English Lavender, the queenly lavender of old

English lavender is the quintessential lavender variety. Grown and cultivated for its fragrance, today Old English lavender is a much sought-after ornament for the garden.

Essential English lavender facts

NameLavandula angustifolia
FamilyLamiaceae
Type – herb sub-shrub

Height – 2½ to 4 feet (60-90 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary, well-drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – June to September (weather dependant)

The species name is angustifolia, a Latin word for “narrow leaf”. This demonstrates the specific trait that tells it apart from other lavenders: smooth, narrow leafage. Learn how to plant and care for English lavender and discover its many varieties.

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How to plant English lavender

Planting English lavender in the ground

Choose a spot with a lot of light and excellent drainage.

  • Add organic material to the soil, but not so much that the soil stays soggy when watered.
  • Old English lavender responds poorly to humidity.
  • Avoid watering: mulching is a good way to lessen the level of humidity. Mulch could be either organic like wood chips or, better yet, inorganic like gravel.
  • Leave a space of 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) between each plant.

Although acid soils do not jeopardize its growth, it favors neutral to alkaline soil.

Exposure

Make sure you plant it in a part of the garden where it is exposed to the sun.

If in a very hot area, afternoon shade after a very hot and arid day is good for it.

  • If placed under the shade, it will grow tall but will produce less flowers.

Landscaping with English lavender

When left to grow wild, this lavender can grow as high as 1 or 2 yards (1 to 2 meters), but it is almost always trimmed into a nice, round mound.

  • Leaves have a silvery sheen and are from 1 to 2½ inches long, but only up to ¼th inch wide (2–6 centimeters long and 4–6 millimeters wide).
  • Flowers are produced on the topmost part of foot-long (30 cm) stalks. Each cluster is from ¾ to over 3 inches  (2 to 8 cm) long!

Flowers bloom only once per year and last around 3-4 weeks. After this period of time, they turn to a gray-bronze hue as they slowly dry up.

Typical uses in landscaping

English lavender is in demand when it comes to landscaping perennial gardens, rock gardens or aroma gardens.

Both formal and wild, it serves well for edging along walkways, raised walls, or borders.

It goes great when planted as an individual standalone, and is stunning when planted en masse.

  • Its average height make it the perfect plant to put in between low, crawling plants and shrubs and trees.

A lovely edge grown from english lavender with a bench.

English lavender propagation

Best way to propagate English lavender

Clearly, stem cuttings are the best way to propagate this plant. Just after pruning the shrub, plant woody trimmings in sandy soil mix. Many will sprout to become new plants!

  • Follow this guide to make cuttings from 6-inch long shoots (12 cm)
  • Cuttings ensures you reproduce the original plant

Other ways to multiply Old English lavender

Clump division and seeds are also effective.

  • With clump division, at most two or three plants can be obtained. Each will grow identical to the mother plant.
  • With seeds, many new plants will appear. Each will be slightly different due to cross pollination. They might even be hybrids like Lavandin.

Water the young plants thoroughly and regularly. Do so only rarely when they are older.

Proper care for English lavender

Watering English lavender

Apart from once or twice upon planting, there is no need to water English lavender.

  • Only in case of extreme drought should the plant be given a little water.
  • When growing Old English in a pot, water when the soil is dry deep down.
  • There is no need to add fertilizer, except in pots.

It tolerates drought and is thus famous for its ability to need minimal water for survival.

Pruning and trimming English lavender

Here is a video on how to prune English lavender. The technique is the same for all varieties of lavender.

  • After blooming, thin the shrub by trimming or pruning it to 8 inches  (20 cm) above the ground during fall.

Old English lavender benefits

Uses and benefits of home-grown English lavender

On one hand, it is famous for its aroma or scent. You can smell a relaxing fragrance when the leaves and flowers are crushed or brushed into. For this, it is usually harvested, dried and conserved in sachets and potpourris.

On the other hand, the vibrant blue-purple flowers illuminate the garden. They sway along the summer breeze attracting buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies. With the many available cultivars, flower colors are also available in lavender, violet blue or white pink. Plant lots of them so you needn’t choose between using and admiring it!

Here are a few manners in which English lavender is used:

  • Flavor for cordials or liquor drinks
  • Flavoring for cooking (like dried meat sausages) and grilling herbs
  • Aromatherapy to easily sleep
  • Herbal medicine and herbal tea
  • Essential oil as a relaxant and for massage therapy
  • Lotions, soap, eye pillows
  • Against clothing moths (dried and put in sachets, potpourri, and English lavender wands)

How to harvest English lavender

It is good to harvest when flowers are just starting to open. Any later and the individual flowers would usually fall off the stalk upon drying.

  • Tie the stalks and make bunches that are easy to grasp.
  • Hang them in a dry and dark well-ventilated room.

Types & varieties of English lavender

Hundreds of varieties

There are nearly two hundred varieties and cultivars of English lavender.

On top of the type species, plain Lavandula angustifolia, the most famous (and easily found in garden stores) are the following:

  • L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ – a low-growing variety, about 20 inches (50cm) with a mounded growth habit. Also comes in pink with the ‘Hidcote Pink’ variety.
  • L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote Giant’ – a much larger version, achieving heights of 36 to 40 inches (90 to 100 cm)
  • L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ – a short, 12-inch-tall (30cm) variety with flowers that are a deep violet color, strong fragrance
  • L. angustifolia ‘Sarah’ – grows 6 to 24 inches (15 to 60 cm) tall. Cultivar with violet flowers
  • L. angustifolia ‘Jean Davis’ – wonderful light-pink flowers, grows to 20 or 24 inches (50-60 cm)
  • L. angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’ – summer blooming, narrow silver-green leaves
  • L. angustifolia ‘Loddon pink’tight shape and pale pink flowers
  • L. angustifolia ‘Twickle purple’ – long violet flowers, neatly staged
  • L. angustifolia ‘Arctic Snow’ – one of the white lavenders, wonderful white blooming
  • L. angustifolia ‘Rosea’ – wonderful, clear pink variety
  • L. angustifolia ‘Little Lady’ – (also called ‘Batlad’) light blue flowers in late summer
  • L. angustifolia ‘Melissa lilac’soft lilac color once opened, dark violet while still closed
  • L. angustifolia ‘Platinum blond’leaves are what stand out here, they have ivory-colored rims

Hybrids called “Lavandin”

White English lavender varietyAdditionally, since English lavender is one of the most common lavenders, it is often cross-pollinated with other species to produce interesting offspring. These are generically called “Lavandin”.

Here are the two nice English lavender hybrids:

  • L. × intermedia ‘Nana Alba’ – also white-blooming, dwarf variety. Its larger parent, ‘Alba’, is also widespread.
  • L. × intermedia ‘Edelweiss’ – white blooming and nicely mounding shrub

Learn more about Old English Lavender

English lavender, with scientific name Lavandula angustifolia, is also called simply “common lavender” or “true lavender“.

This garden lavender is part of the mint family. It is considered an herb, but is in fact an herbaceous perennial. This means that exposed parts wither and die during cold winters. In spring and summer it regrows from the roots and other underground parts that survive.

It is so beautiful and fragrant that it is known as “the queen of herbs” for herb gardens.

Interestingly, English lavender is native to the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, France and Croatia) and not at all to England. Simply, Englishmen were among the first to make widespread use of it in gardens as an ornamental plant. Today, however, many seek to compare English, French and Spanish lavender to see which fits them best.

As a testimony to its medicinal properties, it was called as Lavandula officinalis in the past. It still boasts many health benefits which are easily accessible to all.

Among its other interesting properties:

  • It has a low flammability and low risk of catching fire.
  • This means they are suitable for planting even in building protection buffer zones.
  • Countries and counties where risk of fire is high include it in their “plant near vulnerable areas” list. The Tasmanian fire authority is an example of this.

Pests and diseases on English lavender

Disease is the only challenge when caring for Lavandula angustifolia.

Root rot

Roots rotting is the most common problem with this plant.

  • it happens when soil is not well-drained
  • and/or not protected with mulch when temperatures drop below freezing.

Ensure excellent drainage upon planting and mulch with mineral mulch.

  • Mineral mulch like shale mulch or expanded clay pebbles will keep warmth in.
  • The mineral mulch won’t attract excess moisture, as plant-based mulches would.
  • Soil will remain alkaline, too.

Leaf spot

English lavender is one of the Septoria host plants.

Pest resistance

Rabbits and deer avoid English lavender. The strong-tasting compounds in leaves and flowers make it their last choice for a snack.

Smart tip about English lavender

Grow it in pots that drain well. The round mound it forms will make it look very good!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
English lavender blooms by Hans Braxmeier under Pixabay license
A fragrant bench by Achim Scholty under Pixabay license
White common lavender by Hans Braxmeier under Pixabay license