I was recently fortunate enough to receive this gorgeous French lavender plant from my sister-in-law. It smells so great and looks so pretty. As a tender perennial, hardy only to zone 8, I’ll need to keep it as a houseplant, though I’ll probably move it outside for the summer.
French Lavender vs English Lavender
French lavender has the scientific name Lavandula dentata where dentata translates to “toothed” referring to the scallops on the leaves as shown above and is sometimes confused with Spanish lavender or Lavandula stoechas.
Spanish lavender has similar flowers but are more showy than French lavender and their leaves are not scalloped but straight like English lavender. Neither French or Spanish lavender are used much today in cosmetics but are valued more for their ornamental use.
If you live in the north, you may want to plant English lavender or Lavandula angustifolia. I have grown several plants over the years and it is one of the toughest plants in the garden. There are lots of different varieties but my two favorites are Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote.’
Munstead, named after Munstead Woods in England, the home of famous gardener Gertrude Jeckyl, is hardy to zone 5, has a great mounding shape and gets about roughly 1.5 feet tall and wide. This lovely plant is also drought tolerant and deer resistant. In addition, bees love it, it works great as a cut flower, can be dried for use in many crafts, and is even used in cooking. Did you know lavender can help you sleep? Check out an article I wrote last year about ways to use lavender in the home here.
Munstead’s cousin, Hidcote is pretty much the same except that it is slightly smaller and much deeper in color.
Here is some that I dried from last year. Note: if you want to dry your lavender make sure you pick it in bud. If you wait too long it will flower like the pic below and will not keep well.
The important thing to remember about English lavender is that they like well-drained soil. Most can take cool temps but not soggy feet so make sure you plant the accordingly. Also, at the beginning of the season prune them a little and thin out the middle. This will allow for plenty of airflow.
Bottom line, whether it’s English or French, lavender is a wonderful plant, and everyone should be growing it.