paste

Cucumber, Lavender, and Mint Infused Water

Grilled Pork Chops with Lavender Flowers

Herb-Crusted Ham

Honey-Lavender Biscotti

Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Focaccia

Lavender Hazelnut Bread

Lavender Jelly

Lavender Meringue Cookies

Lavender Sorbet

Lavender Tea Cookies

Linda’s Smoked Salmon

Peppered Lavender Beef

Seared Ahi Tuna with Lavender-Pepper Crust

Lavender Plant Companions: Learn What To Plant With Lavender

Companion planting is an easy and very effective way to make your garden the best it can be. It draws on a few different principles, like pairing plants that repel insects with those that suffer from them, and matching water and fertilizer needs. Lavender does have some specific requirements that mean it can only be planted in certain parts of the garden, but it’s also very good at protecting other plants from pests. Keep reading to learn more about the best planting companions for lavender.

Lavender Plant Companions

Lavender is very particular in its growing requirements. It needs full sun, little water, and little to no fertilizer. It’s usually happiest if left alone. This means that if you place it next to a plant that prefers more attention, one of them is going to suffer.

Some good plants to grow with lavender which share similar needs are:

  • Echinacea
  • Aster
  • Sedum
  • Wild indigo
  • Baby’s breath
  • Drought tolerant roses

These companions for lavender perform well in full sun and dry, less-than-rich soil. Gazania, another good choice, is a beautiful flowering plant from South Africa that fares especially well in poor, dry soils. Like lavender, it will really suffer if you pay too much attention to it. On top of being good companions for lavender based on their growing habits, these plants all also produce flowers that pair strikingly with its purple blossoms.

Some planting companions for lavender benefit greatly from having it nearby. Lavender is a natural repellant of moths, slugs, and deer. Any plants that suffer from these pests will benefit from having a lavender plant nearby.

Fruit trees, in particular, which can be hit very hard by moths, tend to do much better when surrounded by lavender bushes. The same can be said for cabbage and broccoli, which often fall prey to slugs.

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