Different Types of Lavender

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 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.

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.

What’s the Right Lavender For You?

As the summer is now upon us and, with a bit of luck, you may be getting a bit of sunshine in your corner of the country, you’ll no doubt be champing at the bit to get out into the garden with a Pimm’s or two and enjoy the sights and smells of the season. And nothing looks and smells quite so much like summer in an English garden as Lavender.

So, if you’re looking to enhance your garden with a touch of lavender but have no idea which is the best plant to buy, then look no further than our handy little guide to help you choose the right lavender for your garden.

Believe it or not, as quintessentially English as lavender is, it actually originates in the Mediterranean, primarily the Pyrenees and, as such, is a lover of dry and sunny positions with well-draining soil. Undeterred by this love of sun, English gardeners have been cultivating Lavender for both aesthetic and therapeutic reasons for centuries, and this surprisingly hardy plant can thrive in almost any condition that the British climate throws at it.

Growing Conditions


All lavender varieties require a certain amount of direct sunshine, although they will be able to sustain longer periods of shade. English Lavender, in particular, will thrive in a warm shady spot, providing there are at least some hours of the day when it sits in sunlight, so is more suited than French Lavender to gardens with little direct sun. If you are lucky enough to have a garden that is bathed in sunshine for most of the day, on the other hand, then both English and French Lavender will do well.

Soil Type

All types of lavender prefer a chalky and alkaline soil, and it is particularly important that this lean type of soil is used when growing the plants for their essential oils, as a purer oil will ultimately be achieved. If your garden has particularly heavy soil, like clay or clay loam, then don’t despair, the life of your lavender plants can be extended by mixing organic matter into the soil before planting to make it lighter.


Again, all lavender plants require good drainage, and it is important that you establish how well your garden drains before planting lavender. French Lavender will do well in gardens with good drainage or particularly rocky ground, and it is especially suitable for rock gardens. English Lavender will survive better in gardens with less efficient drainage although, if your garden is particularly boggy, planting the lavender on a mound of stones will ensure better survival.

Garden Containers

Of course, if your garden has no suitable growing conditions and is beyond all hope, then lavender is a particular favourite for patio pots or window boxes. Here, it is important to select a suitable compost, one that is alkaline and not too heavy, and to ensure that there is sufficient drainage to support the plants. The additional beauty of containers is that they can be brought indoors during the harsh English winters, thereby giving your lavender plants a better chance of surviving the driving rain and the hard frosts.

Established lavender plants are often hardier than ones that are young, so another option would be to grow your plants in containers until they are old enough and then transfer them to a suitable spot in the garden.

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