Lavandula multifida (Fern Leaf Lavender)
Lavandula multifida, commonly called Egyptian lavender or Fern leaf lavender, is a small bushy, lightly aromatic (oregano-scented) evergreen shrub. It has fern-like green leaves and long flower stalks bearing single or 3-pronged spikes of tiny blue-violet flowers.
It is a drought-tolerant shrub native to the Mediterranean basin, specifically in southern Europe and North-West Africa.
HEIGHT & WIDTH
Fern Leaf Lavender scientific name
- Botanical name: Lavandula multifida (lav-AN-du-la mul-TIF-id-uh)
- Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)
- Common name: Fern leaf Lavender, Egyptian Lavender
|Lavandula||The Latin word “lava”, which means wash since lavender was so commonly used during bathing.|
|multifida||The Latin word ‘multiply’ or ‘divided‘ refers to the divided form of its leaves and multiple flower spikes.|
How to identify Lavandula multifida
Small, lightly aromatic (oregano-scented) evergreen shrub. It has many grey woolly stems with green feathered leaves and long stalks above the foliage, bearing spikes of violet-blue flowers.
The shrub has an average height of 30 cm (1 ft). With flowers, it can reach 80 cm (2.6ft). The width is, on average, 50 cm (1.6 ft).
The stems are upright or slightly prostrate. The upper part of the stem is square-shaped, grey and woolly, while the base is rounder and woody.
The leaves grow opposite at each node, often with tufts of tiny foliage in the leaf axils. The lower leaves are larger than the upper ones.
Flower stalks bear single or 3-pronged spikes of violet-blue flowers.
This lavender is distinguished from others due to its fern-like leaves, which are green and lightly haired.
The leaf is compound, being double-pinnate (the leaflets are also divided into leaflets) and with an overall oval-shaped outline.
The size varies between 10 and 48 mm ( 0.4 and 1.9 in) long and 4 and 25 mm (0.14 and 0.98 in) wide.
The inflorescence varies between 1.2 to 8 cm (0.4 to 3 in) and is composed of tiny flowers arranged in vertical rows forming spirals around the stem.
Each stalk can bear 1 or 3 inflorescences. This trident spike structure is unique to this species of lavender.
The flowers are violet–blue with purple veins and 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 pistil and stamens are inside the tubular corolla.
The flowers are borne on long stalks and bloom in the summer.
Lavandula multifida Usage
The Fern leaf lavender is a very pretty ornamental plant, adding textural interest with its feathery leaves and trident flower spikes.
It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups which is especially effective due to its foliage. It also looks nice when mixed with other types of lavender. It can be planted in containers, beds or borders. In rock or gravel, aromatic or seaside gardens.
They are ideal for drought-tolerant and low-maintenance gardens.
Fern leaf lavender was used in traditional medicine, being one of the most used lavenders for medicinal purposes. Many studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-microbial activities.
The Fern leaf lavender is used for making soaps, perfumes, bathing lotions, etc
Fern leaf lavender has a more piney aroma than other lavenders, but it can still be used for cooking.
The Fern leaf Lavender´s showy flower spikes are very attractive to bees and butterflies, enriching the biodiversity in your garden.
It is used to produce scented sachets. Although its fragrance is not like other lavenders, it is more like oregano.
Lavandula multifida habitat
This shrub can be seen in dry, rocky, uncultivated lands and scrublands. It grows in saline soils, and studies have shown that it is better adapted to salinity than other plants of the Lamiaceae family.
It grows well in arid terrain with low nutritional value and sunny exposure.
How to plant and care for Lavandula multifida
Lavandula multifida is native to the Mediterranean basin and adapted to hot, dry summers. So it rarely needs watering once established.
It is not a very hardy plant and will not survive temperatures below -5ºC (23ºF) or winter frosts. If you live in an area with harsh winters, it is best to plant in a container so it can be sheltered from very cold weather.
Fern leaf 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 multifida
Fern leaf lavender is a drought-tolerant plant and does not like humid conditions, as these may cause fungal diseases. Once established, it does not need watering. Avoid watering even if the summer is very hot because it does not tolerate hot humidity. Still, if the temperature is extremely high, it may not survive, so in this case, water it deeply in the early morning when the temperature is cooler.
During its evolution, it developed mechanisms for drought tolerance:
- Hairy branches and leaves to trap moisture
- The 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 multifida
This lavender will become leggy if it is not annually 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 multifida
Propagation by seed
Fern leaf 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 later autumn to early winter, placed in a cold frame over winter, and planted 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, hold it to the ground with a peg or rock, and cover it with soil.
Other Lavenders you may also like
Sources of information used for this article
Article from GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Article from Kew
Article from Flora Iberica
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