How to Grow and Care for English Lavender

english lavender

The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), with aromatic leaves and flowers, is often considered an herb. But it is actually an herbaceous perennial with a semi-woody growth habit. It's often grown to produce leaves and flowers to dry for sachets and potpourri, and oils for sleep aromatherapy, but it is also an attractive garden plant with vibrant purple flowers appearing in late spring to early summer.

Lavender is best started with small plants put in the ground in the spring with a spacing of 1 to 3 feet apart. This plant typically grows to 2 to 3 feet tall, with narrow, gray-green leaves (a little over 2 inches long) on square stems. In warmer climates, the leaves may be evergreen. It has a moderately slow growth rate and gets a little bigger each year, as its woody base gradually expands, and new growth extends several inches during the warm season. Take note that English lavender plants are toxic to pets.

Common Name English lavender
Botanical Name Lavandula angustifolia
Family Lamiaceae (mint)
Plant Type Herbaceous flowering perennial
Mature Size 2-3 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Dry to medium, well-drained 
Soil pH Neutral (6.7 to 7.3)
Bloom Time Midsummer
Flower Color Blue to purple
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Mediterranean
Toxicity Toxic to animals
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Watch Now: How to Prune Lavender Plants

English Lavender Care

English lavender provides good mid-summer color to the garden and is often used in perennial borders and rock gardens as well as in herb gardens and scent gardens. Its intermediate height makes it just about right for the middle row in a decorative border comprised of shorter annual flowers in the front and taller shrubs or trees in the back. It also works well when massed and is sometimes used as a low hedge.

closeup of English lavender
​The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong
bee on lavender
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault
harvesting English lavender
The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

Light

Grow English lavender in full sun. Shady locations usually cause the plant to get leggy along with reduced flower production. In very hot climates, though, the plants respond well to some shade in the heat of the afternoon.

Soil

English lavender must be planted in a relatively sandy, well-draining soil. Damp soils frequently cause root rot. Strive for a soil similar to its native Mediterranean region. Adding organic material to the soil is not only unnecessary but may cause problems.

Water

Young plants should be watered well, but once established they are quite drought-tolerant and don't like too much water, which could inhibit their ability to bloom. Water mature plants as needed for your climate, increasing the frequency after flower buds form to promote a healthy harvest.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants grow best in conditions that are warm but not oppressively hot. They prefer relatively dry climates and respond poorly to high humidity.

Fertilizer

Feeding is usually not necessary with English lavender. Fertilizing English lavender may inhibit its ability to flower.

Types of English Lavender

  • Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' is a lower variety (about 20 inches), with a mounded growth habit.
  • L. angustifolia 'Hidcote Giant' is a larger version, achieving a height of 36 to 40 inches.
  • L. angustifolia 'Munstead' is a short, 12-inch-tall variety with flowers that combine blue, lavender, pink, and purple.
  • L. angustifolia 'Sarah' is a 6- to 24-inch tall cultivar with violet flowers.
  • L. angustifolia 'Jean Davis' has light-pink flowers and grows to 20 to 24 inches.

Pruning

Once the plants are well established, in their second season and beyond, it's usually best to prune the new spring growth after the plants leaf out, cutting about one-third of the green stalks. Shearing the plants to about 8 inches from the ground in early spring, once every three years, helps to control the plants' size and promotes new growth.

You can also dry English lavender that you have pruned to make your own sachets and potpourris. To do this, harvest the flowers just as they open and then hang bunches upside down by the stems to dry in a cool dark room with plenty of ventilation.

Propagating English Lavender

Lavender is best propagated through stem cuttings. Take these easy steps to create more lavender:

  1. Use a clean and sharp tool to cut 6-inch-long shoots that do not have a flower or bud. Remove the lower leaves.
  2. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone.
  3. Plant cuttings in a pot filled with potting soil or sand.
  4. Keep the cuttings in a part-shade location and water frequently until they are well rooted (in about three weeks) for planting outdoors or in an indoor container.

Overwintering

English lavender may not survive in winter if the soil is not well-drained or if temperatures dip well below zero degrees without protective snow cover or mulch. At the cooler northern edge of the hardiness range, these plants should be protected over winter with a thick layer of mulch until spring. To combat humidity problems, mulch them with rock or gravel rather than organic mulch.

Common Plant Diseases

English lavender does not attract many diseases. However, it is susceptible to leaf spot and root rot. Remove affected leaves succumbing to leaf spot. Plants with leaf spot may also need better air circulation. Prevent root rot by watching that your plants are not overwatered.

Common Problems With English Lavender

English lavender is easy-going, but there are a few issues to keep an eye on that may prevent flowering. If you notice your plants are growing more foliage than blooms in late June and early July (there won't be blooms after this period of the summer), you may have one of the following problems:

  • The soil is too rich, fertile, and too slow-draining.
  • The plants are being overfertilized.
  • The lavender needs more sun.
  • The soil is too acidic.
  • They are overwatered.
  • The humidity is too high.
FAQ
  • Is English lavender easy to care for?

    It's very easy to maintain if the plant is not growing in humid or overly hot conditions. This aromatic plant also repels deer as well as cats.

  • How fast does English lavender grow?

    It has a moderate growth rate which means you don't need to do much pruning unless you want to neaten up your garden.

  • What is the difference between English and French lavender?

    The "French" variety of lavender (Lavandula stoechas) prefers a warmer climate and is not as cold-hardy as its English cousin. It is also somewhat more sensitive and less durable than English lavender. Because nursery labeling is sometimes imprecise, make sure you are buying true English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), especially if you live in the colder zones of the hardiness range.

  • Can English lavender grow indoors?

    English lavender is typically grown outdoors, but it can thrive when potted indoors if the plant is given a minimum of four hours of bright, direct sunlight a day. It also prefers low-humidity environments with consistent, moderate temperatures.

Article Sources
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  1. Lavender. ASPCA.

  2. Lavandula angustifolia. Missouri Botanical Garden