English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Common Lavender, English Lavender, Lavender, Narrow-Leaved Lavender

Many people are enchanted by the extremely charming scent and the magically purple flowers. It is not difficult to like lavender. True Lavender exudes an aromatic scent and has a typical Mediterranean appearance with upright branches, which are slightly ramified. With proper care, many of the flowers can be picked in summer and kept in the linen closet, to repel moths.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Lavandula angustifolia, formerly L. officinalis, is a flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Croatia etc.). Its common names include lavender, true lavender and English lavender (though not native to England); also garden lavender, common lavender and narrow-leaved lavender.

The species name angustifolia is Latin for “narrow leaf”. Previously, it was known as Lavandula officinalis, referring to its medicinal properties.

It is a strongly aromatic shrub growing as high as 1 to 2 metres (3+1⁄2 to 6+1⁄2 ft) tall. The leaves are evergreen, 2–6 centimetres (1–2+1⁄2 inches) long, and 4–6 millimetres (3⁄16–1⁄4 in) broad. The flowers are pinkish-purple (lavender-coloured), produced on spikes 2–8 cm (1–3 in) long at the top of slender, leafless stems 10–30 cm (4–12 in) long.

This aromatic plant repels deer, it is known to repel cats, but it is toxic to pets

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Grow English lavender in full sun. Shady locations usually cause the plant to become leggy and produce fewer blooms. In very hot climates, though, the plants respond well to some shade in the heat of the afternoon.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants grow best in conditions that are warm but not oppressively hot. They prefer relatively dry climates and respond poorly to high humidity.

Watering

Young plants should be watered once every other day for the first week. Once established, they are quite drought-tolerant and don’t like too much water, which could inhibit their ability to bloom. Water mature plants about once per week or so based on your climate, increasing the frequency to about every four days after flower buds form to promote a healthy harvest.

Soil

The right soil is the key point for the lavender shrub. It needs a sandy and chalky soil, where it can be interspersed with many stones or gravel. In this sense, we can also talk about a low-nutrient soil. Ideal is the so-called herbal soil, which is mixed with sand and is the perfect basis for lavender. It should have a pH between 6.5 and 8.3. Lavender does not like to stand in wet soil, so good drainage is needed. In general, this is achieved by the loose sand.

Fertilizing

Feeding is usually not necessary with English lavender. Fertilizing English lavender may inhibit its ability to flower.

Pruning

Remove faded flower stalks to promote continued bloom. You can prune to shape in spring after new stems and leaves appear. A light pruning again in late summer or early fall before the first frost encourages good air circulation, which guards against rot. So if you have the time, pruning twice a year can be beneficial for your plant. English lavender typically blooms only once per season, but some varieties might send up a second flush of blooms after pruning.

Once the plants are well established, in their second season and beyond, it’s usually best to prune the new spring growth after the plants leaf out, cutting about one-third of the green stalks. Never cut into the old woody stems. Shearing the plants to about eight inches from the ground in early spring every three years or so helps to control the plants’ size and promotes new growth2.

You can also dry English lavender that you have pruned to make your own sachets and potpourris. To do this, harvest the flowers just as they open and then hang bunches upside down by the stems to dry in a cool dark room with plenty of ventilation.

Propagation

For gardening enthusiasts, the propagation of lavender can be a real pleasure. We have already described the possibility of using new seeds in the chapter ‘‘Cultivation and Sowing”. Now we will talk about propagation by cuttings or layering.

Propagation by cuttings

The propagation by cuttings is also called cloning or vegetative propagation. This variant is most common and is relatively simple. With a well-growing plant you already have the base for the next plants. The propagation is possible throughout the whole year, but the ideal time is in late summer. After the flowering and before winter, means that the plant flues power and energy during the resting phase, to sprout then vigorously in spring.

Contrary to the opinion that the cuttings should be cut out, the chance of growing is better if you cut out the cuttings from the mother plant. This, of course, without damaging the plant or other plant parts. A length of about 15 centimeters is ideal; this is cut out by the main shoot. If possible, some wood from the main shoot should also be broken off. Then the lower leaves are removed. Now several cuttings find a place in a pot. They are about 10 centimeters deep in the ground. Be careful not to put too many cuttings in a pot. Three to five cuttings per pot should be enough.

  • The cuttings take about eight weeks to form the first roots.
  • The pots are protected with a plastic film over the winter.
  • Lignified and dry plant parts of the mother plant can no longer be reproduced!

Propagation by division

If your lavender shrubs grow into stately plants, you can also, of course, divide them. For this purpose, the shrub is grubbed out with root balls. You may need a strong hand here. Then the root is divided and can be buried again at the new location or in the pot. Autumn is the ideal time for division.

Propagation by lowering

The lowering is quite simple. In this type of propagation, take a long branch and push it into a 10 cm deep furrow in the soil. Fix this lowering in the ground with a wire and an accumulation of earth.

Repotting or transplanting

Of course you can repot your lavender after a few years or choose a new location. This is particularly appropriate when the shrub has reached a considerable size and you do not want to shorten it much. The best time to change location is the time before budding, which means in March. Then the plant has the best start in the warm summer season. If the shrub is placed in a new pot, it should be about 10 cm larger than the previous one. Loose old soil should be tapped carefully; also the roots can be shortened a little. The cutting allows the root tips to grow well in the pot. After the transplantation, water the shrub well and afterwards water it less.

Overwintering

English lavender might not survive through the winter if the soil is too wet or if temperatures dip well below zero degrees Fahrenheit without protective snow cover or mulch. At the cooler northern edge of its hardiness range, these plants should be protected over winter with a thick layer of mulch until spring. To combat issues with high humidity levels, mulch them with rock or gravel rather than organic mulch.

Pests and Diseases

Common Plant Diseases

English lavender is not affected by many diseases. However, it is susceptible to leaf spot and root rot.3 Remove affected leaves succumbing to leaf spot. Plants with leaf spot might require better air circulation. To prevent root rot, do not overwater your plants; they do not do well in constantly moist soil.

Common Problems 

English lavender is not a high maintenance plant, but there are a few environmental issues that can reduce or prevent flowering. If you notice your plants are producing more foliage than blooms in late June and early July, the following issues might be the cause:

  • Soil is too fertile
  • Plants are overfertilized
  • Plants receive Insufficient sunlight, too much shade
  • Soil pH is too low (acidic)
  • Plants are overwatered; soil does not drain well
  • Humidity levels are too high

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Ornamental uses

English lavender provides good mid-summer color to the garden and is often used in perennial borders and rock gardens as well as in herb gardens and scent gardens. Its intermediate height makes it just about right for the middle row in a decorative border consisting of shorter annual flowers in the front and taller shrubs or trees in the back. It also works well when massed and is sometimes used as a low hedge.

  • Medicinal uses

The flowers and leaves are used as a herbal medicine, either in the form of lavender oil or as a herbal tea, to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, and difficulty falling asleep.

The flowers are also used as a culinary herb, most often as part of the North American version of the French herb blend called herbes de Provence.

  • Cosmetic uses

Lavender essential oil, when diluted with a carrier oil, is commonly used as a relaxant with massage therapy. Products for home use, such as lotions, eye pillows (including lavender flowers or the essential oil itself) and bath oils,…, are also used. Both the petals and the oil are the most popular ingredients in handmade soap.

Dried lavender flowers and lavender essential oil are also used as a prevention against clothing moths, which do not like their scent.

  • Other uses

Lavandula angustifolia is included in the Tasmanian Fire Service’s list of low flammability plants, indicating that it is suitable for growing within a building protection zone.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Details

Common name Common Lavender, English Lavender, Lavender, Narrow-Leaved Lavender
Botanical name Lavandula angustifolia
Plant type Edible
Hardiness zone 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Growth rate Medium
Height 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
Width 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Loam (Silt)
Flower color Pink
Leaf color Gray/Silver