Evergreen, Herbs, Shrubs
Native to the Mediterranean region, Canary Islands, and Madeira. Prized for fragrant lavender or purple flowers, often set off by colorful bracts.
Blossom spikes of some species are used for perfume, aromatic oil, soap, medicine, sachets. Aromatic gray, gray-green, or yellowish green foliage. Use as an informal hedge or edging, in herb gardens, or in borders with plants needing similar cultural conditions—sunrose (Helianthemum), catmint (Nepeta), rosemary, santolina, or verbena.
Where winters are too cold for year-round growth outdoors, lavenders are good container plants for sunny windows. When they are grown outside in marginal climates, self-sown seedlings often show up the summer after the parent plants die from winter cold. Most lavenders attract bees and butterflies.
Lavenders need well-drained soil and little or no fertilizer. They will succeed in cool coastal or mountain climates or inland valleys and deserts but succumb to root rot in areas where heat is accompanied by humidity. Fernleaf sorts (L. canariensis, L. minutolii, L. multifida) as well as L. allardii, L. ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, and L. heterophylla are tender, but they’re more resistant to heat and humidity than English lavenders and lavandins (L. angustifolia, L. intermedia).
Give good air circulation. If mulching around lavenders, use pea gravel, decomposed granite, or sand rather than organic materials. To keep plants neat and compact, shear back by one-third to one-half (even by two-thirds) every year immediately after bloom.
If plants become woody and open in the center, remove a few of the oldest branches; take out more when new growth comes. If this doesn’t work, dig and replace.
For sachets and potpourri, cut flower spikes or strip flowers from stems just as blossoms show color; dry in a cool, shady place. Dried spikes make fragrant wreaths, swags, and wands. Dried flowers can be used to scent water or soap. To flavor ice cream, pastries, or salads, you can use the fresh flowers of L. angustifolia and L. intermedia varieties; other species contain harmful chemicals that should not be ingested.
Since lavenders have been in cultivation for centuries and some species cross easily, many varieties and hybrids have arisen. Names are often confused, so some of the variety names that follow may not agree with those you see on nursery labels.
Be aware that only cutting-grown stock is truly uniform. Several varieties originally propagated by cuttings are now grown from seed (for example, plants labeled Hidcote Strain and Munstead Strain); seedlings vary in color and growth habit.Lavandula stoechas
Includes several subspecies, all are stocky plants to 1 1/2–3 ft. tall and wide, with narrow gray or gray-green, 1/2–1-in.-long leaves. Small flowers are typically blackish maroon, borne on short, fat, 2-in. spikes topped by two to four flaglike bracts resembling rabbit ears; the bracts come in shades of pink and purple. Blossoms open first in four vertical rows around the spike; then the rest of the spike fills in with flowers. Blooms spring into summer; often repeats if sheared.‘Hazel’
Grows to 2 1/2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Dense, sturdy mound of gray-green foliage is topped by darkest purple flowers and bright violet bracts. Heavy bloom in spring with a modest autumn rebloom.‘Lemon Leigh’
Forms a dense mound of gray-green foliage about 2 ft. tall, with equal or greater width. Flowers are palest yellow; bracts are soft yellow to chartreuse. Lovely in combination with lavenders in the more usual hues. Unusually heavy fragrance.
Grows to 2 ft. high or a bit more and 2 1/2–3 1/2 ft. wide. Flower stems are 2–3 in. long, with maroon blossoms and red-purple bracts. Medium green to gray-green leaves. Plants sold under this name are usually grown from seed and often are shorter than the plant just described, with shorter flower stalks.
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Grows to 2 ft. high or a bit more and 2 1/2–3 1/2 ft. wide. Flower stems are 2–3 in. long,...