Different Types of Lavender: How to Choose

The distinct purple colour and shape of the flowers make lavender instantly recognisable and a staple in an English garden. It has a beautiful aroma, enhances any garden, is used for essential oils and potpourri and is dried for therapeutic and decorative purposes. However, there are many different types of lavender, so it is essential to find the type that will thrive best in your garden and serve the purpose you need before purchasing and planting.

The Different Types of Lavender

English Lavender

The most common variant of lavender is Lavandula Angustifolia or English Lavender. This plant will thrive in cooler, temperate climates, and although it is a native to the Mediterranean, the British weather offers the perfect growing conditions. It has a stunning blue-purple bloom and should be planted in full sun, with soil that drains well. English Lavender blooms from mid-spring through to early summer, and the scent will be most potent at this time. This is also a good choice for the herb gardener as this is an edible variety. There are three main strains offering slightly different colours to brighten the garden. Hidcote offers deep purple flowers, Betty’s Blue flowers in violet-blue tones, and Lavenite Petite blooms with light purple flowers.

Spanish Lavender

Also known as Butterfly Lavender, Lavandula Stoechas or Spanish Lavender is another native Mediterranean plant and also found in North Africa. This variety has a pungent aroma and is often favoured by those using lavenders as essential oils or potpourri. The flowers are intense purple, although the different varieties of Spanish Lavender offer a range of hues. Ballerina produces white flowers, while the Kew Red boasts stunning pink-purple flowers. Gardeners should seek the Anouk type of Spanish Lavender to get the deep purple colour. It grows well in mild climates without extreme weather, disliking both frost and scorching weather. The tiny ear-shaped pine-cone flowers will bloom in late winter, so these are perfect plants to add a splash of colour during the darker months.

Italian Lavender

Italian lavender comes from the Spanish Lavender plant and is so named Lavandula Stoechas Avonview. It is an evergreen plant that grows to half a meter in height, although most plants stay around 12cm. The Wine variety has deep mauve and violet flowers, and these bloom in large spear-shaped clumps, making it perfect for hedges, cottage gardens and rockeries. If you purchase the Leucantha type of Italian lavender, you will be treated to beautiful white blooms when it flowers; both varieties bring a strong aroma. This is one of the best types of lavender for growing in coastal conditions as it thrives there, and again as with all varieties, likes to be in full sunlight.

French Lavender

The French Lavender variety should be chosen by gardeners thinking more about aesthetics than aroma as it doesn’t have the fragrance level found in other types. However, the appeal of Lavendula Dentata is the delicately fringed flowers which are vibrant purple and visually stunning. This is also a taller lavender variety that can grow up to a metre tall and wide, making it great for hedging or screenings off an area of the garden. Plant in a sunny spot and choose well-drained sandy soil for the best results. Generally, you do not need to water this plant as it takes care of itself, and over watering could kill it. French Lavender or Fringed lavender has three varieties, Grosso with mid-purple blooms, Provence with traditional lavender-blue flowers and Fred Boutin with pale lavender colouring.

Portuguese Lavender

Sometimes called Spike Lavender, Lavandula Latifolia or Portuguese Lavender has distinctive long stems with pale lilac blooms. This is another edible strain and is well favoured for use in drinks, oil and culinary creations. It has a much more pungent aroma than the English Lavender strain and attracts bees and butterflies making it perfect for nature gardens. There are two types of Portuguese Lavender; Broadleaf has unique furry foliage, while Portuguese giant, as the name suggests, yields larger flowers. To get the best from this lavender plant, you should pick a spot that receives the full sunshine, as it prefers warmer conditions. The blooms emerge in late spring and last right through summer.

Hybrid Lavender Types

Lavandin Lavender

This is potentially the best variety for the UK garden and climate as it is a cultured hybrid designed to be weather resistant. It was developed by combining English Lavender for its ability to tolerate cold and Portuguese Lavender to deal with extreme heat. The Latin name is Lavendula x Intermedia and also carries the intense aroma that people love in lavender plants. The blooms come in various colours, including white and dark purple, and you will enjoy flowers from mid to late summer. The only condition this variety does not thrive in is soggy ground so add gravel to the soil to encourage draining. Unsurprisingly Lavandin Lavender, like all lavender varieties, prefers sunny areas of the garden and makes an excellent addition to borders, English rock gardens and herb gardens. There are two main types of Lavandin, Impress Purple, which has vibrant deep purple blooms and Hidcote Giant, which brings a lighter, softer violet shade to the garden.

Lavender Varieties Care and Maintenance

When located well, lavenders are hardy plant species, but there are a couple of conditions they will not tolerate. Avoid clay-based soil as this holds too much moisture; they thrive in well-drained soil. Strong winds will damage the blooms, and as mentioned several times, there is a need for sunlight. Some shade is tolerable, but they should be in the sunlight for most of the day.

Mature plants are better in drought conditions than overwater, so they do not need much water unless it is a sweltering, dry English summer. It is essential to learn to prune the plants. Cutting back around a third of the height each time, you will find it encourages flowering and new growth. Professional gardeners can advise if you are not confident to do this without help. You can grow lavender from seed or take cuttings and propagate.

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