French lavender is a particularly floriferous species of lavender and therefore especially popular with the aesthetes among amateur gardeners. But it is also anything but stingy with its so characteristic fragrance, which predestines it also for creative aroma DIY projects.
Like the better-known true lavender, the French lavender, botanically Lavandula stoechas, comes from Mediterranean regions. However, its range extends even further south, as far as northern Africa, the Canary Islands and Madeira. Its original habitat is therefore somewhat warmer than that of the true lavender. For cultivation in Central Europe, this means that it cannot be permanently planted outdoors. Unlike the true lavender, it is not frost-hardy.
Its original preferred landscape zones are dry, low-lime shrub heaths and sparse pine groves.
What you need to know about the origin of the French lavender:
- natural distribution area in the Mediterranean to North African region
- is therefore not frost-hardy
- prefers lime-poor, dry, light habitats
The Schopflavendel grows as an evergreen semi-shrub with particularly strongly branched shoots, whereby it develops a very bushy habit. In its natural habitat, it can reach a growth height of up to one meter. In this country, in pot culture, it tends to grow only 30-50 cm high. The shoots are densely covered with foliage, giving the Schopflavendel a very compact appearance.
Similar to the true lavender, the leaves of the French lavender have a needle-like, lanceolate shape and reach a length of up to 4 centimeters. At budding, they are still of a silvery-green color, later darkening into a tannish green. Apart from the flowers, the foliage leaves also give off a spicy aromatic fragrance reminiscent of pine needles.
The flower is the eponym of the lavender. Its distinctive feature is in fact the light purple bracts that stand French above the racemose panicles. They give the shrub as a whole a cheerful, loosened-up accent, not least because of the color contrast between the dark, mauve flower panicles, the pale bracts and the brownish, felty bracts.
The scent of the flowers is also particularly appealing, with a particularly strong and camphor-like spicy fragrance. Thus, it not only attracts numerous beneficial garden insects, but also invites experimentation for aromatic homemade cosmetics or delicatessen.
The characteristics of the scalloped lavender flower:
- Cracked pseudo spike in dark mauve color with light purple bracts.
- Very aromatic, spicy fragrance
- Bee pasture
- Flowering time
- The flowering time depends slightly on the variety. The earliest varieties open their flowers in late May, the latest only in September.
The requirements of the French lavender for its location do not differ significantly from those of the true lavender. It wants it warm and dry, with as much sunlight as possible. The more sun, warmth and dryness it experiences, the more intensively it will focus on producing the fragrant essential oils. So pay special attention to the fulfillment of its original site conditions, if you want to attract a lot of bees and, if necessary, make something fine from the flowers.
- French lavender likes it warm and dry
- needs a lot of sunlight
- The drier, warmer and brighter, the higher the concentration of essential oils
The main difference between the lavender and the true lavender is its preferred pH value. In contrast to its congeners, it requires a low-calcium planting soil. The soil should therefore be acidic. Nevertheless, it thrives best in well-drained, lean, heathery soil that has a good sand content. It is advisable to take special cactus or herb soil and loosen it up accordingly with sand or even clay granules.
- Dry, permeable, low-calcium (!) Soil.
- Best mixture of cactus or herb soil and sand
Like the true lavender, the French lavender does not need much water. It is naturally adapted to long dry spells and high heat. So water it only moderately so that the soil never stays dripping wet. For watering, use soft, stagnant water if possible, ideally rainwater.
The lavender is also frugal when it comes to nutrients. It loves a lean substrate and basically does not need to be fertilized at all. You can possibly give it a little low-dose, potassium-emphasized fertilizer after wintering out or use fertilizer sticks (5.00€ at Amazon*) to promote vigorous budding.
In the pot
As a non-hardy species, the Schopflavendel must be cultivated in a pot – at least through the winter. In principle, however, you can transplant it outside in the summer after the frost heaves have passed – provided you can offer it a suitable place and planting ground. However, at the latest when the first frost announces itself, you must move it back into the pot.
A terracotta pot is best suited as a planter for the potted lavender, as it is absorbent and promotes a dry soil ball. In addition, the material emphasizes the Mediterranean character of the plant.
In the pot you need to pay special attention to good permeability of the substrate: So if possible, work a coarse drainage layer of expanded clay (20,00€ at Amazon*) into the lower part of the sandy soil mixture.
You should repot the lavender in early spring, when you bring it out of its winter quarters. When doing so, you can thin out the roots a bit if necessary to encourage growth.
The rules for pot culture at a glance:
- Over the winter pot culture mandatory.
- In the summer after the last frost risk can also be planted out Schopflavendel
- It is best to use a planter made of terracotta
- Work a good drainage layer into the substrate
- Repot in spring when wintering out
Ready For Winter
Like all non frost-hardy cultivated plants, potted lavender needs a separate wintering period. Given its northern hemisphere origin, it must be protected from sub-zero temperatures during this period, but it still needs a temperature reduction compared to the summer phase. Because the season winter is not unknown to him, of course. The ideal hibernation temperature for him is about 5 to 10 ° C. Nevertheless, he should have it bright. A suitable overwintering place is for example a cold house, a window place in an unheated staircase or in an attic under a skylight.
Watering the Schopflavendel in the wintering quarter is very sparing. Already in summer it needs little water, in winter the amount of watering should be reduced so far that the pot ball does not dry out completely.
Wintering at a glance:
- Place in a cool and bright place (5-10°C)
- Ideal place: cold house, unheated staircase by the window
- Water only very little
Within the species Lavandula stoechas there are also conditionally hardy varieties that can also be permanently planted outdoors. However, this is still only recommended in rather mild regions, where winter temperatures rarely drop far below freezing. However, if there are occasional periods of critical sub-zero temperatures, such a variety of Schopflavendel can be protected by covering it with fir branches or jute.
You should prune the lavender once after the first flowering. This is for two reasons: firstly, pruning induces a second flowering, which you and garden insects can enjoy. On the other hand, regular pruning keeps the shrub beautifully compact and dense, which corresponds to its typical habit and ensures a well-groomed impression. In addition, pruning admittedly also serves to prevent excessive lignification and unsightly thickening.
In order to support the compactness even more intensively and also for rejuvenation, you can cut back the lavender once after the winter. In February or March, when you begin to accustom it to warmer temperatures again, a precise pruning will do it good. This will also encourage it to produce vigorous new shoots.
Pruning rules at a glance:
- Regular pruning keeps the shrub nice and compact and prevents lignification and thinning.
- a rejuvenating, sprout-promoting pruning after wintering out
- a pruning after the first bloom to induce a second one
The easiest way to propagate French lavender is via cuttings. To do this, cut young shoots about 10 cm long, free them from the lower foliage and put them in planters with growing soil. You can cover them with foil to ensure an even, protected growing climate for them. The planters need to be in a bright and warm location.
Seed cultivation also promises a fairly high gelation rate for lavender. You can also harvest the seeds yourself and store them over the winter. From the end of February, when the mother plant is wintering out, place the seeds in seed trays with growing soil and cover them, if at all, only very lightly, as these are light germinators. Place the trays in a bright, warm place and keep the substrate carefully moist. Usually the seeds will germinate after only a week or two.
Because of its high content of essential oils, French lavender is pleasingly resistant to diseases and pests. What is most likely to harm it is too much wetness. It can cause the roots to rot and lead to mold growth. It is also possible that a fungus will take root, although this is rarely the case. In that case, remove all diseased plant parts as early as possible and apply a fungicide.
Basically, lavender is naturally edible. It does not contain any toxins and its high content of essential oils makes it particularly valuable.
How it becomes edible, however, is another matter. Because its rather tough, scratchy plant structure and the very intense, almost austere scent of leaves and flowers do not in themselves make it a treat to be eaten raw. However, it is excellent for flavoring delicacies. The plant parts are not eaten, but it is possible.
Flavoring – sweet and savory!
Due to its dry ethereal flavor, lavender is suitable for flavoring both sweet and savory dishes. For example, lavender sugar is great for adding a floral note to cakes and the like, while lavender salt adds a very interesting note to stewed meat dishes. It is also recommended to add a lavender blossom to each jar when preserving homemade jams, such as apricots or peaches.
Oil for gourmets
Last but not least, oil can also be wonderfully refined with blossoms and fresh shoots of French lavender. It adds a fragrant note to wild herb salads in particular.
Tasty medicinal tea
Dried blossoms can also be infused into an aromatic-floral and healing tea, which has a digestive and relaxing effect.
If you want to plant out your potted lavender in the summer, it’s best to choose a south-facing slope. By going slightly vertical, the southern plant can soak up even more sunlight. Stones in the immediate vicinity of the bed will also provide the shrub with a cozy radiant warmth even after the sun goes down.
This cultivar is characterized by flower panicles of clear, reddish purple and especially long bracts of light purple. The bracts are so long that they tend to overhang, forming a sweeping mop of hair. The flowers of Lavandula stoechas Butterfly Garden appear in July and can be reproduced into October if the faded stems are carefully cut back. They emit a pleasant fragrance and are a valuable source of food for bees and other insects.
With a height of 40 to 80 centimeters and a width of only 20 to 30 centimeters, the variety shows a very tight, slender growth.
A special feature of Lavandula stoechas Butterfly Garden is its notable frost hardiness. In generally mild regions of the country, it can be cultivated outdoors for a long time.
Variety series Lavandula stoechas Madrid is available with different colors of flowers, which is quite special within the species of French lavender. Because here the color spectrum goes beyond the typical dark, dull purple. With sub-varieties such as Madrid Pink, Madrid White or Madrid Sky Blue, more cool freshness enters the appearance of the French lavender: Madrid Pink features panicles of slightly clearer purple and bracts of light pink, while Madrid White features an all-white bloom. Madrid Sky Blue comes across as particularly decorative and attractive with its midnight sky blue panicles and contrasting fresh white bracts.
Lavandula stoechas Madrid begin opening flowers around June; by continually pruning out the faded panicles, you encourage their re-blooming.
All Spanish lavender varieties have typical silvery-green foliage and grow to about 40-60 cm tall with a bushy habit about 90 cm wide.
Very attractive and colorful is also Lavandula stoechas Kew Red. As its name suggests, its flower color is reddish. The panicle is a rich, velvety magenta, from which the bracts stand out in a delicate white-pink. In addition, the pretty structure also exudes a strong, very seductive fragrance. The delightful flowers appear in July and unfortunately fade in August. In terms of height, the Kew Red is rather smaller at around 40 to 50 centimeters, and with a narrow width of 30-40 centimeters, it is also considerably slimmer than many of its congeners.