Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is one of about 40 different varieties of lavender. It grows as a low shrub, much like its other relatives, but has a distinct flower shape. Spanish lavender is known for its upright petals that appear at the top of the flower heads, giving the blooms a rabbit-like appearance. The leaves are edible (to humans) and can be used in moderation to flavor savory dishes or baked goods.
Depending on the cultivar, Spanish lavender can be found with pink, purple, or white flowers. These plants are adorned with small, gray-green leaves and grow in a compact rounded shape. Spanish lavender is more heat tolerant than other lavender species. This perennial is deer-resistant but also considered toxic to animals, so keep that in mind if your pets frequently spend time unsupervised in your garden.
|Common Name||Spanish lavender, butterfly lavender, bract lavender|
|Botanical Name||Lavendula stoechas|
|Plant Type||Perennial, shrub, herb|
|Mature Size||18-36 in. tall, 18-36 in. wide|
|Soil Type||Sandy, moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Pink, purple, white|
|Hardiness Zones||8a-9b (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Africa, Mediterranean|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Types of Spanish Lavender
With more than 450 different types of lavender spread over several species, it can be hard to tell the difference. For garden cultivation, Spanish lavender is distinguished from French and English (common) lavender in this way:
- English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most common form of lavender for garden cultivation, and also the type most often used in cooking and for decorative use, thanks to its heady aroma. It is hardy in zones 5 to 8. L. angustifolia is sometimes known as common lavender.
- French lavender (Lavandula dentata) is a less fragrant species of lavender with serrated leaves. It is hardy and evergreen in USDA zone 8 to 11. It is not a very common garden plant in the United States when compared to English lavender.
- Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is hardy in zones 8 and 9. Its leaves are more silvery than other species, and colors range from pink to deep purple, depending on the cultivar. It is sometimes preferred to other types for its unusual flowers featuring tufted ears. (Confusingly, L. stoechas is sometimes also known as French lavender.)
- Lavendula x intermedia is a hybrid between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia. Hardy in zones 5 to 8, it is normally grown for the substantial amount of fragrant oil it contains rather than as an ornamental garden specimen. It is somewhat more tolerant of hot, dry weather than other species and can be a good choice for rocky, dry garden sites.
Within the Spanish lavender species, here are some of the better cultivars:
- ‘Strawberry Ruffles’: This cultivar of Spanish lavender is known for its ruffled petals and bright pink blooms.
- ‘Silver Anouk’: Adorned in silver-gray foliage, it produces two-toned purple flowers.
- ‘Kew Red’: Deep pinkish-red blooms that are topped with pale pink petals.
- 'Alba': This cultivar has white blooms.
- 'Fathead': This variety has long-lasting dark purple flowers that gradually fade to pink. The foliage is silvery green.
- 'Regal Splendour': This type has long flower heads in violet blue, topped by bracts forming pink "ears."
Spanish Lavender Care
Spanish lavender is easy to care for and does not require much attention once established. This variety is more tolerant of heat than other popular lavender varieties. It grows well in containers, enjoys plenty of sunshine, and does not have significant watering needs. Spanish lavender does not struggle with many pests or diseases, but it may encounter spittlebugs or fungal diseases. It is deer-resistant. Although individual plants will grow substantially in width as they mature, Spanish lavender does not spread though root extension, so you don't need to worry about invasiveness.
Like other lavender varieties, Spanish lavender requires full sun to thrive and produce its fragrant blooms.
Spanish lavender needs sandy, gravely, well-draining soil to grow healthy and lush. These plants prefer slightly moist soil, but any standing water or slow-draining soil will spell disaster for Spanish lavender. If your soil is composed of clay, be sure to amend it with sand or gravel before planting this herb.
Similar to other lavender varieties, Spanish lavender does not require much water and can withstand periods of drought. However, the best growing conditions involve slightly moist soil, so water these plants before the soil dries out completely. To avoid problems with fungal diseases, it is best to water at soil level to avoid getting the leaves wet.
Temperature and Humidity
Spanish lavender is native to the Mediterranean and does well in hot, dry climates. It thrives in zones 8a to 9b and is a better choice for warmer temperature zones than other popular lavender varieties. However, it’s not as cold-hardy as other varieties of lavender and must stay in a zone where winter temperatures do not drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spanish lavender is native to areas with sandy, poor quality soil and prefers soil that is low in nutrients. Because of this, Spanish lavender does not require fertilizer and often does best without it.
Like other lavender varieties, pruning will encourage Spanish lavender to branch, creating a denser, thicker plant. However, care must be taken to avoid over-pruning these plants. To properly prune lavender, simply trim away around one-third of the plant’s growth after its first flush of flowers. This is also the perfect time to harvest those sweet-smelling flower buds. Prune about one-third of the plant’s growth again after the second flush of blooms fades.
Propagating Spanish Lavender
Propagating Spanish lavender through cuttings is easy and rewarding. You will need a pair of sharp garden snips, a small pot, well-draining soil, a plastic bag, and a rubber band. Then follow these instructions:
- Take cuttings in the spring or fall. Snip where the new growth meets the old and aim to remove a cutting with no flowers.
- Remove all the leaves on the lower half of the cutting.
- Gently plant the stripped end into well-draining dirt. Keep the soil level to just below where the leaves start.
- Place the plastic bag over the cutting to keep in moisture. Secure it around the pot with a rubber band.
- Keep the soil moist until the plant is established. Check for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. When there is resistance, roots have formed. Remove the plastic bag once this occurs.
- Alternatively, you can place your cuttings in a glass of water until roots appear. Be sure the water does not soak the leaves. Once healthy roots form, plant the cutting in soil.
How to Grow Spanish Lavender From Seed
Spanish lavender can also be grown from seed. Here is how to do it:
- Spanish lavender seeds have the best outcome when started indoors. Sow the seeds into well-draining soil in small pots and cover them lightly.
- Keep the seeds in a cool place. Regularly check the soil, making sure to keep it moist.
- Germination should occur in about 2 weeks.
- Keep the seedlings in a sunny location.
- When seedlings are big enough to handle, transfer them to their own pots or plant in the garden in the spring.
Potting and Repotting Spanish Lavender
Spanish lavender grows very well in containers. When choosing a container, be sure it has multiple drainage holes and drains water freely. Because a potted plant does not have access to underground water sources, potted lavender will need to be watered more often than lavender planted in the garden. Water deeply and infrequently when the soil feels dry. These plants often need to be repotted yearly. To do this, gently tip the pot onto its side and tap around the outside of the pot. This will loosen the root system. Gently slide the lavender out and place it in its new pot. Fill the pot with sandy, well-draining soil and place it in a sunny location.
When grown in its appropriate growing zones, Spanish lavender does not require much extra attention to survive the winter. Simply add an extra layer of mulch around the plant to help insulate the root system. Cut back on watering and only water if the winter is exceptionally dry. For potted lavender, move it to a sheltered area away from harsh temperatures or winds.
How to Get Spanish Lavender to Bloom
Spanish lavender is known for its unique blooms, often described as purple pineapples or as having rabbit ears. They have a beautiful lavender aroma and may appear in two large flushes of blooms each year. Spanish lavender begins to bloom in the spring and continues throughout the summer.
To encourage blooming, plant Spanish lavender in full sunshine. Deadhead spent blooms throughout the year and prune twice a year. The first pruning should be done after the first flush of blooms. Remove about one-third of that year’s growth to encourage a second flush of blooms. Then repeat the process to prepare the plant for fall.
Common Problems With Spanish Lavender
Spanish lavender is rather hardy and does not often struggle with pests or other problems. However, foliage problems can be caused by subpar soil or moisture conditions.
Yellowing, Browning, Drooping Leaves
This can be a sign of root rot. Because Spanish lavender needs well-draining soil and minimal moisture, it is susceptible to developing root rot in overly wet conditions. If you suspect that a plant has root rot, cut back on watering. Remove any organic material, such as fallen leaves, around the plant. Then gently dig up the plant to inspect the roots. Remove any rotting roots with a clean pair of snips, then plant the lavender in an area with well-draining soil and full sunshine. Be sure to give the plant adequate airflow.
Leggy, Yellow Foliage, and Few Flowers
This is a sign of too much nitrogen and is often caused by giving the plant too much fertilizer. If this is the case, stop fertilizing. Then remove the lavender from the rich soil. Either amend the soil with sand and gravel or move the lavender to a pot. Prune around one-third of the leggy growth in the spring or fall to help the lavender regain its compact shape.
What’s the difference between lavender and Spanish lavender?
Spanish lavender is distinguishable by its unique flowers. Unlike other types of lavender (French ( Lavandula dentata) or English (Lavandula angustifolia)), Spanish lavender has long, upright petals at the top of each flower head that are described as giving the flower a pineapple-like appearance or similarity to rabbit ears.
Is Spanish lavender a perennial?
Yes, Spanish lavender is a perennial herb that flowers yearly. With proper pruning, this perennial may flower multiple times in its growing season.
Should you deadhead Spanish lavender?
Deadheading spent blooms will encourage Spanish lavender to continue blooming. Deadhead throughout the growing season to keep your lavender looking full and healthy.