Spanish lavender makes a great addition to gardens for both gardeners and pollinators. The stunning purple and pink flowers that resemble "rabbit ears" that offer a sweet aroma, Spanish Lavender attracts both butterflies and lavender lovers.
Unlike some of the lavender species and varieties, Spanish lavender is particularly suited to warm climates with hot and dry summers. It is also a bit cold hardier than many newer Spanish Lavender cultivars. To help you grow Spanish lavender plants successfully, below, we will discuss everything you need to know about this plant species.
Sandy, moist but well-drained
Toxic to pets
What Is Spanish Lavender?
There are many types of lavender, and Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is one of the most popular. Spanish lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, where the climate features hot, dry summers. Somewhat confusingly, Lavandula stoechas is also sometimes referred to as French lavender. At one point, the lavender species that we now consider to be proper French lavender were simply considered subspecies of Spanish lavender. Either name demarcates it from English lavender varieties, which grow in a much colder climate. Spanish lavender grows best in USDA hardiness zones 8a and 9b.
Spanish lavender has more showy flowers than other types of lavender. Each flower spike, known as an inflorescence, is topped with longer, larger petals. These petals, called bracts, resemble rabbit ears! It has a very strong scent, but it's more resinous than the English lavender scent we've come to know.
Spanish lavender plants are taller than other lavender types, frequently reaching heights over 3 feet. While the flowers steal the show, the fragrant gray-green leaves add to a garden's landscape during the off-season. Depending on the variety, the flower colors range from dark purple to nearly white, making excellent cut flowers.
Spanish Lavender Care Requirements
Spanish lavender needs plenty of sunlight. Plant Spanish lavender in sunny locations, as they require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Receiving full sun encourages thick flower growth.
Young plants only need a moderate amount of water during winter and spring. It will require periodic deep watering during the summer growing season as it is more established.
Once you've got your Spanish lavender established, it's drought-tolerant. Until then, however, you'll need to water it frequently. For the first couple of years, either hand water or drip irrigation. Be sure that you've used well-drained soil, however, or the frequent waterings will build up and drown out your plant's roots.
Spanish lavender thrives in warmer climates, like USDA zones 8 and 9. It does not handle frost and cold hardy conditions well, so if your winter temperatures dip below freezing, consider planting Spanish lavender as a potted plant that can be easily moved indoors.
Although Spanish lavender prefers a dry heat, it can handle humid climates more readily than English lavender. If your summers are humid, be sure to allow ample space around your Spanish lavender for air circulation.
Spanish lavender is native to dry climates, so it's best to plant it in well-drained soils. Spanish lavender is a great choice for "poor soil" - such as sandy loam - that other plants may not tolerate. It can also handle various acidity levels, although it does best in slightly alkaline soil. You can mix garden lime into your soil to help amend acidity levels.
Even though Spanish lavender can handle gritty, poor soils, it benefits from fertilizer. The best way to fertilize lavender plants is to apply an inch of compost as organic mulch on top of the soil around the plant. The compost will provide nutrients and serve as a sort of mulch, suppressing weeds, regulating soil temperatures, and maintaining soil moisture.
In time, unpruned Spanish lavender plants will become woody around the base and not live as long. To prevent this woody growth, give your Spanish lavender a pruning once or twice a year. A light pruning of the stem tips should take place right after flowering, and a hard pruning of entire stems back to their base should be done in the middle of autumn.
While you can grow Spanish lavender from seeds, propagating Spanish lavender plants can be achieved through stem cuttings.
In the spring, cut a length of stem 3 to 4 inches long, then remove the leaves off of the bottom half.
Dip the stem cutting in a rooting hormone to encourage a quicker onset of stronger roots.
Plant the cutting in moist, well-draining soil.
The Spanish lavender can be grown from seeds, but Spanish lavender seeds can be tricky to germinate. It is generally easier to purchase small plants from a local nursery for the best outcome.
If you grow Spanish lavender from seeds, it's best to start indoors in well-drained, moist soil and a sunny spot. Germination should occur in about two weeks.
Seed-grown lavender is quite variable in terms of the resulting plants' size, shape, and flowering form.
The dark purple flowers of Spanish lavender are harvested for many uses, including essential oil production, potpourri, teas, and perfume. When harvesting flowers, pick them in the morning when the dew has burned off but the day has not become too hot.
Entire flower stems are harvested for both fresh and dried bouquets. These stems are clipped in early summer, when the first few flowers on each spike bloom, but not the rest.
Spanish lavender can have issues when the weather becomes too humid or rainy.
Potted lavender tends to be more susceptible to fungal diseases, such as leaf spot fungi and root rot, which can be treated by addressing issues with excess moisture. You can amend the soil to be more aerated, replant the lavender further away from other plants to increase airflow, or repot the plant with fresh soil.
Pests like spittlebugs, mealy bugs, and aphids like Spanish lavender may even bring plant viruses with them. Spray off the plants with a strong stream of water, then use an insecticide or neem oil.
Is Spanish Lavender Pet Friendly?
Lavender is not typically toxic to pets. Spanish lavender contains a small amount of linalool, which can be toxic to pets and may result in vomiting, itching, and diarrhea, but your pet would have to consume a large amount of the plant to be affected.