By Ryan Dorn,

Lavender, a symbol of grace and elegance, has graced gardens and homes for centuries. Its captivating aroma, magnificent hues, and therapeutic benefits make it a cherished herb worldwide. From sprawling fields in Provence to a home gardener’s oasis in California, lavender reigns supreme. If you've ever been enchanted by its scent or sight, then you're in for a treat! Dive into this comprehensive guide, brought to you by Southern Seeds, and embark on a delightful journey into the world of lavender.

Woman Touching Lavenders in the Field

The Timeless Scent: History of Lavender

Originating over 2,500 years ago, lavender's enduring allure stems from more than just its captivating fragrance. The name itself, derived from the Latin "lavare," meaning "to wash," hints at its ancient use in baths and laundry by the Romans, who also recognized its medicinal virtues. Fast forward to the Victorian era, and English royalty, especially Queen Victoria, championed the use of lavender in homes for both its scent and therapeutic attributes.

From its beginnings with the Ancient Egyptians—who prized it for mummification and perfumery—to its widespread use in today's aromatherapy and culinary arts, lavender's rich tapestry of history showcases its timeless significance in cultures around the world.

Lavender Landscape: Navigating the Six Primary Types

When venturing into the world of lavender, it's essential to understand that not all lavenders are created equal. The diversity in this fragrant family is astounding, with each type bringing its unique charm to the garden. Let's delve deeper into the six main types and uncover what sets each one apart.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender field in English countryside

If there were a crown for the most revered lavender, the English Lavender would wear it with grace. This variety is known for its rich, sweet fragrance that's often the highlight of essential oils and perfumes. Native to the Mediterranean, English Lavender has since traveled worldwide, setting the benchmark in gardens with its classic scent and versatility. Its silvery-green foliage and vibrant purple flowers are not only a treat for the eyes but are also commonly used in cosmetics, medicinal recipes and dried flower arrangements.

Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)

Beautiful Spanish lavender flowers on blurred background

Step into the world of Spanish Lavender and be greeted by its tufted petals resembling rabbit ears, adding a whimsical touch to gardens. This type is sun-loving and more tolerant of humid conditions compared to its English counterpart. Native to the western Mediterranean region, it's often a favorite for decorative purposes. And that quick tip about its straight leaves? It's a handy way to differentiate it from the French variety, ensuring your garden conversations are always on point.

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata)

French lavender closeup on blurred background.

Imagine a stroll in a picturesque French countryside, and the French Lavender is what you'd likely encounter. Recognized by its serrated or "toothed" leaves, it thrives in warm climates and possesses a lighter, more playful fragrance compared to the deeper tones of the English Lavender. It's not just a beauty to behold, but its aromatic leaves are also a delightful addition to sachets and potpourris.

Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia)

Lavandula latifolia or broadleaved lavender purple flowers

Portuguese Lavender, the National Flower of Portugal, scientifically referred to as Lavandula latifolia, is a distinct gem in the family of lavenders. Native to the western regions of the Iberian Peninsula, this variety is recognized by its slender and elongated leaves, differentiating it from the more common English or French types. The flowers, typically vibrant pink or purple, grow in compact spikes hence it's name "Spiked Lavender" and emit a more intense aroma, often described as a mix of lavender and rosemary. This type of lavender thrives in Mediterranean climates, preferring sunny spots and well-draining soils. Not just a feast for the eyes, Portuguese Lavender has a significant history in traditional medicine of the region, where it's been used for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. If you're seeking a less conventional, but equally enchanting variety of lavender, the Portuguese Lavender could be your fragrant answer.


Lavandula x intermedia 'Phenomenal' (Lavender)

Nature, ever the innovator, has given us hybrid lavenders that combine the best traits of various species. These are specially bred to possess enhanced resilience to diverse climatic conditions and often stand out with vibrant colors and a unique aroma. For those seeking a touch of novelty in their gardens, hybrids provide a refreshing twist on the classic lavender. In fact, one of the most popular new lavender varieties is the hybrid, Lavender Phenomenal, a cultivar that does exceptionally well in humid areas like Florida where many other lavenders fail.

Lavandins (Lavandula hybrida)

Grosso Lavender (Intermedia) — Van Gogh Lavender

A subset of hybrids, Lavendins are specifically the result of crossbreeding the English and French species. While their botanical name is technically Lavandula hybrida, you'll often see them referred to as Lavandula x intermedia. What they offer is a hearty lavender that’s both aromatic and robust. With a tolerance for various weather conditions and an aroma that beautifully merges the deep tones of English Lavender with the light scent of the French variety, they're the versatile workhorses of the lavender world. A great example of this would be Lavandin Grosso which is one of the highest oil producing lavenders.

With the vast array of lavenders available, there's a variety to suit every garden and gardener. Each type, with its unique characteristics, offers an aromatic journey that promises to enchant and soothe. Whatever your preference, there’s a lavender waiting to make your garden its home. Let's dive into some of the most popular varieties.

Meet the Stars: 10 Popular Lavender Varieties

Lavender is not just a one-size-fits-all. Dive into the world of this beloved plant, and you'll discover a kaleidoscope of varieties, each with its own distinctive allure. Here's the most sought after lavender varieties that we see here at Southern Seeds.

1. Lavender Vera (True Lavender)

True Lavender field. Southern Seed Exchange.

The classic and most recognizable of all lavenders, Lavender Vera which is dubbed "True Lavender," is revered for its medicinal properties. With a scent that is both sweet and sharp, it's a go-to for aromatherapists. Its resilient nature and consistent growth make it a favorite among gardeners and herbalists alike.

2. Munstead

Lavender Munstead flowers.

A tribute to the famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll's garden at Munstead Wood, this variety is loved for its mounded shape and sweet scent. Adaptable and hardy, Munstead is a great starter lavender for novice gardeners, flourishing even in colder climates.

3. Hidcote

Lavender Hidcote flowers in landscape.

Named after the famous Hidcote Manor in England, this variety stands out with its dark purple blooms. Compact and dense, Hidcote is perfect for creating low hedging in gardens. Its scent is rich, making it another popular choice for oils and perfumes. 

4. Snow (White Lavender) 

White lavender snow flowers

An ethereal beauty, Snow Lavender, as its name suggests, blooms with pure white flowers. This variety brings a touch of elegance to any garden space. Its mild scent makes it a lovely choice for fresh bouquets and centerpieces.

5. Rosea (Pink Lavender)

Pink lavender (rosea) bushWith delicate pink blossoms, Rosea offers a playful twist on the traditional lavender palette. It’s not just visually captivating; its gentle aroma can turn any garden stroll into a therapeutic experience.

6. Phenomenal

Lavender phenomenal flowersTrue to its name, Phenomenal is a robust variety, especially adored in warmer states like Florida. This heat-loving hybrid is a garden trooper, resisting common diseases that can ail other varieties. Its longevity and resilience make it a top pick for those in warmer zones while also being extremely hardy in the cold.

7. Grosso

Lavendin grosso flowers on a white background

As one of the primary sources of lavender oil in France, Grosso holds a special place in the world of lavenders. Its long stems crowned with deep violet flowers make it ideal for bouquets. A rich aromatic profile ensures its continued demand in the essential oil market.

8. Goodwin Creek Grey

goodwin creek grey lavender in a pot

An elegant variety with silvery-gray leaves and deep purple blooms, Goodwin Creek Grey is both ornamental and fragrant. It's particularly well-suited for pots and containers, adding a touch of sophistication to patios and indoor settings.

9. Provence

Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)

Hailing from the beautiful French region it's named after, Provence Lavender is cherished for its long, fragrant spikes suitable for drying. This variety is often found in the fields of Southern France, painting the landscape with its vivid blue-violet blooms. Due to its high oil content, Provence is a favorite for soaps, lotions, and sachets. As a bonus, its robust and tall stems make it an outstanding choice for fresh bouquets.

10. Royal Velvet

Royal Velvet lavender flowers

Draping gardens in a regal shade of deep purple, the Royal Velvet lavender lives up to its majestic name. Renowned for its incredibly fragrant and richly colored blooms, it's a top choice for lavender aficionados who wish to make aromatic sachets or potpourris. The flowers, perched elegantly on long stems, have a velvety texture, reminiscent of the luxurious fabrics of monarchs. Furthermore, its robust nature makes it a favorite among gardeners as it retains its brilliant color even when dried, ensuring that its royal splendor lasts all year round.

From Seed to Bloom: Cultivating Lavender from Scratch

Growing lavender from seeds might seem like a task fit for the seasoned gardener, but with the right steps and a sprinkle of patience, even a beginner can master it. Let's embark on the journey of transforming a tiny seed into a flourishing lavender plant.

Stratification Needs:

Lavender seeds benefit from a process called cold stratification. This means that before planting, the seeds need a period of cold to break their dormancy. Place the seeds in a moist paper towel, fold it, and store inside a zip-lock bag. Then, pop it into the refrigerator for about 3-5 weeks. This mimics the natural winter conditions, prepping the seed to germinate come "spring."

Soil Preferences:

Lavender loves well-draining soil. Think of the Mediterranean origins of lavender, and you'll understand its penchant for soil that's not overly fertile. A mixture of potting soil with some coarse sand or perlite works wonders. If planting in a pot, ensure it has adequate drainage holes. Trying to mimic the natural growing conditions of the plant is by far our #1 tip for sowing any seeds. The better you do that, the greater your odds of success, so remember that lavender comes from a dry and arid region.

Lavender Flowers by the Mediterranean Sea

Light and Temperature:

Sun-loving lavender thrives under full sunlight. Aim for at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. As for temperature, while lavender seeds can germinate in temperatures as low as 40°F (5°C), they prefer a range between 70°F (21°C) to 75°F (24°C) for optimal growth.

Watering Regime:

Lavender's worst enemy is root rot caused by excessive moisture. Water the soil around the plant, avoiding the foliage. It's crucial to let the soil dry out between watering sessions. A good rule of thumb is to water deeply, but less frequently. Mist spraying is often the best route to avoid overwatering.

Sowing Depth:

Plant the seeds shallowly, about an eighth of an inch deep. Lavender seeds need some light to germinate, so resist the urge to bury them too deep. We usually recommend growers to surface sow the seeds, gently pressing them onto the surface for good contact, and then simply give them a light dusting of soil. This usually takes care of potential issues of sowing the seeds too deeply.

Potential Growing Issues:

A few challenges might pop up along the way:

  • Damping off: A fungal disease affecting seedlings, causing them to collapse. Avoid overwatering and ensure good air circulation to combat this. Here at Southern Seeds, customers often send us pictures when things go wrong and it is quite common to see photos of plants that look like they are living in a swamp rather than soil. It's an issue that usually stems from good intentions. We want to care for our plants, but it is easy to show them a bit too much love particularly with watering. Remember... mimic the natural habitat!
Seedling dying from damping off disease.
  • Pests: Aphids and whiteflies might show interest in your young lavender plants. A gentle spray of water or insecticidal soap usually keeps them at bay.
  • Slow Germination: Lavender seeds are known to take their time to germinate, sometimes up to a month. Germination is often uneven and it's quite common to have a few sprouts as early as 14 days with the bulk sprouting at around a month. Remember... germination times are based on best case scenarios, so patience is key!

As your lavender journey progresses from tiny seedlings to robust plants, there are a few critical care steps to bear in mind. Mature plants are quite resilient and can tolerate drought conditions, but they should never be allowed to dehydrate completely. Given lavender's Mediterranean origins, it thrives in rocky soil conditions. A nifty trick to emulate this environment is to mulch the plants with gravel or small shells, which not only absorb heat but also control those pesky weeds. In the first year of the plant's life, you might be tempted by the allure of its flowers, but pruning them will reward you with a plant that prioritizes developing strong roots and lush foliage. As your lavender matures, don't forget the benefits of a yearly, careful prune – it'll keep your plant in top shape, ensuring those aromatic blooms keep coming year after year.

With these guidelines in hand, your journey from sowing a small lavender seed to witnessing its first bloom will be a rewarding one. As they say, good things come to those who wait, and in the world of gardening, this adage holds exceptionally true.

Winter Whisperer: Overwintering Your Lavender

Beautiful lavender in the white snow

Ah, winter. While it's a time of snowy landscapes and cozy evenings for us, many plants face challenges as the temperatures drop. Lavender, although hardy, does require some specific care to successfully overwinter, especially in regions where winters are particularly harsh. Let's guide you through ensuring your lavender emerges next spring, as vibrant and aromatic as ever.

1. Choose the Right Variety: Some varieties of lavender, like English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), are more cold-hardy than others. If you live in an area with particularly harsh winters, starting with a cold-resistant variety can set you up for overwintering success.

2. Location, Location, Location: Lavender planted in the ground benefits from a location that protects it from harsh winter winds. If possible, position your lavender on a south-facing slope or near the base of a wall which can radiate heat and provide some protection.

3. Well-Draining Soil is Key: Before winter sets in, ensure your lavender is in well-draining soil. Wet, soggy roots are a bigger threat to lavender in cold weather than the cold itself. Raised beds or sandy soils can help prevent waterlogged conditions.

4. Mulch Wisely: While mulch helps regulate soil temperature and moisture, it's vital to avoid mulching directly around the base of your lavender plants. Instead, use straw, leaves, or pine boughs to mulch around the plant's perimeter, allowing the plant's base to breathe and avoid moisture accumulation which can cause rot.

5. Potted Lavender Care: If you grow lavender in pots, the onset of winter offers you a flexibility advantage. Consider moving your pots to a sheltered location, like a garage or unheated porch, during the coldest spells. This protects the roots, which are more exposed in pots than in the ground, from freezing conditions.

6. Resist Pruning: While spring is an excellent time to prune lavender for shape and growth, avoid doing this before winter. Leaving the plant a bit bushier provides extra insulation against cold and reduces the risk of winter burn on freshly cut sections.

7. Watering: Scale back on watering during winter. While it's important to avoid letting the roots dry out completely, it's equally crucial not to overwater, as cold and soggy roots are a lethal combination for lavender. The cold itself rarely kills lavender. It is the water inside the plant that freezes and damages the plants cells which will kill it. Be strategic about how and when you water during the winter.

By providing your lavender with these overwintering care steps, you're setting the stage for a beautiful, fragrant return in the warmer months. And just imagine the joy of seeing those first green shoots in spring, promising another season of aromatic bliss!

Reaping the Rewards: Harvesting and Storing Lavender

There’s nothing quite as rewarding for a gardener as the moment you harvest the fruits (or flowers) of your labor. Lavender, with its fragrant blossoms and myriad uses, is especially fulfilling. Whether you aim to garnish your home, create sachets, or concoct an essential oil, knowing how and when to harvest and store your lavender is crucial.

Cut lavender flowers in a basket.

The Perfect Timing for Harvest:

Lavender should ideally be harvested just as the buds swell and show color but before they fully bloom. This is when they are most aromatic. Early morning, after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets too hot, is the best time of day to harvest, ensuring the essential oils are highly concentrated.

How to Harvest:

  1. Tools: Use a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears.
  2. Method: Grasp a bunch of lavender stems (15-20 stems make a good handful) and cut approximately a few inches above the woodier part of the stem. This allows for regrowth and potentially a second harvest in climates with longer growing seasons.

Drying Your Lavender:

  1. Bundle and Hang: Tie the base of the stems you’ve harvested with some twine or a rubber band. Hang them upside down in a dark, dry, and well-ventilated spot. This preserves color and prevents mold.
  2. Flat Drying: For individual flowers or shorter stems, lay them flat on a screen or mesh rack, ensuring they’re not overlapping.

Storing Your Lavender:

Once your lavender is dry (typically after a few weeks), it’s time to store.

  1. Storage Vessels: Glass jars with tight-sealing lids are ideal. Mason jars or even repurposed jam jars work well.
  2. Location: Store in a cool, dark place to preserve the color and fragrance. Avoid places with fluctuating temperatures or humidity.
  3. Sachets: If you’re looking to freshen up drawers or wardrobes, fill sachets with the dried buds. They'll impart a gentle fragrance to your clothes.

A Few Tips:

  • When storing, make sure your lavender is completely dry. Any moisture can lead to mold.
  • Crushed or ground lavender releases its oils, so it's best to store buds whole and crush them when you're ready to use.

With the rich aroma of your harvested lavender filling the air, it’s hard not to feel a deep sense of accomplishment. Properly harvested and stored lavender can offer its delightful fragrance for months, making all the effort utterly worthwhile.

Wrapping Things Up!

Diving into the world of lavender is like embarking on a fragrant journey that spans millennia. Whether you’re captivated by its rich history, seeking the perfect variety for your garden, or ensuring it thrives through the seasons, there’s a wealth of knowledge to uncover about this aromatic gem. But remember, no journey is taken alone. If ever you find yourself with questions or in need of some green-thumbed advice, don't hesitate to reach out. At Southern Seeds, we're more than just a seed company; we're a community of garden enthusiasts ready to help. So, go forth with your lavender adventure, and always know that we're here to guide, assist, and share in your gardening joys. Happy planting!


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