Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)

Lavandula angustifolia, commonly called English lavender, Common Lavender or Narrow-Leaved Lavender, is a compact evergreen bushy subshrub with narrow grey-green leaves and long stalks bearing spikes of tiny flowers in different shades of purple depending on the variety.

This is one of the most popular species of Lavender due to its easy maintenance and industrial use in producing essential oils. This has led to many varieties being bred for their ornamental, culinary, or medicinal traits.

Although it is called English lavender, it is not native to England but to the Mediterranean basin (Spain, France, and Italy). This name is because it grows well in the English climate, but it is more associated with France through Florence’s beautiful purple lavender fields.

It easily hybridizes with Lavandula latifolia, giving origin to the popular Lavandin called Lavandula x intermedia.

Common lavender is often confused with Lavandin, but you will see many differences when you compare Lavender with Lavandin.


Quick Overview

TYPE

HEIGHT & WIDTH

Lavandula angustifolia height and width

BLOOM TIME

lavandula angustifolia bloom time

SUNLIGHT

full sun

HARDINESS

hardiness (-15ºC / 5º F)

DROUGHT TOLERANCE

drought tolerance aprox 3 months

ORIGIN

origin mediterranean basin

English Lavender scientific name

  • Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia (lav-AN-du-la  an-gus-tee-FOH-lee-uh)
  • Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)
  • Common name: English Lavender, Common Lavender, Narrow-leaved lavender
NameMeaning
LavandulaFrom the Latin word “lava”, which means wash since lavender was so commonly used during bathing.
angustifoliaThe Latin word for narrow leaf.

How to identify Lavandula angustifolia

Lavandula angustifolia shrub (english lavender, common lavender, narrow-leaved lavender)

Shrub

Lavandula angustifolia is a small aromatic subshrub with a bushy clump form. It has many erect stems (or slightly prostrate at the edges of the shrub) with narrow grey-green leaves and long stalks bearing purple flowers.

The shrub has an average height of 30 cm (1 ft). With flowers, it can reach 60 cm (2 ft). The width is, on average, 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 ft).

Lavandula angustifolia stem (english lavender, common lavender, narrow-leaved lavender)

Stem

The stems are upright or slightly prostrate. The upper part of the stem is square-shaped and yellowish-green, but it progressively becomes rounder, browner and woody at the base.

The leaves grow opposite at each node in pairs or whorls, often with tufts of tiny foliage in the leaf axils. 

The flower stalk emerges from the tip of the stem.

Lavandula angustifolia leaf (english lavender, common lavender, narrow-leaved lavender)

Leaf

The leaves are narrow, with a short white coating of hair on both sides. The colour is grey-green in the summer and grey-brown in the winter.

The shape is linear with a prominent mid vein on the underside, untoothed and edges rolled under.

The size varies between 23 and 57 mm ( 0.9 and 2.2 in) long and 2.2 and 4.5 mm (0.08 and 0.17 in) wide.

Lavandula angustifolia flower (english lavender, common lavender, narrow-leaved lavender)

Flower

The inflorescence varies between 15 to 40 mm (0.5 to 1.6 in) and is composed of tiny flowers arranged in whorls of 6 to 12 around the stem.

The flowers are purple (different shades depending on the variety) and have a fused corolla inside an oval densely-haired purple calyx. They are two-lipped, the upper lip has 2 lobes, and the lower lip has 3 lobes. The stigma and 4 stamens are inside the tubular corolla.

The flowers are borne on long stalks and bloom in the summer.


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    Lavandula angustifolia Usage

    The English Lavender is a very versatile plant and has many uses.

    Ornamental

    The English lavender is a very pretty and aromatic ornamental plant.  Its bushy base of grey-green leaves with long green stems bearing clusters of purple fragrant flowers is a lovely addition to your garden.

    It can be used as a solitary plant, planted in groups of the same plant, or mixed with other Lavender types. It can also be planted in containers or beds. In rock or gravel gardens, aromatic or seaside gardens. 

    They are especially suited for borders along a path, releasing a wonderful fragrance when their foliage moves with breezes or when it is brushed as you pass by.

    They are ideal for drought-tolerant and low-maintenance gardens.

    Medicinal

    Lavandula angustifolia produces high quantities of essential oils and has been traditionally used in aromatherapy to help relaxation, sleep and reduce anxiety. It has also been used as an antiseptic to heal wounds and burns.

    Studies have shown that it contains over 300 chemical compounds with good antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It can prevent dementia and reduce the growth of cancer cells. It is also recommended for treating skin problems and burns.

    Cosmetics

    The essential oil produced by this plant is used in the cosmetic industry for making soaps, perfumes, bathing lotions, etc.

    Culinary

    English lavender is more often used in culinary than other species of lavender.

    Its leaves and flowers are used as condiments in salads, soups and stews.

    The flowers are used for making tea and as a flavour for jams and ice creams.

    Biodiversity

    The English lavender´s showy flower spikes are very attractive to bees, butterflies and moths, enriching the biodiversity in your garden.

    Other uses

    This has many other uses, such as:

    • detergent
    • inhibitor of steel corrosion
    • insect repellent (ex: clothing moths)
    • bundles of dried flower stalks burnt as incense sticks
    • scented sachets to scent clothes and linen

    Lavandula angustifolia habitat

    This shrub can be seen in dry, rocky areas, pastures and scrublands. It is usually found at altitudes between 900 and 1500 meters (2950 and 4920 ft).

    It grows well in arid terrain with low nutritional value and sun exposure.

    How to plant and care for Lavandula angustifolia

    Lavandula angustifolia is native to the Mediterranean basin and adapted to hot, dry summers. So it does not need watering once established.

    It is a very hardy plant that can tolerate temperatures down to -15ºc (5ºF) or more and is also frost tolerant. However, when the plant is not yet established, it will need winter protection during the first few years. You should cover the root area with mulch to protect the roots from low temperatures. 

    English lavender likes poor, well-drained stony soils and prefers full sun.  It will produce more leaves but less essential oils when grown in more fertile soils.

    It prefers alkaline or neutral soils but can also tolerate slightly acidic soils.

    It can easily cope with wind and salt exposure.

    The best time to plant this shrub is at the beginning of autumn to give it time to develop its roots while the soil is still warm.

    How to water Lavandula angustifolia

    English lavender is a drought-tolerant plant and does not like humid soils, which may cause fungal diseases. Once established, it no longer requires watering. Avoid watering even if the summer is very hot because it does not tolerate hot humidity.

    During its evolution, it developed mechanisms for drought tolerance:

    • Dense hair in the branches and leaves to trap moisture 
    • Symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal root fungi provides water and nutrients in exchange for carbohydrates.

    During the first two years after planting, you will need to water the young Lavender every two to three weeks during the summer.  Allow the soil to dry out between watering.

    When watering, you need to do it abundantly, giving the soil a generous soak so the water can penetrate deeply into the soil to allow the roots to grow deeply. 
    To preserve the soil´s moisture, you should add mulch around the root area of the Lavender (but not too close to the base). Wood chips and gravel are good options for mulching.

    How to prune Lavandula angustifolia

    This lavender will become leggy and will not live for very long unless it is pruned

    Should be pruned after the flowers dry out to keep it compact and avoid the shaggy woody look.

    Ideally, you should give it a light prune in the spring and then a hard prune (about one-third) in late summer after flowering. Be careful to always prune above the leaf, otherwise, the stems will die out.

    Pruning should not be done in autumn as this will encourage new growth that may not survive the cold winter ahead.

    How to propagate Lavandula angustifolia

    Propagation by seed

    English lavender can be propagated by seed by sowing the seeds in spring and placing them in a greenhouse.

    The seeds usually germinate in 1 to 3 months at 15ºC (60ºF).

    When the seedlings are strong enough to handle, you can plant them in individual pots, grow them in the greenhouse or cold frame during the first winter, and then plant them in their final position during the following spring or autumn.

    Propagation by cuttings

    The easiest method of propagation is by cuttings.

    Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken from mid-summer to early autumn. Take a 7 to 10 cm (2.7 to 4 in) cutting with a heel or at a node from the current year’s growth. Roots will form within a few weeks. Semi-ripe cuttings can be placed in a cold frame over winter. 

    Plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts.

    Hardwood cuttings can be taken from late autumn to early winter. They should be placed in a cold frame over winter. Plant out in the garden after the last expected frosts in the spring.

    Propagation by layering

    Lavender can also be propagated by layering the branches at any time during the year. Bend the stem down, hold it to the ground with a peg or rock, and cover it with soil.

    Sources

    Sources of information used for this article

    Books

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    Internet

    Article from University of Evora

    Article from Flora Iberica

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