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Tips on how to grow English lavender with information on cultivars, a growing guide, pruning, and how to create new lavender plants for free. This is a comprehensive guide that will give you all you need to start growing great lavender. Whether in the garden or in containers!
There are so many reasons to grow English lavender and if you give it the right conditions, it’s fairly easy too. You can plant it in hedges, on its own in a pot, or scattered throughout the garden as feature plants. They can create defined edges and borders in a garden, and you can use their flowers in everything from food recipes, to crafts, and handmade skincare. Another reason to grow lavender is their ability to draw pollinators — when the flowers open in summer, they’re literally humming with bees.
I grow several types of English lavender, including hybrids, and have learned a few things about them over the years. Use my tips below to learn how to grow English lavender in your garden. Plant them in the right spot, and you’ll have years of sweet-scented foliage and flowers that you and your local wildlife will love.
English Lavender at a Glance
- Evergreen perennial
- Green to gray leaves with typically purple flowers
- Flowers are deeply fragrant
- Is one of 47 different species of lavender
- Plants live up to fifteen years
- Within the species are about 40 different cultivars
- Can be grown by seed and through propagation
- English lavender is the best for lavender for skincare and food recipes
English Lavender is one of Many Types of Lavender
Did you know that there are 47 species of lavender? English lavender is just one of them. Within the species are over 40 different cultivars with flowers that range in color from light purple to deep blue-purple, to pale pink.
There are a few names for English lavender including common lavender and its scientific name, Lavandula angustifolia. Contrary to its more usual name, it’s not native to the British Isles and actually comes from the Mediterranean and the middle east. Places with long hot summers and wet winters. Even so, it thrives in Britain and some of the most popular varieties include:
- ‘Hidcote’, a compact dwarf variety with deep purple flowers
- ‘Little Lottie’, grey-green foliage and pale pink flowers
- ‘Vera’, an old-fashioned variety with dark lavender-blue flowers
- ‘Munstead’, a loose light purple flower that was Gertrude Jekyll’s favorite
- Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’, a hybrid lavender that’s big and beautiful with loads of flowers
However, most of the time you’ll find English lavender listed as just that without a cultivar name. It’s a little frustrating if you want to know the cultivar but I have several in my garden that are ‘nameless’. I’m happy with them and have even propagated them on to create new plants.
English Lavender Growing Guide
Lavender is easy to grow if you give it the right climate, soil, and sun exposure. You can even push the envelope on some of these since I have lavender growing successfully in slightly acidic clay soil!
- Grows as a perennial in zones 5-8
- Prefers full sun
- Well-drained neutral to alkaline soil
- Does not like wet feet or humidity
- Plant height 1-3 feet with a 1-5 foot spread
- Flowers in mid to late summer
Best Soil Type for English Lavender
You can grow English lavender very easily as long as you provide it with the right soil and situation. It likes planting in a sunny place in free-draining soil with an alkaline pH (6.7-7.3). Because of this, you’ll often see it growing very happily in poor chalky soil. When I lived in London I used to walk past the most amazing lavender growing in an untended front garden. It grew on the other side of a low rundown stone wall which was undoubtedly giving it shelter and the right soil conditions.
If your soil is more acidic you can amend the site with garden lime to bring up the pH. English lavender also prefers being on the drier side so make sure it has plenty of drainage. If you have heavy soil, consider planting your lavender along a free-draining ridge. You create this by adding compost, grit, gravel, and stones to the soil and drawing it up.
The Ideal Climate for English lavender
English lavender grows well in temperate to arid climates and prefers dry feet to wet. In fact, it can fail to thrive if it’s watered too much. Humidity is also a downer for English lavender and though it likes growing in hot climates, it doesn’t do well in humid ones.
Though some varieties of lavender can be less hardy, English lavender can withstand cold winter temperatures, down to -10°F (-23°C). That makes it a hardy evergreen perennial that will grow in zones 5 to 9. Most English lavender varieties don’t do well in zones 10+, but I’ve read some accounts online of people who have had success. I think it’s a matter of getting a single plant and growing it, to see for sure. Don’t invest in more than that, in the case that English lavender sulks in your climate.
Tips on Planting English Lavender
You can get lavender plants easily from most garden centers but you can also propagate them the year before you want to plant. It’s possible to grow lavender from seed, but it will take a year or two of growing before they’re ready to plant in the garden.
Right, let’s say you’ve found the right place in the garden for English lavender: it’s in full sun, the soil is the right pH and free-draining, and it’s the middle to end of spring. It’s time to plant.
Space standard-sized lavender varieties a foot apart to create a hedge, and three feet apart for an airier planting. If you’re planting dwarf types, you can place them a little closer together since they’re naturally smaller plants. Plant them in a hole at the same level they were in their pot and water them in well. Keep the soil moist until they’re established, but after that, they most likely won’t need watering ever again.
How to Prune English Lavender
A lot of people are afraid to prune their English lavender, but it’s something that you can easily master. Remember that old wood on lavender rarely sprouts new leaves. You can cut down into the green areas a bit but don’t take too much off. Shape the plant as suits your plant — either as a rounded plant, a lavender hedge or something else that you have in mind!
Begin pruning the plants in their second year to maintain vigor and shape. After flowering, cut the spent flower stalks down and shape the plants. I also leave this job for later and prune my plants in very early spring just after they begin showing the first flush of new leaves. Run your fingers along a stem until you come to the first of these fresh new leaves. Cut just above it. Also, take off any stems or branches that look brown and dead.
How to Grow English Lavender in Containers
Since lavender prefers drier conditions, it’s very happy growing in pots. Breathable terracotta pots with 12-18” diameters are best. Grow English lavender in a free-draining mixture that incorporates one-part vermiculite or grit with two parts multi-purpose compost. Top dress with grit if you’d like to pretty up the surface, and keep weed seeds from sprouting.
You can optionally feed with an organic slow-release feed in the summer after the first couple of years. It probably won’t need it but if it’s looking sad it may be that it needs a little something extra. Rule out that you’re not over-watering it though first.
When growing in pots, keep English lavender watered through the warmer months but drier in the winter. Remember that it doesn’t like wet feet and cooler temperatures can lead to the soil inside staying wet. If you have a greenhouse place your potted lavender inside for the winter — they’ll be happier for the slightly warmer temperature.
Another thing to take into consideration is that English lavender doesn’t thrive indoors. It’s better to place your potted plants in the garden, on your balcony, or grow them in a window box. When you grow lavender for skincare recipes having it in a pot can be an ideal solution.