English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), with its aromatic leaves and sweetly fragrant flower spikes, is often considered an herb. But it is actually an herbaceous perennial with a semi-woody growth habit. It's often grown to dry its leaves and flowers to make sachets and potpourri, and for its oils used in sleep aromatherapy. 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 planted in the spring with a spacing of one to three feet apart. This plant typically grows to two to three feet tall, with narrow, gray-green leaves (a little over two inches long) on square stems. In warmer climates, the leaves might be evergreen. During the warm growing season, It has a moderately slow growth rate as its woody base gradually expands and new stem growth extends several inches . This aromatic plant repels deer, it is known to repel cats, but it is toxic to pets.
|Common Name||English lavender, true lavender, common lavender|
|Botanical Name||Lavandula angustifolia|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous flowering perennial|
|Mature Size||2-3 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy, gritty, dry to medium, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral (6.7 to 7.3)|
|Flower Color||Dark or light purple is most common, but hybrid colors also available in lavender, violet-blue, white, and pink|
|Hardiness Zones||5-8 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to animals|
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.
Grow English lavender in full sun. Shady locations usually cause the plant to become leggy produce fewer blooms. In very hot climates, though, the plants respond well to some shade in the heat of the afternoon.
English lavender must be planted in a relatively sandy or gritty but very well-draining soil. Very humusy, damp soils frequently cause root rot. Strive for a soil similar to its native Mediterranean region, where the soil is dry and infertile. Adding organic material to the soil is not only unnecessary but might cause problems.
Young plants should be watered once every other day for the first week. Once established, they are quite drought-tolerant and don't like too much water, which could inhibit their ability to bloom. Water mature plants about once per week or so based on your climate, increasing the frequency to about every four days 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.
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 very popular and fragrant shorter variety (about 20 inches tall) with a mounded growth habit and dark purple flower spikes.
- Lavandula x intermedia 'Hidcote Giant' is a larger version with long stems, achieving a height of 36 to 40 inches with very fragrant bright violet flower spikes.
- L. angustifolia 'Munstead' is a slow-growing mounding variety 18 inches tall with rosy-purple flower spikes.
- L. angustifolia 'Sarah' is a 12-inch-tall compact cultivar with medium purple flowers that are ideal for containers.
- L. angustifolia 'Jean Davis' is a small, slow-growing variety with light-pink flowers that grows to about 18 inches tall.
Remove faded flower stalks to promote continued bloom. You can prune to shape in spring after new stems and leaves appear. A light pruning again in late summer or early fall before the first frost encourages good air circulation, which guards against rot. So if you have the time, pruning twice a year can be beneficial for your plant. English lavender typically blooms only once per season, but some varieties might send up a second flush of blooms after 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. Never cut into the old woody stems. Shearing the plants to about eight inches from the ground in early spring every three years or so 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 much easier to propagate through stem cuttings than by the challenge of growing plants from seed. Take these easy steps to propagate lavender plants:
- Use a clean and sharp tool to cut six-inch-long shoots that do not have a flower or bud. Remove the lower leaves.
- Dip the cut ends into rooting hormone.
- Plant cuttings in a pot filled with potting soil or sand.
- 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.
English lavender might not survive through the winter if the soil is too wet or if temperatures dip well below zero degrees Fahrenheit without protective snow cover or mulch. At the cooler northern edge of its hardiness range, these plants should be protected over winter with a thick layer of mulch until spring. To combat issues with high humidity levels, mulch them with rock or gravel rather than organic mulch.
Common Plant Diseases
English lavender is not affected by many diseases. However, it is susceptible to leaf spot and root rot. Remove affected leaves succumbing to leaf spot. Plants with leaf spot might require better air circulation. To prevent root rot, do not overwater your plants; they do not do well in constantly moist soil.
Common Problems With English Lavender
English lavender is not a high maintenance plant, but there are a few environmental issues that can reduce or prevent flowering. If you notice your plants are producing more foliage than blooms in late June and early July, the following issues might be the cause:
- Soil is too fertile
- Plants are overfertilized
- Plants receive Insufficient sunlight, too much shade
- Soil pH is too low (acidic)
- Plants are overwatered; soil does not drain well
- Humidity levels are too high
Is English lavender easy to care for?
It's very easy to maintain if the plant is growing in the right conditions: medium to dry infertile soil in full sun. It dislikes fertile soil, humidity, soggy soil, and overly hot conditions.
How fast does English lavender grow?
It has a moderately slow growth rate. Prune new growth in the spring to maintain a rounded shape; do not prune its woody stems.
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 inaccurate, make sure you are buying true English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), especially if you live in the colder zones of its 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 to six hours of bright, direct sunlight each day. It also prefers low-humidity environments with consistent, moderate temperatures.