by Kat Sanchez, Guided Botanicals
One of the most popular flowering herbs in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is lavender, the common name for the genus Lavandula. The fragrant plant is native to Southwest Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.
Lavender creates lovely pollinator-friendly yards and makes for beautiful borders and entrances. They are aesthetically pleasing and aromatic accents when grown in a container around the garden or on a patio.
Besides being grown for ornamental reasons, their use is also highly valued in aromatherapy and herbalism.
Because there are over 40 different lavender species and even more varieties, sometimes it can be overwhelming to know which one will be best for your garden design. Highlighted below are five main lavender species that are commonly grown in gardens.
Annual or Tender Hardy Zones 7 to 10
Can get to 2-3’ wide and 2-3’ tall depending on variety.
This species is commonly known as ‘Spanish lavender’ and ‘French lavender,’ this lavender is frequently used in landscaping designs thanks to its resilient growth and showy flowers. This species is native to North Africa and several Mediterranean countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. It’s not as fragrant as the other types highlighted below, but the flowers are still used in bouquets, potpourris, and baths since they omit a gentle fragrance and are attractive. Like most lavenders, this species will produce more flowers if pruned. This lavender is not as cold tolerant as the others but can handle lower temperatures and thrives in the heat and humidity better than common lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Thanks to the many varieties this species has, there is a wide range of fragrance, flower color, leaf texture, and size options.
Hardy zones 8 to 10
Can get to 3-4’ wide and 3-4’ tall.
Commonly known as ‘French lavender’ and ‘Fringed lavender,’ this species is native to Southwest Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region. You can note this variety by the grey color of their highly aromatic foliage and pale purple flowers that are long-lasting. This species is used a lot in the form of hedges and is suitable for warmer climates. This lavender is more aromatic than Lavandula stoechas but not as valued as ‘Grosso’ lavender is for its essential oil.
Lavandula angustifolia, formerly L. officinalis
Hardy zones 5 to 10 depending on variety.
Can get to 3-8’ wide and 4’ tall depending on variety.
Commonly known as ‘narrow-leafed lavender,’ ‘common lavender,’ and ‘English lavender.’ This species is native to Spain, France, Italy, and the Balkan region and is used in aromatherapy and herbalism thanks to their strong scent, making them a popular selection for herbal gardens. Common lavender, like all lavenders, thrives in well-drained soil. This species prefers lower humidity, and when temperatures increase, their flower production will slow down. Their flowers and stems are sturdier than Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula dentata making them a go-to for fragrant bouquets.
Hardy zones 6 to 10
Can get to 1-2’ wide and 1’ tall.
Commonly known as ‘Broad-leaved lavender,’ ‘Spike lavender,’ and ‘Portuguese lavender,’ this species is native to the Mediterranean region and can be found in central Portugal, north-western Italy, Spain, and southern France. The scent is considered more pungent than common lavender because of the higher camphor content. However, because they are highly aromatic, they are also valued for their strong scent.
Lavandula x intermedia
Hardy zones 5 to 10
Can get to 3’ wide and 3’ tall.
This lavender is commonly known as ‘Lavandin’ and is a hybrid of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia. One of the most popular varieties of this hybrid is ‘Grosso’ lavender because of the quality of essential oil. Its use is prevalent in herbalism, aromatherapy, and natural perfumery. This lavender offers a compact option that looks nice in repeated plantings while providing a strong scent in the garden.
Please note that identifying specific lavender varieties through internet photos is not easy and categorizing them by scent and size can help. I suggest not relying on the photos in this post as IDs and visiting your local nursery, community garden, or arboretum to learn more on how to properly identify them.
References: https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:449031-1, https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:20960-1#descriptions