What is English Lavender?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a beautiful and fragrant low-maintenance bush that is favored in many gardens. Although it's been a perennial favorite, its popularity is growing because it is drought-resistant. Despite its name, this particular form of lavender comes from the Mediterranean, predominantly Spain, but it can be spotted in many an English garden.

English lavender has a pleasant and calming scent.
English lavender has a pleasant and calming scent.

Like most types of lavender, English lavender is a perennial, which means it can live for many years, once planted in ideal conditions. The bushes may grow to about 2-4 feet (.61-1.22 m) high, and are approximately 2 feet in width. In the right weather, English lavender is technically an evergreen, and will exhibit silver to green leaves throughout the year.

The use of English lavender in aromatherapy may be dangerous if people have an allergy to this plant.
The use of English lavender in aromatherapy may be dangerous if people have an allergy to this plant.

In early summer in most regions, the lavender blooms, producing stems with purple, gray or green calyxes. These are long, almost fuzzy-looking ends to the stem, which are then topped by corollas, a petal or two that more resemble the average flower. When dried, calyxes remain, but the petals tend to fall out. Those planning on growing lavender to dry flowers should look to the color of the calyx, which will be dominant when the flower is dried. Petal color, which can be purple, white or pink, is less important.

Though English lavender is often thought of as an easy plant to care for, it does require proper planting conditions. These shrubs tend to thrive in full sun. For best looks the plants may require some pruning in early spring and again in late summer once blooming is over. Beyond that, they really don’t require frequent water, though gardeners should use their judgment on extremely hot days.

Choosing plants can also be an important part of successfully growing English lavender. Although some people can grow these plants from seed, this is more difficult. Most will need to purchase the plant in bush form, and it can take a few years for a very small bush to achieve full size. When gardeners are looking to create an instant hedge or to fill in areas with bigger bushes, they are better off purchasing larger bushes for planting.

The name lavender is derived from a Latin term that means to wash, and it is still common to find lavender scented soaps for washing the body or for washing clothing. Despite the pleasant smell of English lavender, and its recommended use in aromatherapy, some people are greatly allergic to this plant. It’s a good idea to determine if English lavender makes people sneeze or have irritated sinuses before filling up a garden with tons of bushes of it. When it is tolerated well, it can be a lovely, fragrant plant that helps cut down on water use and is even a delightful attractor of butterflies. Those looking for a less fragrant plant might want to consider Mexican sage, which has similar properties and appearance to English lavender, but will not grow quite as well in colder climates.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


One tip I read in a gardening magazine was to take a bunch of stems from a lavender plant and tie them together. Once you have them tied in a bunch, place them in your bird bath to keep the water clean.

Even though I am not in the habit of doing this regularly, the times I did try it, it seemed to work. The water stayed clearer longer and did not get so dirty looking as fast. It didn't seem to make any difference to the birds and bees either.


I have two English Lavendar bushes planted in a flower garden in the front of my house. I love the purple color and the wonderful scent of lavender. It is also nice that they come back bigger and better every year. These are planted in full sun and only get watered when it rains and I have had them for several years.

I know there are things that I could use the leaves and stems for such as making my own soap, etc, but I just enjoy the look and smell of them planted next to my bench.

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