Lavandula latifolia (Portuguese Lavender)

Lavandula latifolia, commonly called Portuguese lavender, Spike lavender or Broad-leaved lavender, is a small, intensely aromatic (camphor-scented) evergreen shrub with broad grey-green leaves and long flower stalks bearing spikes of tiny pale violet flowers.

It is a drought-tolerant shrub native to the Mediterranean basin and distributed across central Portugal, Spain, Southern France and Northern Italy.

It easily hybridizes with Lavandula angustifolia giving origin to the popular lavandin called Lavandula x intermedia.

Quick Overview

TYPE

Type Shrub

HEIGHT & WIDTH

Lavandula latifolia height and width

BLOOM TIME

lavandula latifolia bloom time

SUNLIGHT

full sun

HARDINESS

hardiness (-12ºC / 10º F)

DROUGHT TOLERANCE

drought tolerance aprox 4 months

ORIGIN

origin mediterranean basin

Portuguese Lavender scientific name

  • Botanical name: Lavandula latifolia (lav-AN-du-la  lat-ee-FOH-lee-uh)
  • Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)
  • Common name: Spike Lavender, Portuguese Lavender, Broad-leaved Lavender
NameMeaning
LavandulaFrom the Latin word “lava”, which means wash since lavender was so commonly used during bathing.
latifoliaThe Latin word for wide leaf.

How to identify Lavandula latifolia

Lavandula latifolia shrub (Spike lavender, Portuguese lavender)

Shrub

Small, strongly aromatic (camphor-scented) evergreen shrub. It has many erect stems (or slightly prostrate at the edges of the shrub) with grey-green wide leaves and long stalks bearing pale violet flowers.

The shrub has an average height of 30cm (1 ft). With flowers, it can reach 90 cm (2.9 ft). The width is, on average, 50 cm (1.6 ft).

Lavandula latifolia stem (Spike lavender, Portuguese lavender)

Stem

The stems are upright or slightly prostrate. The upper part of the stem is square-shaped and 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 latifolia leaf (Spike lavender, Portuguese lavender)

Leaf

The leaves are wide and densely haired on both sides. The colour is grey-green and turns silver with the summer’s hot and dry conditions.

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

The size varies between 17 and 62 mm ( 0.6 and 2.4  in) long and 2.0 and 8.5 mm (0.08 and 0.3 in) wide.

Lavandula latifolia flower (Spike lavender, Portuguese lavender)

Flower

The inflorescence varies between 13 to 35 mm (0.5 to 1.3 in) and is composed of tiny flowers arranged in whorls of 2 to 12 around the stem.

The flowers are pale violet and have a fused corolla inside an oval densely-haired calyx. They are two-lipped, the upper lip has 2 lobes, and the lower lip has 3 lobes. The stigma and stamens are inside the tubular corolla.

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

Lavandula latifolia Usage

Lavandula latifolia  is one of the 3 species of the Lavandula genus (the others are Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula x intermedia ) that is most commonly used.

It can be harvested directly from the wild to be used for food, medicine and other purposes.

Ornamental

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

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

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

Medicinal

Spike lavender has similar medicinal applications as English lavender. Although Spike lavender yields more essential oil, it is of inferior quality. 

It can be used in the same way as English lavender to treat wounds, burns, insect stings, and digestive disorders.

The essential oil has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic and antispasmodic properties.

Cosmetics

Spike lavender has a stronger scent than English lavender and is used in the cosmetic industry for making soaps, perfumes, bathing lotions, etc.

Culinary

Spike lavender is very aromatic and can be used as a food flavouring. However, it should not be eaten in large quantities.

Biodiversity

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

Revegetation

Due to its low maintenance needs, this lavender can be useful for the revegetation of degraded areas.

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 latifolia habitat

This shrub can be seen in dry rocky areas, pastures and scrublands. It is usually found at lower altitudes than Lavandula angustifolia, along hilltops and lower mountain ranges.

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

How to plant and care for Lavandula latifolia

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

It is not as hardy as English lavender but is still quite hardy and can tolerate temperatures down to -12ºc (10ºF). However, during the first few years, when the plant is not yet established, it will need winter protection. You should cover the root area with mulch to protect the roots from low temperatures. 

Spike lavender likes poor, well-drained stony soils and prefers full sun.  

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

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 latifolia

Spike 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 latifolia

This lavender will become leggy and will not live for 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 latifolia

Propagation by seed

Spike 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 and 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.

Other Lavenders you may also like

Sources

Sources of information used for this article

Internet

Article from Useful Temperate Plants

Article from Jardin Sec

Article from Flora Iberica

Books

RHS Propagating Plants: How to Create New Plants For Free by Alan Toogood and Royal Horticultural Society

Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Western Mediterranean, Second edition Paperback – 1 Oct. 2021 by Chris Thorogood

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