Lavender (Lavandula) is beautiful not just in colour, but also in scent – giving off a fresh aroma that will fill your garden many times throughout the year. It’s eye-catching appearance and the fact that it is easy to look after, makes lavender a popular plant in many gardens.
Purchasing lavender, however, can be a bit of a minefield – with over 450 different types available to you with different colours, scents and growing capabilities. This article has combined all of the most important information that you could need when considering purchasing lavender for your garden.
Types of Lavender
There are five main types of lavender, but these then have many subtypes!
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – growing towards the middle/end of summer and in many bright colours. This type of lavender has a very strong, sweet fragrance.
- French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) – Suited to hotter climates, this plant tends to be found in purple/pink colours, with petals that look like rabbit ears. This type of lavender has no smell, unlike many of the other varieties, but is evergreen and will flower from the beginning of summer to the end of autumn (some even flower on and off all year!)!
- Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) – Portuguese lavender has two long lilac petals that grow up out of the top of each flower. It also has an even stronger smell than English lavender. This type is evergreen, so will look beautiful in your garden all through the year.
- Egyptian Lavender – Growing tall, lilac flowers on a stalk in Spring and Summer, this type of lavender has a very distinctive smell that makes it stand out from other types of lavender.
- Lavandin (Laandula x intermedia) – a hybrid of English lavender and Portuguese lavender, these plants are less hardy than English lavender, but can cope in a significantly warmer temperature.
Help! Which Lavender Should I Choose?
We understand how difficult it can be to choose between the different types of lavender, as they all have their pros and cons. Therefore we have provided a list of things for you to consider to help you commit to a lavender type that is right for you and your garden.
- Height – The height of lavender plants ranges from around 12 inches to over 3ft high, so consider the place in your garden that you are wanting to plant and if you are planting in a pot or in the ground, as a taller plant will need more space to bed into the ground.
- Flower – Each different type of lavender has different flowers that vary in not just colour but also shape and size. Some of the lavender flowers can be quite unusual looking, with spikes that stick up from the top of the flower (but this does mean that they are eye-catching!).
- When will it bloom? – This is important when planning your garden – some will want a garden with all the plants blooming around the same time, for that beautiful, dramatic effect, whereas others would want different parts of their garden to shine at different times so that there is always something to look at! Lavender usually blooms during early Summer but we would recommend checking, as others can be in bloom all year round, whereas some don’t bloom until Autumn.
- Hardiness – Most lavenders are relatively hardy and can cope with almost anything the British weather has to throw at them. However, it is important to check as some types will only be suited to warm weather so will need protecting in winter.
Best Conditions for Growing Lavender
- As hard as this might be to believe – lavender actually doesn’t grow as well in fertile soils! It much prefers sandy or chalky soils.
- Lavender is suited to a setting in full sun and can cope in drier conditions than many other plants, making it ideal to brighten up those corners of the garden that are too dry for other plants. They can, however, struggle to grow in very wet soil (which can be a common occurrence in the UK!), so if your garden is prone to this, we would recommend adding grit to the bottom of your hole before planting.
- The best time to plant your lavender is in Spring (hardier types will also cope being planted in Autumn).
- Less hardy types of lavender should be planted in pots that can be moved somewhere indoors during winter.
Uses for Lavender
Lavender has been used for thousands of years, seen as a holy herb by the Greeks, used in the mummification process by the Egyptians and by the Romans in their baths, beds, clothes and hair! The word “lavender” even comes from the Latin word for “wash”!
Fast forward a few thousand years and lavender is still being used in homes to this day for many purposes. The oil that can be produced from lavender flowers has many benefits, such as being anti-inflammatory, an antiseptic, and can ease the discomfort of cuts, sunburn and bites. As if this isn’t enough, lavender is also well known for its relaxing agents, being used regularly in types of aromatherapy, plus to aid sleep and relaxation.
As well as this, many types of lavender can be used in cooking (usually when the flowers are dried) to add flavour to meat, desserts and baking, for example.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to prune my lavender plant?
Yes! To get the best results from your lavender then it will need annual pruning. Failure to do this could result in considerably fewer flowers growing on your plant. Prune once a year, usually during August, removing any brown legs to just above the green shoot to give your plant a new lease of life!
How can I use lavender plants to create a border?
Many beautiful estates have fantastic lavender borders or lavender walls. This delightful sight is actually much easier than it looks to create. Simply prepare the ground that you are going to be working with to check that it is going to be right for your plant (see above) and then plant your lavender around 30cm apart to leave space for them to grow. Make sure to prune your plants once a year to encourage them to grow in the right direction and in no time you will have your beautiful lavender border!