Lavender is a freely-flowering garden plant with a beautiful fragrant scent. While some types of lavender are rather high-maintenance, French Lavender is known for its natural elegance and easy-going nature in the garden.
French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is small flowering plant known for its ornamental purple flowers, long bloom time, and unique textured leaves. This low-maintenance plant is easy to care for in the garden, flowering from early summer through to the fall. French Lavender is hardy in Zones 8-9 and grows best in climates with wet winters and dry, sunny summers.
Read on to learn all about French Lavender!
French lavender basics
French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is a flowering subshrub native to the Mediterranean. French Lavender is known for its long flowering season, grey-purple ornamental flowers, and textured leaves. The scent of French Lavender is less sweet than some other types and is somewhat reminiscent of rosemary. Other common names for French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) include Toothed Lavender and Fringed Lavender (after the dentate/toothed edges of the leaves).
French Lavender is mainly grown as an ornamental garden plant and occasionally for its beautiful cut flowers. It tends to have lower maintenance requirements than other types of lavender (especially with regards to pruning). French Lavender flowers are commonly used in floral arrangements and in ornamental potpourri. This plant is versatile in the garden and can even be planted in pots as a container plant or ornamental topiary.
French Lavender is not commonly used in culinary applications or for the production of lavender oil. Even authentic French lavender honey produced in France is made by bees feeding on what we call English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), not on French Lavender (Lavandula dentata).
“The buds and petals are slightly grayish looking, as opposed to the bright blueish purple we associate with the plant. This lavender is not grown as a culinary lavender, and it does not offer the sweet, floral scent of other lavenders used for essential oils.”Lavender: Growing & Using Lavender for Fragrance, Mood & Body Care, by Jessie Hawkins
French lavender vs. English lavender
French Lavender(Lavandula dentata) is a different species than English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). French Lavender is typically grown as a low-maintenance ornamental plant with a long bloom time, while English Lavender is a higher-maintenance plant with culinary and herb plant value. French Lavender blooms for a longer period but is much less cold and hardy than English Lavender.
French Lavender(Lavandula dentata) and English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are both native to the Mediterranean region, with French Lavender limited to areas with warm climates like parts of Spain, North Africa, Madeira (Portugal), and Cape Verde. Both French Lavender(Lavandula dentata) and English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are grown extensively in France where climate permits.
French lavender vs. Spanish lavender
French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) was once classified as a sub-type of what gardeners call Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas), but is now considered to be a separate species of Lavandula. French Lavender is now in its own botanical section, apart from Spanish Lavender. Spanish Lavender is more highly scented than French Lavender, and Spanish Lavender is sometimes used for lavender oil and lavender honey. Spanish Lavender is also more commonly used for lavender trees than French Lavender.
“Until recently, L. dentata was considered to be part of Section Stoechas, but in 1996 it was placed in a section of its own. This would seem very appropriate since the plants are quite distinct from their L. stoechas relatives.”Lavender: The Grower’s Guide, by Virginia McNaughton
French lavender varieties
There are many excellent varieties (cultivars) of French Lavender available. Here are some of the most popular varieties of French Lavender to grow in your garden:
- Allwood Lavender
- Lambikins Lavender
- Linda Logon Lavender
- Ploughman’s Blue Lavender
- Pure Harmony Lavender
French lavender plant care
French Lavender is a Mediterranean subshrub that thrives in warm, sunny climates with well-drained soil. These plants are tolerant of different soil types and tend to grow best where winters are mild and wet but summers are relatively dry. Most varieties of French Lavender grow best in Zones 8-9.
“The two basic requirements for successful lavender growing are full sun and good drainage.”Lavender: The Grower’s Guide, by Virginia McNaughton
Sunlight requirements for French lavender
French Lavender thrives in full sun zones that receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Lavender plants tend to struggle when planted in shady spots where they do not receive enough sunlight to produce the energy needed to overwinter and flower.
Garden soil for French lavender
Lavender grows best in light, well-drained soils like sandy loam that drains excess water easily. Lavender plants can typically only withstand ponded water for short periods of time, and do not like to have “wet feet”. Lavender plants are tolerant of a range of soil acidity values but tend to grow best in neutral or slightly alkaline soils.
In gardens with clay soil, lavender can be grown on raised mounds of improved soil that allow water to drain out freely. Raised mounds for lavender atop clay-based soil can be improved with organic compost and a bit of garden lime (to raise soil pH).
Watering French lavender
French Lavender plants can become quite drought-tolerant when established but require frequent watering when young. Newly-planted lavender should be watered consistently with drip irrigation or by hand for the first several years. Watering frequently is most important for the first 4-6 weeks after transplanting. Check that the soil is draining water out well and that water doesn’t pool in the area after rainfall.
Consistent watering of young French Lavender plants helps the roots become established in the surrounding soil. An extensive root system helps the plants withstand dry summer conditions and produce more flowers. Avoid planting perennials or annual flowers right next to the lavender if these plants will require frequent watering.
Climate requirements for growing French lavender
French Lavender is a tender type of lavender that is not hardy in cool climates with cold winters. French Lavender has very low cold hardiness and is easily damaged by frost. Most varieties of French Lavender are hardy in Zones 8-9, and foliage may require protection if frost is in the weather forecast. The roots of established plants may be able to withstand short portions of below-freezing temperatures, although most above-ground foliage will perish below-freezing.
Fertilizing French lavender plants
French Lavender plants may benefit from added nutrients when the soil is poor, and from a soil amendment of garden lime where the soil is overly acidic. A 1″ thick layer of homemade compost can provide some nutrients when spread as organic mulch over the surface of the soil. Slow-release natural fertilizers can also be used where added nutrients are required.
Lavender plants are typically fertilized in the spring. Follow the instructions on the specific fertilizer product for application details. Lime can be worked into the soil prior to planting or applied in the spring or in autumn.
Pruning French lavender
French Lavender requires much less pruning than most other types of lavender. French Lavender is grown as a stand-alone plant and typically requires no specific pruning beyond deadheading the blooms (which encourages the re-flowering that French Lavender is famous for). French Lavender grown in a hedge can be shaped with some light pruning in the summer.
Propagating French lavender
French Lavender is propagated by taking cuttings off a mother plant and rooting them to create clone plants. These cuttings are placed in a moist growing medium until they develop roots.
In the spring, trim softwood cuttings about 3″-4″ long off an established plant for propagation. Remove leaves off the bottom half of the stem and dip the stem in rooting hormone. Place in free-draining, moist growing medium. Softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings can also be taken in the fall and rooted indoors or in a cold frame over winter. Observe cuttings regularly for signs of new growth.
French Lavender(Lavandula dentata) is not commonly grown from French Lavender seeds, as they are not readily available in seed catalogs. Lavender seeds can be tricky to germinate and the resulting plants are also quite variable in terms of size, shape, and flowering form.
Harvesting French lavender
French Lavender flowers are harvested for use in flower bouquets and floral arrangements. Spikes can be harvested as the first flowers are starting to open for the longest-lasting cut flowers. Lavender is usually harvested in the morning once dew has dried but before the temperature becomes too hot.
Common plant diseases affecting French lavender
French Lavender plants are naturally resistant to disease but can suffer from several plant diseases in damp climates. Avoid growing lavender in areas with excess moisture and lack of air circulation.
Fungal disease, particularly leafspot fungi (Septoria lavandulae) and root rot caused by Phytophthora mold, can occur in lavender plants grown in areas with high rainfall and/or frequent overhead watering. Root rot typically also occurs where soil does not drain out excess water. Take care to ensure soil is draining well and that air is circulating around the base of the plant.
Lavender plants are sometimes affected by Alfalfa Mosaic Virus, which creates a yellow “mosaic” pattern on the leaves of affected plants. This virus is thought to be spread by aphids and also by non-sterile pruning tools.
Common garden pests affecting French lavender
French Lavender plants are sometimes attacked by garden pests such as Spittle Bugs, Mealy Bugs, and Aphids. These bugs can generally be sprayed off the plant with a sharp stream of water but may require a natural insecticide spray once the pests have become established on the plant(s).
French Lavender is rarely attacked by mammals due to its strong scent. Deer generally avoid lavender completely, especially if the plant has flowers on it. Rabbits and other smaller burrowing mammals may attack young plants. Rabbits dig around the roots rather than eat the foliage or flowers.