French lavender – planting, care and pruning

French lavender

French lavender is rarer than common lavender. Flowers seem to have tiny wings!

Key French Lavender facts:

Name: Lavandula stoechas (GB)
Name: Lavandula dentata (USA)
Family: Lamiaceae

Type: herb sub-shrub
Height: 24-40 inches (60-100 cm)
Exposure: full sun
Hardiness: H3/H4 in the UK, Zone 8b/9a in the USA

Soil: alkaline, well drained  –   Foliage: evergreen  –  Flowering: summer

French lavender is a name shared between two plants of the lavender family. Both are easy-going and productive, and care is nearly identical.

Planting French lavender

French lavender appreciates well-draining, light and even poor soils.

How to plant french lavenderIt can grow more or less anywhere, but is vulnerable when temperatures drop below 19°F (-7°C) in winter.

  • We recommend planting in fall, but you can plant in spring without any problems.
  • Water once, well, at the beginning and then refrain from watering.
  • No need to add fertilizer.
  • French lavender grows well in chalky soil, but won’t be happy in acidic soil.

Prepare a place that is well endowed with sunlight with well drained soil. If your soil is clay, mix sand into it to make it lighter.

Planting in pots and container growing

French lavender in potsOne important tip to grow French lavender in pots: avoid soil moisture at all costs.

  • Double-check that the pot has a hole.
  • Add a drainage layer at the bottom: small gravel or clay pebbles.

Usually, young plants require repotting the moment you’ve purchased them. Repot to a container only 2 inches (5 cm) wider for that first season.

Afterwards, either upsize the pot by one size, or plant it directly in a pot that is the ideal size: 1 to 1½ feet across (30 to 40 cm).

At that point, simply replenish nutrients with fertilizer such as fermented weed tea.

Watering French lavender

Watering French lavenderLavender excels at resisting drought. There are only four cases when you must water your French lavender:

  • at planting, once, thoroughly
  • during extreme heat waves (over 95°F or 35°C)
  • if your French lavender is growing in a covered spot that never gets any rain.
  • in pots (wait until soil is dry).

Perfume makers say that the dryer the season, the more fragrant the perfume!

French lavender pruning and care

Pruning this lavender is possible, but only on sections that still bear leaves. If you prune back to dry wood, it won’t grow back…

  • Care and pruningAt the end of winter, follow the rounded shape of the plant.
    Avoid cutting off old growth, because woody branches rarely send out new shoots.
    Favor pruning only on young, tender shoots rather than old, hard wood.
  • If your climate zone has mild winters, you can also trim your lavender bush in fall.
  • After the blooming, snip off dead flower stems to trigger more blooming.

If your plant is old with bare spots, you’ve got two options to make it full again:

Protection and care in winter

French lavender is vulnerable to harsh freezing, 19°F (-7°C), and can’t survive sustained cold spells.

  • Protect the base with mulch in winter. Use mineral mulch like pebbles if possible.
  • Drainage must be excellent.

Drying French lavender flowers

Flower blooming on French lavenderFrench lavender can keep for months, even years, if kept in a dry place away from the sun’s rays.

  • Cut lavender flowers are an excellent way to perfume clothes and laundry.
  • Best is to hang bunches upside-down to dry before storing or using them (great for dried flower bouquets, for instance).
  • Traditionally, locals filled small cotton pouches with lavender flowers to perfume laundry in the closet.
  • A variant that doesn’t require cloth or sewing is making ribbon wands.

Diseases and pests

French lavender diseases pestsThere aren’t any. Actually, this flower often helps as a pest repellent. Like marigold, it repels aphids, so you can plant it around rose trees to protect them.

In rare cases where the plant is weak due to overwatering, the shrub may develop leaf spot (Septoria).

Although butterflies love to drink its nectar, you won’t find caterpillars on the leaves, none like to eat it!

All there is to know about French lavender

French lavenderFrench lavender got its name from France. It was developed and grown there to produce oil for perfume. In France, a common name for it is “butterfly lavender” (lavande papillon) because flower tips look like butterflies.

Flowers are stouter that those of common lavender, and like its cousin, it has also been grown for thousands of years. Traditional uses included bathing, protecting linens, perfume, and availing of its medicinal benefits.

Together with the olive tree, this sub-shrub is one of the symbols of French Provence and the Mediterranean.

In landscaping, French lavender beautifies rock beds, edges and flower beds.

  • Note: in Australia and Spain, this lavender is an invasive weed and should not be planted. It’s not invasive in the USA (California…).

→ Read also:

Smart tip about French lavender

A great source of nectar, French lavender attracts honeybees to the garden, a welcome addition!

Images: 123RF: Christian Bridgwater; adobestock: Kotcha K, CC BY 2.0: M’s Photography, Katja Schulz, CC BY-SA 2.0: Tracie Hall; dreamstime: Chernetskaya; Pixabay: Courtney, Daniel Wanke

Written by Gaspard Lorthiois | Loves helping out, especially when it comes to growing things. Worked in herbal medicine, runs a farm, and dabbles in tech. Master's degree and engineer.