Lavender plants make a beautiful addition to herb gardens and rock gardens. With 47 known species of lavender, English lavender is one of the most common varieties. Also, the hardiest variety can handle cold weather and poor soil conditions. Perfect to be grown as a border, low hedge, and in mass plantings or containers.
The violet-blue flowers of English lavender are a pleasant sight in the summer, while the cold, hardy, gray-green, aromatic leaves will stay with you all year long. Below, we'll tell you all you need to know to grow English lavender yourself!
Sandy, gritty, dry to medium, well-drained
What Is English Lavender?
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is perhaps the quintessential lavender variety. English lavender is also called garden lavender, common lavender, Bulgarian lavender, and true lavender. It's one of the hardiest lavender varieties and the most frequently used lavender for essential oils, perfumes, sachets, and cooking. Lavender is often considered an herb, but this herbaceous perennial grows as a short shrub that reaches from 2.5 to 4 feet in height, keeps its foliage all year long, and blooms abundantly from June to September.
English Lavender vs. French Lavender
English lavender and French lavender are the two biggest types of lavender, each of which has wide varieties. It can be important to know the main differences between them!
Hardiness - While both types of lavender originated in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, English lavender grew in higher-altitude areas. It was brought to England because of its cold-hardiness. English lavender will keep its leaves all year long, while French lavender will go dormant and even die off if the climate is too cold.
Scent - English lavender is more highly scented than French lavender and is used more frequently in cooking, perfumes, and essential oils.
English Lavender Care Requirements
Lavender plants love a full 6 to 8 hours - at least! - of direct sunlight. This is not a plant for shady locations. If given plenty of full-sun, you'll be able to enjoy abundant scented blooms. Too much shade will cause the plant to grow taller but produce much fewer flower spikes.
Once lavender plants are established, they are pretty drought tolerant. However, you'll need to water it frequently for the first year or two. Try to water at the base of the plant, avoiding getting too much water on the leaves when you're in this stage of frequent waterings. Otherwise, you might find yourself fighting powdery mildew. Once the lavender plant is well established, you likely will only need to water it occasionally during dry spells.
English lavender grows best in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9. While Spanish lavender and French lavender can survive year long in warmer climates with a mild winter, English lavender can handle cold winters as long as the summer is warm.
English lavender is not fond of humidity, and in fact, it needs dry spells to really thrive. Remember, it's native to high-altitude, mountainous regions where the air and soil are dry. If your summers tend to be a bit humid, be sure to plant your English lavender to have ample space around it when full-grown to provide good air circulation.
While the soil must be nutrient-rich, English lavender enjoys a well-drained soil that is light and airy. It doesn't do well in soil that tends to retain moisture. Because of this, it's a great candidate for sandy or gritty soils, where other plants might not thrive.
Although English lavender can grow in sandy soil that might be considered "poor," it still needs nutrient-rich soil. In spring, lay down a 1-inch layer of compost or other organic material around the base of the plant and under its branches. This will not only decompose into the soil and give it a nutrient boost but also act as a weed barrier. When the bloom is over in late summer, you can use a slow-release liquid fertilizer or garden lime for the last burst of nutrients before winter.
One trade-off for English lavender being so tolerant of cold, drought, and sand is that it needs vigorous pruning. Pruning will not only keep your shrub in a nice, compact, rounded shape, but it also encourages more and thicker blooms. Furthermore, unpruned English lavender will grow dense, woody centers as the years go by that will produce neither leaves nor flowers. Thankfully, only one yearly pruning is required. In early autumn, cut the entire plant back to 1/3 or 1/2 of its size after flowering. Do this pruning stem by stem, cutting each stem back to half its length.
Propagating English Lavender
English lavender is propagated using stem cuttings.
In the spring, use clean garden shears to cut off a 3 to 4-inch length of softwood stem.
Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, and dip the end in rooting hormone. While not strictly necessary, this hormone will encourage faster and stronger root growth.
Plant the stem cutting in moist, well-draining soil, and water the soil frequently. You should notice roots in 4 to 6 weeks!
Harvesting English Lavender
While many gardeners enjoy English lavender just for the aromatic scent carried on the summer breeze, it's a great plant to put to use as well! Flower stems can be cut and used for both fresh and dry purposes. If you want to enjoy your lavender stems fresh, cut flowers in the morning after the dew has burned off but before the day gets too hot. If you'd like to dry your lavender, harvest it in early summer when only the top two flowers on each spike have bloomed. Unopened buds are less likely to fall off the stem after it's been dried, leading to a stronger scent.
Is English Lavender Pet Friendly?
In general, yes - English lavender is pet friendly. It does contain a compound called linalool, which can be toxic to dogs and cats if eaten in large quantities, but it is highly unlikely that your pet will ever eat enough for this to be a concern. In fact, they will probably avoid it - English lavender is deer and rabbit resistant due to its strong scent, and many pets tend to avoid it as well.
Types of English Lavender
There are many cultivators of English Lavender that you can find today. Here are some popular ones:
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' is a very popular and fragrant dwarf variety (about 20 inches tall) with a mounded growth habit and deep purple flower spikes.
Lavandula x intermedia 'Hidcote Giant' is a larger and bushy cultivator 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 pink-purple flower spikes that are slightly fragrant.
L. Angustifolia 'Sarah' is a petite variety. It has a 12-inch-tall compact cultivar with medium purple flowers that are ideal for containers or short edging.
L. Angustifolia 'Jean Davis' is a semi-dwarf cultivar and a slow-growing variety with pale-pink flowers that grows up to 3 feet tall.