There are many different types of lavender — at least 39 species and countless cultivars. Learn about the medicinal, culinary and landscape potential of these five popular lavender varieties.
Lavender has long been a favorite landscaping plant and medicinal herb. Its fragrant graceful wands look beautiful in the garden and attract honey and bumblebees a plenty. As a medicinal herb, lavender is known for its great sedative, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and wound healing properties. Lavender is simply a perfect botanical for herbalist’s and backyard landscapers alike.
How to Choose the Right Lavender Varieties
But how do you go about choosing the right lavender varieties for your landscape and home apothecary. First, you’ll need to consider your location and soil conditions. Most lavender varieties are hardy in zones 5-9, and favor well drained soil conditions with lots of sun — although certain species and cultivars may be tolerant of less ideal conditions. When considering types of lavender for the home apothecary, the therapeutic actions of the different species vary profoundly. Here I will breakdown five popular types of lavender, their medicinal and landscaping value, and how to grow them.
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
English lavender is the preferred medicinal variety heralded by herbalists everywhere. With a sweet, floral perfume, upright mounding, often fairly compact) habitat, richly colored blooms, and fragrant foliage, there is really nothing not to love about English lavender. Aromatic constituents linalool and linalyl acetate offer some many of the calming therapeutic actions associated with lavender. I find Lavandula angustifolia to be the friendliest of the different varieties of lavender for culinary purposes; its flavor is softer, more floral, and less soapy than other lavender varieties.
Choose English lavender for borderline zones as it is the hardiest of the lavender varieties for colder temperatures and high moisture climates. My favorite English lavenders include “Buena Vista” (bred specifically for growing in the Pacific Northwest) and Munstead.
French Lavender (Lavandula dentata)
When I think of types of lavender, I don’t often think about foliage. Rather, I think about landscape, therapeutic, and medicinal potential. French lavender offers very unique foliage in that the leaves are somewhat scalloped or “toothed” in appearance thus giving this type of lavender lots of visual interest before the beautiful fringed blooms appear! Perhaps one of the showiest varieties of lavender, L. dentata grows up to three feet high and produces a warm woodsy, citrus-y variation of the lavender fragrance due to its high levels of the aromatic constituent a-terpinolene.
Note: Other species are sometimes also referred to as “French” – such is the problem with common names! I am representing “French” as Lavandula dentata, but I can stand corrected if I am wrong!
This is an exceptional type of lavender to grow if you have dry conditions and well drained, even sandy soils. This is great choose for rock gardens and area mulched with gravel as this type of lavender enjoys the heat!
Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
Sometime also referred to as Portuguese or broadleaf lavender, this is another one of the lavender varieties that thrives in hot conditions. Flowers tend to be lighter lilac in color and the plant often has a graceful open habitat. The aroma of spike lavender has a pronounced eucalyptus and camphor quality making this particular variety of lavender ideal for medicinal applications that are respiratory in nature.
This type of lavender is also the parent material for the next variety, Lavandin!
Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia)
A hybridization of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia, Lavandin is one of the most popular varieties of lavender for the home garden. Visually impressive in size and mass due to is L. latifolia parentage, and more tolerant of cool and moist conditions owing to the L. angusifolia influence. This variety of lavender is landscape favorite and many of the most impressive lavender plants such as “Grosso” and “Provence” are in the Lavandin grouping. This type of lavender has a more herbaceous and “green aroma” than angustfolia types due to higher a-pinene, camphor and eucaplyptol constituents, lending antiseptic and respiratory potential to Lavandin for medicinal use.
NOTE: Lavandin is represented as lavender on nursery tags and plant labels. Lavandin is still lavender, just a hybrid of two species, to be clear.
Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
Spanish lavender is a showy variety of lavender for the landscape. Often 18-24 inches in height with similar spread, this type of lavender is an excellent choice for small gardens, borders, and containers. Another lavender that loves hot condition, Spanish lavender has lots of visual interest as each flowering spike is topped with a set of bracts (modified leaves) that resemble rabbit years. I personally prefer this variety in the landscape over the apothecary or kitchen.
How to grow, prune & harvest different types of lavender
Most varieties of lavender are considered hardy in zones 5-9, with English and Lavandin types being more appropriate for cooler and damper climates. All types of lavender enjoy loose, well drained soils and full sun. Lavender spikes should be harvests just as the flower buds start to open for maximum fragrance, but can be left of the plant for enjoyment all season long and to keep your pollinator friends happy. Do note that if you harvest your first flush of lavender early, you will often get repeat bloom that same season. Cut back spent lavender spikes in fall, but do not prune into the green growth. Prune and reshape the mound in early spring, and cut back by a third every three years to maintain a healthy, attractive lavender plant.
Looking for some lavender recipes and remedies? Try these!
Beus, D. (n.d.). Lavender Species & Cultivars. Washington State University.
Carrasco, A., Martinez-Gutierrez, R., Tomas, V., & Tudela, J. (2015). Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia Essential Oils from Spain: Aromatic Profile and Bioactivities. Planta Medica,82(01/02), 163-170. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1558095
Dris, D., Tine-Djebbar, F., & Soltani, N. (2017). Lavandula dentata Essential Oils: Chemical Composition and Larvicidal Activity Against Culiseta longiareolata and Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae). African Entomology,25(2), 387-394. doi:10.4001/003.025.0387