All About Lavender

all about lavenderall about lavender

By Charlie Nardozzi, gardening expert and author.

All About Growing Fragrant Lavender in your Garden

While most people's vision of lavender plants is large fields growing in Provence, France, it is a stalwart in the perennial home garden, too. My first experience with lavender was in California. On the West Coast, this fragrant perennial is a shrub that is not only used in flower and herb gardens but is also planted with other low-growing shrubs and is used in formal gardens as a hedge or border.

The key is to grow the right lavender varieties for your area and climate, and to choose ones that are good companions with your flowers.

How to Choose the Best Lavender

Types of Lavender

There are about 39 species of lavender. The main types of lavender are English, French, Spanish and Lavandin hybrids.

The English Lavender types are probably the most familiar. These bloom from spring to early summer. Once finished blooming and deadheaded (the spent blooms removed), they are attractive, mounded, fragrant plants in the landscape with their blue-green leaves.

Some of the best varieties of English lavender include 'Hidcote' with its dark purple flowers. 'Jean Davis' is a pink-flowering version.. 'Munstead' is cold tolerant in winter and heat tolerant in summer, making it a good all-around variety.

Munstead is the best choice for northern lavender growers because it consistently survives the Northeast's harsh winter.

  1. Phenomenal Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia

    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragran...

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    Phenomenal® Lavender Lavender Phenomenal® PP#24193 Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal PP#24193
    As low as $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragrant with concentrated essential oils, Phenomenal's spikes of purple-blue flowers attract butterflies and bees to the garden. Edible, deer-resistant and fast-growing, this silver-leafed lavender has left all other new introductions in the dust! (Lavandula x intermedia) PP#24193
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  2. Lavender Munstead, Lavandula angustifolia Close Up

    'Munstead' Lavender is an English Lavender that has fragrant, cool lavender-blue spikes and gray-green, mounded foliage. You can tuck this lavender into your herb garden, but we lov...

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    Munstead English Lavender English Lavender Munstead Lavandula angustifolia Munstead
    As low as $9.98 Sale $4.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Munstead' Lavender is an English Lavender that has fragrant, cool lavender-blue spikes and gray-green, mounded foliage. You can tuck this lavender into your herb garden, but we love it planted with other colorful perennials in borders, planted in a massive swath where it can sway in the breeze, or set in a pot on the patio where you can enjoy its pleasant scent. Excellent in fresh or dried bouquets. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  3. Sensational!™ Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia Sensational!™ harvested in a baskest

    Sensational!™ Lavender is an improved, easy-to-grow variety that makes growing lavender accessible to more gardeners than ever! Silvery foliage is topped by large, dense purple flo...

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    Sensational!™ Lavender Sensational!™ Lavender Lavandula x intermedia Sensational!™
    As low as $15.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Sensational!™ Lavender is an improved, easy-to-grow variety that makes growing lavender accessible to more gardeners than ever! Silvery foliage is topped by large, dense purple flower spikes. With a compact, dense habit and notable durability for sun, heat, and humidity, as well as cold tolerance, Sensational stands apart from many traditional Lavender varieties. A favorite of honeybees, these fragrant flowers will attract a wide range of pollinators. (Lavandula x intermedia)
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  4. Purple Lavender Anouk, Lavandula stoechas, French Lavender

    'Anouk' Lavender has dark purple flowerheads topped with delicate mauve-lilac flags. Sweetly fragrant, it’s perfect for containers or perennial beds where it makes a magnificent fo...

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    Anouk Spanish Lavender Anouk Spanish Lavender P#16685 Lavandula stoechas Anouk PP#16685
    As low as $15.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Anouk' Lavender has dark purple flowerheads topped with delicate mauve-lilac flags. Sweetly fragrant, it’s perfect for containers or perennial beds where it makes a magnificent focal point. Pollinator friendly - deer and rabbits avoid it. Easily grown and long flowering, use ‘Anouk’ to perk up your summer garden. (Lavandula stoechas)
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  5. Hidcote English Lavender

    'Hidcote' is a compact English Lavender that grows only 18-24 inches tall, with highly fragrant, deep purple-blue flowers. Excellent for both fresh and dried bouquets, this lavender ...

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    Hidcote English Lavender English Lavender Hidcote Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote
    As low as $9.98 Sale $4.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Hidcote' is a compact English Lavender that grows only 18-24 inches tall, with highly fragrant, deep purple-blue flowers. Excellent for both fresh and dried bouquets, this lavender attracts bees and butterflies but repels deer and rabbits. Perfect for hot, dry sites and drought tolerant once established. Great choice for container plantings. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  6. Purple Lavender Superblue, Lavandula angustifolia

    SuperBlue' is a compact and fragrant Lavender plant that tops out at 12", making it a perfect choice for edging walkways and setting into patio containers. This English Lavender...

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    SuperBlue English Lavender English Lavender SuperBlue PP#24929 Lavandula angustifolia SuperBlue PP#24929
    As low as $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    SuperBlue' is a compact and fragrant Lavender plant that tops out at 12", making it a perfect choice for edging walkways and setting into patio containers. This English Lavender is fairly tough, withstanding drought and overwintering reliably in all but the coldest zones. Rich and saturated, 'SuperBlue' produces blooms that are tighter together, delivering more color and fewer airy gaps. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  7. Long Blooming Lavender Collection

    The Long Blooming Lavender Collection includes 5 lavender plants that bring a graceful bouquet of aroma to sunny areas. Includes fragrant 'Munstead,' compact 'SuperBlue,' humidity-t...

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    Long Blooming Lavender Collection Long Blooming Lavender Collection Lavandula
    As low as $63.98 Sale $31.99
    Per Collection of 5
    The Long Blooming Lavender Collection includes 5 lavender plants that bring a graceful bouquet of aroma to sunny areas. Includes fragrant 'Munstead,' compact 'SuperBlue,' humidity-tolerant 'Phenomenal', intensely fragrant "Grosso', and pollinator attracting 'Hidcote.' All prefer fast-draining soils, so choose pots with bottom holes and allow plants to dry out between waterings. (Lavandula)
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  8. Photo Credit Amy Myers, Lavender Goodwin Creek Grey, Lavandula ginginsii, Queen Butterfly

    'Goodwin Creek Grey’ Lavender's silver foliage contrasts beautifully with its deep purple blooms. This French Lavender flowers from early summer through fall (and winter in mild zo...

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    Goodwin Creek Grey French Lavender Goodwin Creek Grey French Lavender Lavandula ginginsii Goodwin Creek Grey
    $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Goodwin Creek Grey’ Lavender's silver foliage contrasts beautifully with its deep purple blooms. This French Lavender flowers from early summer through fall (and winter in mild zones). It's a great choice for containers, rock gardens or a perennial bed. Plant in a sunny location with well-drained soil for this pollinator favorite. (Lavandula ginginsii)
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  9. Purple Lavender Grosso, Lavandula x intermedia, Lavender, Close Up

    Long-blooming and highly fragrant, 'Grosso' Lavender is famed throughout the world as the one most often grown for use in perfume making. It's also very showy, with large and spiky d...

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    Grosso Lavender Grosso Lavender Lavandula x intermedia Grosso
    $15.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Long-blooming and highly fragrant, 'Grosso' Lavender is famed throughout the world as the one most often grown for use in perfume making. It's also very showy, with large and spiky dark purple blooms set against silver foliage. Blooms form on purple bracts (as opposed to the more common green) making for a richly colorful appearance in the garden and when dried for crafts. (Lavandula x intermedia)
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  10. Purple Lavender Provence, Lavandula x intermedia, Lavender

    'Provence' Lavender is tolerant of poor soils and a true heat lover; it's even known to withstand heavy doses of summertime humidity. One of the tallest and most fragrant varieties, ...

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    Provence Lavender Lavender Provence Lavandula x intermedia Provence
    As low as $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Provence' Lavender is tolerant of poor soils and a true heat lover; it's even known to withstand heavy doses of summertime humidity. One of the tallest and most fragrant varieties, 'Provence' grows to be 30-36” tall and is an excellent choice for creating an aromatic hedge. With exceptionally long, mauve-purple spikes of flowers that are complemented by its silver-green foliage, it's a beautiful sight when swaying in the breeze. (Lavandula x intermedia).
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  11. English Lavender Vera, Lavandula angustifolia close up

    ‘Vera’ is widely held as one of the best oil producing lavenders, so if aromatherapy or gifts from the garden are your passion, this English, narrow-leaved lavender is the one fo...

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    Vera English Lavender Vera English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Vera
    $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    ‘Vera’ is widely held as one of the best oil producing lavenders, so if aromatherapy or gifts from the garden are your passion, this English, narrow-leaved lavender is the one for you. Drought and deer resistant once established, ‘Vera’ thrives in poorer soils and sunny spots, blooming both in spring and late summer. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  12. Lavender Royal Velvet

    Velvety, dark purple-blue flowers are the hallmark of Lavender ‘Royal Velvet’, as are its rich fragrance and speedy growth habit. Tall, waving flower spikes last and last, and wi...

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    Royal Velvet English Lavender Royal Velvet English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Royal Velvet
    $15.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Velvety, dark purple-blue flowers are the hallmark of Lavender ‘Royal Velvet’, as are its rich fragrance and speedy growth habit. Tall, waving flower spikes last and last, and will bloom a second time after a mid-season harvest. Deer resistant, ‘Royal Velvet’s strong scent attracts plentiful bees and butterflies. Excellent for cutting and drying. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  13. Dwarf English Lavender Thumbelina Leigh, Lavandula angustifolia

    ‘Thumbelina Leigh’ is a compact English lavender that is highly aromatic and perfect for smaller spaces such as containers, rock gardens or the edge of narrow pathways. Drought a...

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    Thumbelina Leigh English Lavender Thumbelina Leigh English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Thumbelina Leigh
    $15.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    ‘Thumbelina Leigh’ is a compact English lavender that is highly aromatic and perfect for smaller spaces such as containers, rock gardens or the edge of narrow pathways. Drought and deer resistant, the plump lavender blooms will appear twice during the growing season if kept trimmed. Sunny, poor soils. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  14. Lavender Blue Cushion PP9,119, Lavandula angustifolia Blue Cushion

    'Blue Cushion' Lavender is a compact shrub with a perfect 'cushion' form of gray-green foliage. Continuous blooms of deep purple-blue flowers arrive throughout the season, fading to ...

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    Blue Cushion English Lavender Blue Cushion English Lavender PP#9119 Lavandula angustifolia Blue Cushion PP#9119
    $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Blue Cushion' Lavender is a compact shrub with a perfect 'cushion' form of gray-green foliage. Continuous blooms of deep purple-blue flowers arrive throughout the season, fading to pale lavender with age. In the herb garden, perennial border, or planted in containers, this English Lavender keeps you in scent and color all season long with its repeated blooms. Water thrifty and easy to grow, 'Blue Cushion' is also a pollinator favorite. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  15. Lavender Silver Anouk PP20,068, Lavandula stoechas Silver Anouk PP20,068

    'Silver Anouk' Lavender’s unusual two-toned flowers are framed by its silvery foliage making it a garden standout. Dark plum flowers are topped by violet flags, like butterfly wing...

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    Silver Anouk Spanish Lavender Silver Anouk Spanish Lavender PP#20068 Lavandula stoechas Silver Anouk PP#20068
    $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Silver Anouk' Lavender’s unusual two-toned flowers are framed by its silvery foliage making it a garden standout. Dark plum flowers are topped by violet flags, like butterfly wings. Very fragrant, it's a good choice for containers, patios, and porches where you can enjoy it up close. (Lavandula stoechas)
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Lavandins are English lavender hybrids. These hybrids are workhorses in the lavender patch. They have large, gray leaves. They grow faster and larger than regular English lavenders, yet they still have the fragrance and plant qualities you'd expect from this group.

Lavandins bloom conveniently right after the traditional English lavenders are finished, extending the flowering season. Like English lavender they are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10.

'Phenomenal' is a standout variety for both hot and cold climates. Its ability to tolerate humidity have made it the go-to lavender for the Southeastern US, while its ability to survive winter without much dieback have increased its popularity in northern locations..

Some nice choices within the Lavandin group include 'Grosso' with its long purple flower wands. There's a white flowering version of 'Grosso' as well. 'Edelweiss' is a white flowering, very fragrant Lavandin. 'Provence' is a classic Lavandin with fragrant, purple flowers, high in essential oils that are used in the French perfume industry.

French lavender varieties are hardy to zones 8 to 10, not commonly used in culinary dishes and not as fragrant or showy as the English lavender. They have gray, serrated leaves. Keep these cut back to 3 feet tall to maintain the quality of the plant.

’Goodwin Creek Grey' is a nice French lavender variety. Yellow lavenders such as 'Chiffon Yellow' blooms around the time of French lavender and grows in a similar setting. It has attractive yellow-colored foliage and flowers that are mostly used for ornamental purpose.

Spanish lavender such as 'Anouk' is also mostly used for the plant's beauty and eucalyptus fragrance, and not as much in the kitchen. It's hardy to zones 8 to 11 and is better adapted to humid conditions than other lavenders. These lavenders are known for their unusual two-toned, pineapple-shaped blooms.

Working with Lavender in the Garden

Whatever variety of lavender you decide to grow, be creative about where in the landscape you'll plant it.

Lavender thrives in full sun, well-drained soil, and without competition from other plants. Planting lavender where it will not thrive eventually spells death to that plant.

drought tolerant lavender in a gardendrought tolerant lavender in a garden

Growing Lavender for its Uses

Certainly if your goal is a small cottage industry of dried lavender flowers, sachets, and potpourris for sale, plant in rows leaving enough space not only for the lavender plants to grow, but for you to harvest and work around them.

If you're growing lavender just for personal use in the kitchen, keep it close at hand. Considering planting it with other herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, that you'll be using daily close to the kitchen and house. They will be in the right location for a quick run outside to harvest a few fresh leaves for your Herbs de Provence when cooking. However, given the choice between 'close to the house' and the 'right growing conditions', always choose the latter.

Learn more about growing lavender for its culinary and craft uses.

Garden Design with Lavender

In the flower garden I like to plant lavender in raised beds or on sandy loam soil in the front of the border, so that I can enjoy the pastel purple, pink, white or pale yellow flowers. Lavender can easily get lost in the landscape if planted too far back in a border, or next to marauding bullies such as bee balm and phlox.

Growing Lavender in Containers

Lavender can also be grown in containers:

  • Select smaller varieties, choose a large, well-drained container and fill it with well-drained potting soil.
  • Make sure you have a number of good sized drainage holes in the bottom.
  • You might want to add some extra vermiculite or sand to the potting mix to be sure it's well drained.
anouk lavenderanouk lavender
<a href="/perennials/lavender/lavender-anouk">Anouk Lavender</a>
mini blue english lavendermini blue english lavender
<a href="/perennials/lavender/lavender-mini-blue">Mini Blue English Lavender</a>
hidcote lavender in containerhidcote lavender in container
<a href="/perennials/lavender/lavender-hidcote">'Hidcote' Lavender</a>
goodwin creek grey lavendergoodwin creek grey lavender
<a href="/perennials/lavender/lavender-goodwin-creek-grey">'Goodwin Creek Grey' Lavender</a>

While lavender does need good drainage and is drought tolerant, in a container it will need to be watered regularly, especially during hot weather.

In climates where the ground freezes, protect container lavenders in winter by moving them to an unheated garage or basement. Reduce watering to keep the soil barely moist.

Cut back the plants severely in spring to encourage new growth and fertilize with fish emulsion to stimulate more foliage.


About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden speaker, author, consultant, radio and TV show host. He delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. Visit his website, GardeningwithCharlie.com for great how-to gardening information, and for more about Charlie.

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