Did you know that the lavender plant comes in over 400 different species? Each of these varieties is cultivated in varying climates and designed for different purposes. As a result, the right lavender plant for you depends on what you want to use it for, and how you plan to grow it.
Although lavender is easy to grow in most locations, explore the following five varieties to find the best option for your garden.
What’s the Main Difference Between Varieties?
Lavender is a popular ornamental plant with countless benefits. Its oil is extracted for everything from culinary uses to essential oils for therapeutic purposes. In addition, it can be used as a decorative perennial or in a medicinal herb garden. Either way, lavender grows in any well-draining soil. It’s highly pest and disease resistant, and it’s a drought-tolerant plant, making it easy to grow in nearly any sunny location.
Lavender plants vary based on:
- Flower shape
- Foliage shape
- Bloom times
- Zone hardiness
The type of lavender you grow often depends on these factors. Therefore, think about your reasons for wanting to grow lavender first, and then consider the area you live in. Finding a variety that’s hardy to your USDA plant hardiness zone is easy. You just need to head to your local garden nursery. The options you see for sale near you are often specific to your hardiness zone.
Growing a lavender plant is easy in the right area, as all varieties can be grown either in garden beds or containers. That said, planting methods depend on the cultivar you select. No matter what type you select, your lavender plant will need:
- Well-draining soil
- Full sun
- Consistent watering
- Spring pruning
Lavender may grow as either an annual or perennial, depending on your climate’s humidity. Dry, arid areas may notice a longer blooming time, and some varieties grow all year long in warmer areas. While the hardiness zone and planting location are vital to consider, you also need to think about your reasons for growing a lavender plant. For example, do you want to use it for culinary purposes? Medicinally? Or as an ornamental border?
You may also have more than one option when it comes to uses. English lavender, for example, is best for culinary purposes, but there are other cultivars specifically used in cooking such as:
5 Lavender Plant Varieties to Explore
Because lavender comes in so many different varieties, there are many options. Try out a few different types, depending on your desired use. You may be surprised what you discover, as most varieties aren’t even native to the locations they’re named after.
1. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Best Use: Essential oil, drying, herb gardens, cooking, range of color, walkways, rock gardens
Hardiness Zone: 5-9
Bloom Time: Late spring to mid summer
Popular Cultivars: Munstead, Loddon Blue, Royal Purple, Hidcote, Sachet, Mitcham Grey, Nana Alba (white), Rosea (dwarf pink), Melissa (pink), and Little Lottie (pink)
Most people imagine this lavender variety when they think of the flower. It’s often called true or common lavender, and is actually native to the Mediterranean rather than England. It grows in massive purple fields in the Provence region made famous by oceans of the purple blossoms. The blooms range in color from whitish-pink to lavender and shades of blue-purple to violet, depending on the cultivar you choose.
They’re also highly aromatic when the flowers are crushed or brushed against, making them excellent in essential oils or planted along a walkway or border. The smaller clumps grow up to 2-3 feet tall, and they thrive in poor, sandy soil. English lavender is also the main variety used in herb gardens, as it’s hardy in many zones.
2. French Lavender (Lavandula dentata)
Best Use: Dried, hedge garden, ornamental plant, perfumes, potpourri, cosmetics, edible leaves
Hardiness Zone: 8-9
Bloom Time: Early summer through fall (or all year in warm locations)
Popular Cultivars: Royal Crown
Also known as fringed lavender, this type comes from Spain’s eastern and southern regions. Its nickname comes from its tooth-like leaves, and French lavender has a stunningly rich scent with notes of rosemary. Although the blooms aren’t as fragrant as other lavender varieties, the spikes are showy shades or purples. You’ll need to trim the growth back in early January for the best results.
The plant grows as a medium-sized shrub that’s beautiful as a hedge, as the plant can grow to reach 3-feet-tall. This cultivar dries really well, so dry both the blooms and leaves a for ornamental purposes, or to make potpourri and perfumes. French lavender is used in many cosmetics as well.
3. Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia)
Best Use: Accent plants, aroma, essential oil, linen spray, skin issues, respiratory aid, landscaping
Hardiness Zone: 5-9
Bloom Time: Mid to late summer
Popular Cultivars: Provence, Grosso, Dutch Mill, Fred Boutin, Hidcote Giant, Seal, and Phenomenal
Lavandin is a trendy hybrid plant that combines the best aspects of two popular varieties. This particular blend combines English lavender’s cold tolerance with the Portuguese varieties’ heat tolerance, resulting in an option that grows in a wider range of climates. The flowers are long spikes that are aromatic and vary from white to dark violet. The medium size and range of purple blooms look stunning when used for landscaping purposes.
Plant this type along a border, hedge, or in a mass planting. They’re also ideal for rock gardens or planted as accent plants in your garden. Lavandin yields a high amount of oil, making the variety popular for commercial growers. However, the oil yield is lower quality to the oil from English lavender, and where common lavender is relaxing, lavandin’s scent is more invigorating. If you want to add scent to linen, this is the variety for you.
As an essential oil, lavandin also helps reduce skin issues, scarring, and even stretch marks. It supports the respiratory system when the common cold strikes, and the plant grows well into the winter, making it a great option to keep on hand.
A word of caution: lavadin is better for intermediate gardeners, as hybrids can be tricky to cultivate.
4. Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
Best Use: Alternative to common lavender for treating external wounds, soap making, landscaping, aromatherapy
Hardiness Zone: 6-9
Bloom Time: Late spring through late summer
Popular Cultivars: n/a
This Portuguese cultivar is also known as broad-leafed or spiked lavender, and is native to the western Mediterranean. The flowers appear like lilacs on a long, thin stem that grows from 1 to 3 feet tall. This type enjoys growing on arid, dry hillsides, especially near limestone. Plant this type to attract lovely pollinators like bees and butterflies to your yard.
Be careful with this variety if you suffer from allergies, however. It’s more likely to cause reactions than any other lavender plant.
Portuguese lavender is often used as an alternative to common English lavender, and although it can be used for all the same uses, this variety doesn’t taste as good. Instead, it offers tons of practical uses. It’s a highly aromatic shrub, making it perfect for planting along borders or walkways and use in soap making.
The essential oils extracted from this variety are highly aromatic, but less potent than English lavender. Use the oil to treat coughs and external wounds like insect bites or burns.
5. Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
Best Use: Aroma, essential oils, potpourri, insecticides, air fresheners, distinctive container plants
Hardiness Zone: 8-9
Bloom Time: Mid spring through late summer
Popular Cultivars: Avonview, Ballerina, Royal Splendour, Italian Prince, Otto Quast, Silver Anouk, Dark Eyes, Pedunculata subs. Pedunculata
Spanish lavender is actually native to Northern Africa or the Mediterranean. Some people confuse it with French lavender or sometimes call it “butterfly lavender”. It’s ideal for hot, southern locations or anywhere with humid heat, since this highly drought-tolerant variety thrives in warmth and sunshine. Deadhead the plant so that the blooms extend until around October, depending on the cultivar.
The leaves are highly aromatic, which makes it perfect for use in potpourri and essential oils. The oil extracted is also used to make air fresheners and homemade pesticides due to its potent scent. People enjoy this plant around the home, however, the distinctive flowers don’t look like traditional lavender.
Instead, they have a pinecone shape with upright “ears” sprouting from the deep purple blooms. They’re excellent as mass ground cover or planted in containers.
A Final Thought
Don’t let the plant’s growing zone requirements hold you back. Lavender plants are highly versatile, and no matter what variety or cultivar you select, planting them in containers may help. After all, containers allow you to keep the plants indoors where you can easily control the environment. As a result, you don’t have to worry about local growing zones and soil types.
With pots, you can grow lavender even in a colder climate. Furthermore, container gardening is a great way to grow a variety you may not have the right climate for. All you need is a lean soil mixture of equal parts soil, compost, and sand, a full-sun window, and adequate air circulation.