Lavender is a wonderful and very appealing plant: attractive, fragrant, easy to grow, drought and deer tolerant. It enjoys a long flowering season and is also highly versatile as it can be used in a myriad of ways: edging, hedging, accent plant, containers, not to mention its culinary or medicinal uses. Lavender does not generally suffer from any pest or disease attack and its only requirements are a site with good drainage and an open sunny situation.
There are over 450 Lavender varieties and finding the best Lavender plant for your needs might be a daunting task. To assist you in selecting the right plant, we have prepared this guide, which we hope will be helpful to you.
★ Lavandula angustifolia, also called True Lavender or Common Lavender has long been cultivated for its high quality lavender oil. Cultivars of this species tend to be compact in habit and have grayish green narrow leaves and relatively short compact flower spikes. This Lavender type is great for formal or informal edging along walkways, raised wall beds, rock gardens, herb gardens and in mass plantings. Flowering typically occurs from late spring to mid summer.
★ Lavandula x intermedia, also called Lavandin, is a hybrid cross between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia. Cultivars are slightly less hardy than L. angustifolia, and are taller with mounds of gray foliage and long loose spikes. They tolerate hot (dry) weather better than English Lavenders. Cultivars are commercially grown for their high yield of oil which, however, is inferior in quality to L. angustifolia's oil. This Lavender type is great for hedges, rock gardens, as an accent plant and is also popular in potpourris or as a culinary herb. Flowering typically occurs from mid to late summer (generally 1 month later than the angustifolias).
★ Lavandula stoechas also called French Lavender, Spanish Lavender or Butterfly Lavender is recognizable by the conspicuous sterile bracts resembling extravagant ears, on top of the short dense inﬂorescence. Grown for its silvery aromatic leaves, it is used extensively for essential oils or potpourris. The very distinctive flowers, however, steal the show with their distinctive "ears" sprouting from each flower head. This Lavender loves hot weather, but is more tender (Hardiness 8-9) than other Lavenders. A beautiful selection for mass plantings or containers. Flowering typically occurs from mid spring to late summer.
★ Lavandula dentata also called Fringed Lavender or French Lavender, this evergreen shrub is native to Eastern and Southern Spain and derives its name from the toothed (dentate) leaves which have a richly aromatic lavender-rosemary scent. Not as fragrant as other lavenders but the spikes are very colorful and the foliage particularly attractive. This Lavender is hardy to zones 8-9 and generally grows up to 3 ft. (90 cm). Nonstop flowering typically from early summer to fall and nearly all year if given enough light and warmth.
Elements to consider when selecting a Lavender variety
★ Hardiness & Humidity
Most Lavenders are hardy to zones 5-8 but some varieties are tender and will grow only in warmer areas (zones 9-10). With adequate protection, Lavender can even be grown with success in zones 3-4. Lavenders love hot weather, but they do not like humidity and might be affected by fungal disease and rot.
Lavenders range in height from very compact plants that do not grow more than 12 in. (30 cm) to varieties that easily reach 3 ft. high. The dwarf varieties are ideal for containers while the taller ones are great candidates for hedges.
The Lavender foliage, which is evergreen in warm areas, will be on display for a longer period than the blossoms, therefore it shouldn't be overlooked in your selection decision. Very attractive, it ranges from various shades of green to gray-green or silver. Leaves may be narrow (Lavender angustifolia) or toothed (Lavender dentata).
Lavender flowers vary in size, shape and color. If you want to use the flower spikes for drying, the calyx color (bud) is important, not the corolla (petals) as they turn brown and fall off. The darker the calyx, the most stunning the dried flower. In the garden, the color selection will be a matter of taste. Many people do not realize that Lavender comes in colors other than purple. There are many blue, pink or white varieties. Surprise yourself or the onlookers with them! Lavandula stoechas is another great variety that will steal the show with its petals sprouting from each flower head and looking like butterfly wings.
★ Blooming Season
Lavenders are summer blooming perennials with blooming seasons varying between varieties and cultivars. Generally speaking, Lavender angustifolia blooms about 1 month earlier than Lavandula x intermedia. Some enjoy a second flush of blooms in the fall. Others, like Lavandula stoechas, may be in bloom all year around under favorable conditions.