Lavandula (Lavender)

Lavandula

A useful family of Mediterranean compact evergreen shrubs, enjoyed for their abundant fragrant summer flowers. A true cottage garden favourite. Loved by butterflies and bees too.

Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
Botanical Name: Lavandula
Common Names: Lavender

Foliage: Evergreen, short narrow, grey-green leaves.

Flowers: Tall whippy stems topped with short narrow flower spikes. Mainly in shades of purple, although white, pink and green forms are available. Highly aromatic.

Flowering Period: Summer.

Soil: Well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun. Best grown in a south, east or west-facing aspect, in a sheltered location.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Small shrub.

Origin: Southern Europe.

Hardiness: Not fully hardy in cold regions of the UK.

Planting and Growing Lavender

Plant outside in late spring, in a sheltered, but open sunny position. Best grown in a good, free draining sandy soil. Avoid excessive wet soil in winter. Needs full sun to flower well. Extremely drought tolerant once established.

Ideal for bringing a touch of the Mediterranean to your garden. Lavender is good for both formal or informal use. Plant it individually, as border edging or as a low hedge. It can be grown around beds, borders or paths, to divide up parts of your garden or to make a traditional parterre or knot garden. For hedges, space plants 12in (30cm) apart.

Dwarf forms (especially French lavenders) are great for pots and patio containers, where you can appreciate the flowers and fragrance up close. The grey-green foliage emits an attractive scent when brushed past and the flowers are highly attractive to pollinating insects.

A small vase of lavender flowers will bring a rich aromatic scent into any room, even after the flowers have gone over. Superb for cutting and drying for winter use. The dried flowers are a useful ingredient in potpourri and potpourri bags.

Taking Care of Lavender

Water well until established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a high potash fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Dead head after flowering to keep tidy and prevent self-seeding.

Pruning Lavender

Prune twice a year. Remove the old flowering shoots after flowering, then trim back lightly in the autumn or spring, removing about 1in (2.5cm) of growth. Do not cut back into old wood.

If a plant becomes tall and leggy (usually through lack of pruning), and replace the mother plant with it once it roots and reaches suitable maturity.

Drying Lavender

For drying, pick flower stalks just as they begin to open. Suspend in tied bunches upside down in a dry, dark, airy room.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by Cuckoo spit (froghoppers) and rosemary beetle.

The leaves can be affected by grey mould.

Propagating Lavender

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in autumn. Note: cultivars may not come true from seed.

Lavender strikes readily from semi-ripe cuttings taken in spring or summer. Alternatively, take stem or heal cuttings in autumn, overwinter in a cold frame and plant out the following in spring.

Then can also by increased by layering a low lying branch or stem but this can take several years to produce results.

Popular Varieties of Lavandula

English Lavenders

Lavandula angustifolia (common lavender, English lavender) is a tall stout plant with traditional lavender blue flowers. Ideal for creating a low hedge. For sale at Gardening Express. Many excellent cultivars are available, including:

Lavandula angustifolia 'Ellagance Sky' a fine fragrant English lavender with large, attractive, sky-blue flower spikes on strong stems. Height and spread to 24in (60cm). Available from Van Meuwen.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' a popular compact form with silvery grey foliage and pure purple scented blooms. One of the most aromatic varieties and ideal for hedging. Height to 18in (45cm). For sale at You Garden.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Lady' a delightful dwarf form that flowers in the first year. Ideal for growing in tubs and containers. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead' has green leaves and early fragrant flowers in traditional purple hues. Available from Gardening Direct. For sale at You Garden.

Lavender angustifolia 'Rosea' bears pretty fragrant, rose-pink flower spikes, which rise above neat, grey-green evergreen foliage on short stems. Height to 24in (60cm), spread to 30in (75cm). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Other excellent varieties include 'Loddon Pink' with silvery-pink flowers, ' Alba' with white flowers (available at Gardening Express) and 'lanata' (woolly lavender) with silvery leaves.

French Lavenders

Lavandula stoechas (French Lavender) is a compact fairly tender shrub with aromatic silvery-grey-green foliage and purple flowers on short stems, topped with purple feathery bracts. Best in sun in a sheltered site. For sale at Gardening Express.

Lavandula stoechas 'Bandera' is a good compact dwarf purple-flowering form reaching just 8in (20cm) tall. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Lavandula 'Antibes' is a fine compact Lavender bearing masses of mauve purple flower spikes topped with pink bracts that are characteristic of French Lavenders. Silver-green aromatic foliage that remains evergreen. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Lavandula 'Devonshire Compact' is a low growing cultivar with a neat, compact habit. Blue flower spikes topped with distinctive purple bracts. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Lavandula 'Bella Hot Pink' is a bushy rounded form with evergreen aromatic grey-green leaves and slender upright stems bearing dense spikes of dark purple-pink flowers topped with lighter purple-pink bracts, from late spring into early autumn. For sale at Gardening Express.

Lavandula 'Bluestar' is a pretty French lavender with highly scented dark mauve flower heads, topped with brighter purple bracts, in April-May. Available from Van Meuwen.

Lavandula 'Fathead' is a lovely French Lavender that produces large deep purple flower heads, topped with frilly lavender bracts. Neat compact habit. Blooms over a long period throughout summer. Height and spread to 24in (60cm). Available from Van Meuwen.

Lavandula 'Purple Ribbon' is a good compact French Lavender plant with a multiple branching habit, covered in blue flower in summer. Ideal as as a low hedge or boundary marker. Height and spread to 8in (20cm). Available from Van Meuwen.

Lavandula Strawberry Ruffles is a hardy, ornamental shrub-like perennial with fragrant silver-grey foliage and soft pink flowers. For sale at Gardening Express.

Lavandula 'White Giant Summer Improved' is a lovely bicolour French Lavender, bearing spikes of purple, crowned with white bracts. Evergreen' aromatic silvery-green foliage. Height and spread to 24in (60cm). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.