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English Lavender Plants

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Picture of English lavender.

Picture of lavender plant in bloom.

David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of English Lavender Plants:

Plant taxonomy classifies English lavender plants as Lavandula angustifolia. The Latin word, angustifolia means "narrow-leafed."

Plant Type:

Botanically-speaking, Lavandula angustifolia is classified as an evergreen shrub (for warm climates), since this perennial produces woody stems above-ground. However, it is seldom referred to as such in lay terms, being commonly thought of, instead, as an aromatic herb.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones:

English lavender plants are perennials for planting zones 5-8. The "French" variety (Lavandula stoechas) prefers a warmer climate; it is not as cold-hardy. But in spite of its common name and its hardiness, L. angustifolia, like its French cousin, is native to the Mediterranean. This is a consideration to keep in mind when choosing a location for it in your landscaping and preparing the soil for its bed (see below under Sun and Soil Requirements).

Wildlife Attracted by English Lavender Plants:

This aromatic herb is just one of the many plants that attract butterflies. Fortunately, ants dislike the smell of lavender, making it a possible weapon for organic ant control.

Characteristics of English Lavender Plants:

Reaching heights ranging from 2'-3', their spread can be equal to that or twice that, depending on cultivar. In general, Lavandula angustifolia bears flowers that are lilac-blue in color and grow on spikes, with leaves that are narrow and greyish-green. But various cultivars exist, differing in characteristics. In my zone-5 landscape they begin blooming in June.

Domestic Uses :

Mention of this old favorite immediately brings to mind the employment of its aromatic quality to lend a fragrance to linens, sachets and potpourris. For such dried use of this perennial, harvest the flowers just as they open, and hang them to dry in a dark room with plenty of ventilation. English lavender plants have also been used as a flavoring herb (e.g., in cordials) and as a medicinal herb (e.g., in aromatherapy for sleep).

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow in full sun and an alkaline, sandy, well-drained soil. They are also drought-tolerant, which is why they're such a good choice in rock gardens.

Landscape Design Uses:

Lavandula angustifolia is often used in rock gardens and knot gardens, as an edging plant, and in cottage gardens. Its intermediate height makes it just about right for the middle row in a decorative border comprised of shorter annual flowers in the front and taller shrubs or trees in the back. In borders functioning as living privacy fences (and which, consequently, will have taller components than would decorative borders), Lavandula angustifolia could lend interest to the front row.

Caveat:

You probably will want to purchase seedlings of Lavandula angustifolia at a nursery, since they are difficult to start from seed. However, be careful with your selection. The seedlings bear some resemblance to young rosemary seedlings, so novices could become confused and wind up buying the wrong item!

More Information:

Humans consider Lavandula angustifolia to be among the fragrant plants. Traditionally, it has been harvested, dried and placed in linen closets, making good use of its pleasing aroma. Fortunately, deer pests don't find its aroma pleasing at all; in fact, deer think it stinks! This property makes English lavender plants deer-resistant and thereby a sensible choice in areas plagued by hungry, marauding deer.
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