A wonderful species of lavender often grown as an ornamental, Lavandula stoechas offers beautiful blooms and a nice, tight growth habit.
Lavandula stoechas facts
Name – Lavandula stoechas
Common names – French lavender,
Spanish lavender, butterfly lavender
Family – Lamiaceae
Type – herbaceous shrub
Height – 12 to 36 inches (0.3 to 0.9 m)
Exposure – fully exposed to the sun
Soil – ordinary or alkaline, draining well
Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – mid-spring to late summer,
or even all year round (depends on climate & variety)
This species has striking varieties that will embellish every garden. Learn how to plant, water, and care for L. stoechas sub-shrubs.
Planting Lavandula stoechas
When planting in the ground
Drainage and exposure are the two most crucial considerations.
- Plant Lavandula stoechas in full sun, even if it gets very hot there.
Do your best to increase drainage upon planting:
- plant on a slope or atop a small mound
- plant in a soil mix with at least 50% sand + gravel + clay pebbles
- remaining portion of the soil mix can be compost + regular garden soil
- at the bottom of the hole, layer another 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) of pure gravel and/or clay balls
With these steps, your Lavandula stoechas can be planted almost everywhere, even in heavy clay soil!
Water abundantly once upon planting. If it drains well enough, it shouldn’t form a puddle for more than a couple seconds. Water should drain away before a minute has passed.
After planting, no need to water anymore except during very long droughts, and only the first year.
Container growing for L. stoechas
Lavandula stoechas will grow perfectly in a pot. Terra cotta pots are slightly better than plastic, since they tend to dry out faster.
- In any case, make sure the pot drains perfectly. It must have a hole at the bottom.
- To keep the hole from clogging, cut a piece of mesh wire and lay it across the bottom, with a few pieces of gravel under it. You can also use an upside-down piece of broken pottery or mug.
- Atop this, layer gravel or expanded clay balls about an inch or two thick (3 to 5 cm)
When the pot is thus prepared, add soil mix, your Lavandula clump, and backfill.
- The soil mix must also drain very well.
- Avoid putting together only sand and very fine compost. The fine compost would fuse with the sand and drainage won’t work.
Don’t set the pot in a saucer that collects water, especially if you’re keeping the plant out where it rains. Having water stagnate at the bottom of the pot is a nightmare for all the types of lavender.
- If you must catch the water, then lift the pot up on the saucer with flat stones, gravel, or again clay balls. Bottom of the pot must be higher than the rim.
Proper watering and care for Lavandula stoechas
Watering in summer
In summer, water is only needed when it hasn’t rained for two or three weeks. This is for plant in the ground.
- Water a small amount, no need to waste since this plant only requires a little water.
For L. stoechas growing in pots, a good practice is to test if the soil is dry before watering. Also, don’t water more than once a week except if temperatures are extremely high.
Lavandula stoechas is hardy down to 10°F (-10°C), but it only survives when drainage is impeccable.
If winters are very wet and cold, make sure your plant sits high above ground level.
- This also makes it vulnerable to freezing, so you may need to protect your lavandula from the cold when temperatures drop lower than 23°F or -5°C.
In the ground, there is absolutely no need for fertilizer.
In pots, apply a low dose of regular plant fertilizer (or make your own from weeds such as comfrey or stinging nettle) whenever watering or just after strong rain.
Propagation of L. stoechas plants
- Break side branches from a larger main stem when they reach 6 to 8 inches, preferably without flowers.
- Pinch leaves off from the lower half (3 to 4 inches). Keep all leaves above this point.
- If there are flowers, pinch the stem off just above a large set of leaves.
- Dip the bared parts in rooting hormone (aloe vera gel works very good, too).
- Place the entire bare part in a pot with potting soil (stick a finger or stick to form the hole first), and press down.
- Water, keep moist, in bright light but out of direct sun.
- You can also simply place them in a glass of water on a windowsill to make water cuttings.
Roots will start growing from the nodes where leaves were pinched off.
- Plant to the ground in the next spring.
- For water cuttings, transfer to a pot when roots are at least an inch long.
Dividing existing specimens
Perform clump division to break a large clump into smaller ones. These you can transplant.
Seeds are tiny but will germinate readily. You can start growing them in a tray towards the end of winter and plant them to the ground after the last frost in spring.
- You might need to help them get used to growing outdoors by hardening them for up to a week.
- To do this, simply bring the seedlings outdoors where there’s wind, shade, even rain, but bring them indoors at night.
Pruning Lavendula stoechas
Tips and tricks in a short video
Summary on how to prune Lavendula stoechas plants
A hand pruner and long shears will make quick work of the task:
- After the blooming, shear off spent, drying flowers into a mound-like shape.
- Cut at the base of the flower stems. Snip off tips of leafy branches actually will help the shrub grow more dense.
- Pruning right after the first set of flowers start dying triggers more blooming for late summer.
When the bush grows unruly, you can thin it, too:
- Remove one in three old branches directly to the stump.
- Shorten remaining branches, but remember to always keep a few leaves on every stem.
- In the following season, new branches should emerge from the center of the clump.
- At that point, you can either remove the remaining old branches or let them be.
- More details on pruning lavender
Interesting L. stoechas varieties
A rare favorite is the blushing Lavandula stoechas ‘Kew Red’ variety, which has wonderful violet-red flowerheads.
Diseases and pests
As seen above, the greatest – and only – threat to Lavandula stoechas is root rot. This is usually caused by soil that doesn’t drain well enough. Nonetheless, if you water too often, even the most perfect draining soil won’t keep root rot from striking.
- Wait for the soil to have dried out through and through before watering again.
There are rarely any reports of leaf spot diseases or insects, apart from the random caterpillar that has lost its way. No need to fight it away, it will quickly leave of its own accord. Adult butterflies, though, love sipping nectar alongside bees. A large white drinking from a lavender flower is a beautiful sight!
Learn more about Lavandula stoechas
A stocky, very fragrant lavender, Lavandula stoechas is native to dry, semi-arid climates around the Mediterranean. It’s one of the two that are called French lavender (with L. dentata).
It’s one of the most fragrant lavenders. Oils in it are concentrated even more when drought and hot weather strike. It’s often used in cosmetics and perfumes.
Use Lavandula stoechas in cut-flower bouquets and pot-pourris. The flower grains, when dry, remain more firmly attached to the stem and won’t fall off. This is also an advantage when making lavender wands.
The strong fragrance makes it a bit too powerful for cooking, though, unlike other common lavender varieties.
Softer and hardier, both Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula dentata are more suited to that purpose.
- Spanish, English and French lavender – make sense of the confusing lavender names!
- How to tell English, French and Spanish lavender apart
Smart tip about Lavendula stoechas
Lavandula stoechas is perfect for short, thick lavender wands. Stalks are shorter and flowers more compact than other lavender flowers.
CC BY 2.0: Lies Van Rompaey
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