French Lavender vs. English Lavender: What’s the Difference?

french lavender vs english lavender

There is nothing quite the like calming effect of a breath of lavender wafting from a nearby bush on a bright summer’s day, but did you know that not all lavender is the same?

These fragrant bushes can be divided into two main categories: English and French, but what is the difference between the two?

In short, English lavender is cold hardy, has a more pungent scent, and will live longer while French lavender is a larger bush with a more subtle scent and a shorter lifespan.

While both of these plants are a welcome addition to any garden, to truly care for them properly, it is good to know which one you are dealing with. Luckily for you, we are here to help you out.

In this article, we will be stepping into the fragrant world of lavender and dissecting the difference between these two beautiful blooms. Join us, won’t you?

Grow Your Yard Fact
Lavender is a perennial plant, which means they have a life span of more than two years. They can last between 5 and 15 years if you take care of them.

What is Lavender and What Are Its Benefits

Lavender is a flowering bush native to the Mediterranean, especially across Spain and France. It is best known for its incredible scent, which has made it a staple in the cosmetics industry.

The scent comes from the unique ovoid blooms known as bracts, which sit at the end of long, naked stems. They are known to attract bees and butterflies with their fragrance, which all good gardeners want to encourage. Once pulled from the bract, the individual flowers and petals are also edible.

Apart from being beautiful and fragrant, lavender has several benefits:

  • Aromatherapy- The scent of lavender is said to have very calming and soothing qualities, especially when used at night before sleep. It is often used as essential oils, room sprays, or even scented candles.
  • Cosmetics- The sheer size of the lavender industry rest of the back of the cosmetics industry. It is used in skincare, hair, nail, and body products. It is used mainly for its incredible smell but also for its exceptional calming qualities.
  • Tea- If you love to wind down with a cup of tea, then lavender tea might be right up your street. The dried leaves are brewed into a relaxing, fragrant tea with a light, floral flavor.
  • Baking- Whether you use it fresh or as an essence, adding lavender to your baking adds a delightful floral flavor. Still, it should be used sparingly because it can quickly become overpowering. It can even be crystallized and used for a stunning natural garnish.
Grow Your Yard Tip
English lavender is not actually native to England. It became known as ‘true’ lavender or English lavender because it was grown predominantly for the English fragrance industry.

French Lavender vs. English Lavender: What is the Difference?

So, while these gorgeous plants might have all these benefits in common, what exactly sets them apart?

The lavender variations that we are going to look at today are different species of the same genus. This means that, while they have a lot in common, there are some essential differences that we think are worth exploring.

The easiest way to get into these differences is by pitting them side by side so let’s take a look at them:

  English Lavender French Lavender
Scientific Name Lavandula Angustifolia Lavandula Stoechas
Alternative Names Common, narrow-leaved, true Spanish, topped
Climate Cold to warm Moderate to hot
Fragrance Strong fragrance Faint fragrance
Lifespan 15 years 5 years
Size 20’’ tall, 24’’ wide 30’’tall, 35’’ wide

As you can see, at a glance there are some pivotal differences between these two but we need to dive a little deeper to really get into detail.

  • Flowers- The main selling point of lavender is the flowers, so what exactly is the difference?

When placed side by side, it’s clear how different these flowers are from one another. The bracts of English lavender are long and slim with small blooms clustered all around it from top to bottom. French lavender, on the other hand, has a shorter, rounder bract with small flowers clustered around it and three longer petals blooming from the top.

English lavender tends to only flower for 4 weeks in the summer while French lavender, in the right conditions, can bloom from spring to fall.

  • Cold Hardiness- Although English lavender might not be native to England, it can certainly handle its weather.

English lavender is the hardier plant of the two. It can handle frost and snow and temperatures down to -20 F! If you have harsher winters then this is the variation you want in your garden.

French lavender is a far more delicate plant and will not tolerate any snow or frost. It can only survive mild winters like those in the Mediterranean where they are native.

  • Size- Besides, the flowers, the size of the bushes are the easiest way to tell these plants apart visually.

English lavender is the smaller of the two, which makes them ideal for lining garden beds and pathways. French lavender is taller and wider, giving it more of a striking visual presence.

  • Soil pH- Most plants, French lavender included, enjoy a neutral to slightly alkaline soil around pH 7 or 8.

English lavender, however, is a little more tolerant and can handle slightly more acidic soil. If you aren’t sure what kind of soil you have in your garden you can use a cheap, soil testing kit that you can buy at most garden stores.

Grow Your Yard Fact
French lavender should not be used in cooking because it has a very bitter and unpleasant flavor. English lavender has a distinctive, floral flavor that is perfect for cooking and brewing.

What Do French and English Lavender Have in Common?

Now that we have picked apart the differences between these two species, let’s take a quick glance at what they have in common.

Both of these plants enjoy well-drained soil with infrequent waterings, which makes them relatively low maintenance on that front. However, one area they may need some attention on is pruning, which they require regularly.

They also thrive in full sun, which is not surprising considering where they are from.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Which lavender is easiest to grow?

Overall, English lavender is the easiest species to grow, especially if you are a beginner. It can deal with more hostile soil and harsher weather conditions, all while smelling stronger into the bargain.

If you live in a warm country with mild winters, however, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to grow either of these beautiful species successfully.

Which lavender blooms the longest?

When you’re first planting a lavender bush of any kind, you might want to keep the blooming season in mind, as they will not bloom all year round.

French lavender can bloom from spring to fall if you give it the right light, soil, and water conditions, so if its lots of flowers you want, French lavender is the one for you.

Conclusion

The differences between English and French lavender might be subtle, but if you are a beginner, these differences can make or break your growing experience.

These plants have a few factors setting them apart, from cold hardiness and plant size to flower shape and scent that are subtle but useful to know about. Each plant, even when they are from the same family, needs its own unique care to help them thrive, and knowing these little differences is the best way to get that right.

We hope this scented journey into lavender has encouraged you to go out and identify which kind of lavender you have growing in your garden.

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