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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” 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.
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  • Plantora wrote on 2 May 2024 at 9 h 09 min

    This was such a well-written and insightful post. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

  • Carol vivian wrote on 5 November 2021 at 13 h 40 min

    My French lavender is still in bloom, I would like to prune them but we have had our first frost, would this do any harm.

    • Gaspard wrote on 6 November 2021 at 11 h 14 min

      Hi Carol, usually for French lavender you can actually leave the plant as it is until the end of winter. There’s no need to prune now. That way, you might still get the occasional flower. If you prefer to prune now, it’s also possible, but it’s best to wait for a warmer spell: it takes a few days for plants to cure their wounds well. It’s best if it doesn’t freeze during this period. So check the weather for a warm spell when it won’t freeze for 3-4 days in a row.

  • Annabel Hurdman wrote on 21 June 2021 at 14 h 35 min

    Hello – I have just received 2 x French Lavender patio trees – they look “grey” half way up and battered – what can I do to help it?

    • Gaspard wrote on 21 June 2021 at 23 h 35 min

      Hi Annabel, seems like the older leaves have taken a beating! It’s normal for the older leaves to turn gray and, in the end, fall off. Newer leaves higher up are taking over. What you can do to get bushes that are dense and lush is to prune them back to just above the first few “nice, green” leaves: this will trigger branching out in many places. It’ll fill the shrub up and hide the barer branches inside. Keep the shape round, it usually looks nicer. Here’s a link on how to prune french lavender (all lavenders are similar in this respect). Note that it’s best to do this in Spring so that flowers still have time to form over Summer, but if you’re willing to sacrifice this year’s blooming you can go ahead and prune now, you’ll have a slightly higher chance of getting new growth lower down, in the area where the gray leaves are.

  • black thumb wrote on 21 April 2021 at 23 h 59 min

    what is recommended pot size for french lavender

    • Gaspard wrote on 23 April 2021 at 3 h 51 min

      Hi black thumb, soon to turn green! At the beginning, a smallish pot will do, for instance 6 or 8 inches across (15-20 cm), but once your lavender is already three or four years old you should double the size of the pot for it to have the space to grow (1 to 1½ feet or 30 to 40 cm). That size will suit it to the end. You can also start it directly in the larger of the two sizes, but it’ll seem small for its pot size!

  • MRS R WEST wrote on 26 February 2021 at 20 h 44 min

    Can you tell me how to protect French lavender in winter ours has died possibly through the frost where it is in a normal flower bed THANK YOU.

    • Gaspard wrote on 27 February 2021 at 19 h 36 min

      Hello Mrs West, sure. If it gets really cold every year, a good solution would be to try planting it using the pot-in-the-ground system, so that you can take it out before winter and store it in a garage or place that won’t freeze.

      If you prefer to leave it in place, try to winterize it (article on winterizing here) with horticultural fleece or a clear plastic bag loosely wrapped around the bunch. You can also heap a pile of straw atop the shrub. Usually that keeps the harshest frost at bay. Come Spring, pull the hay away to free your French lavender.

      Lastly, you should know French lavender is the least hardy species. If it fails you repeatedly, try planting English lavender or Spike lavender, they’re both hardier than French Lavender.

  • Christina wrote on 27 July 2020 at 19 h 06 min

    I recieved a French lavender tree for mothers day. It was doing great, flowering and looked healthy for a couple months. Now its turning brown and yellow and no more flowers. Its in the 80s and I only water when its dry… How am I killing my beautiful lavender? 🙁

    • Gaspard wrote on 31 July 2020 at 15 h 53 min

      Hello Christina, brown is usually lack of water but yellow is often a sign of overwatering… If the plant is in a pot and the pot itself in a pot holder, it’s really important to make sure that when you water, the pot doesn’t wallow in water inside the pot holder. If you’re careful to let it drain out fully before putting the pot back in the pot holder, then it probably isn’t a problem of overwatering.

      So it might be drying out for lack of water perhaps. Try watering it a bit more often, still smaller amounts. This is especially true for potted plants, they tend to dry out faster.

      It might be that the soil is too acidic. This happens if you use bark mulch or if there isn’t much lime in the soil. Compost will raise pH from acid towards neutral. Wood ash will even bring it into slightly alkaline range, which is good for lavender.

      To a point, it’s normal for the plant to stop blooming. After all, usually the blooming season for French Lavender is around two-three weeks, after that the flower panicles dry out over the next two months.

  • Charlene wrote on 16 May 2020 at 19 h 23 min

    My french lavender is doing wonderful where I planted it. It has so many flowers n I wanted to use them so I cut them off. I work w herbs n dry them all the time when I when I tried to dry them they got sticky. That doesn’t happen w my mother
    Lavender. Do u know why it does that? Thank u

    • Gaspard wrote on 16 May 2020 at 19 h 45 min

      Hi Charlene, that’s surprising. Do you think a disease or an insect was on them? Normally French lavender dries just like the other ones. It’s still spring so maybe they were really full of sap, possibly it rained before picking them? In this season you’d have to dry them by tying smaller clumps together not more than 10 or 15 to a cluster.

  • VANESSA ANN Merriman wrote on 30 November 2019 at 12 h 31 min


  • Mythia Sky Bergren wrote on 4 August 2019 at 20 h 54 min

    How do I know how much to water my plant?

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 6 August 2019 at 17 h 30 min

      French lavender can take drought but not overwatering. Water only when the dirt around the plant is dry deep down, like a finger’s depth deep. If the ground drains well, water thoroughly. But if the soil retains water well (if you have mulch, for example), then only water a little, like a glassful of water, and wait until dry again.