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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Spanish Lavender

By HeyHome September 15, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Spanish Lavender

Spanish lavender isn't just another lavender species—it's a garden superstar that dazzles with its unique flower heads and gray-green leaves. Native to the Mediterranean region, Spanish lavender stands out for its resilience, remarkable dark purple flowers, and yes, those iconic tufts that resemble rabbit ears. In contrast to English lavender or even French lavender, Spanish lavender plants offer a vividly different aesthetic and aroma.

Understanding how to grow and care for Spanish lavender can transform your garden or potted plant collection. Well-suited to warmer climates and sunny locations, Spanish lavender thrives in well-draining soil and full sun, but knowing the finer details of Spanish lavender care can make all the difference. Do you want fuller blooms, thicker plants, and a more fragrant herb garden? Do you aim to prevent root rot and ensure your plant's growth is as vibrant as the lavender fields of Spain? Then you're in the right place.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or new to the world of lavender lavandula stoechas (that's the scientific name for Spanish lavender!), this guide is your go-to resource for all things related to this unique and charming plant. Stick with us to learn the secrets of planting Spanish lavender successfully, keeping your plants healthy, and ensuring a bountiful blooming season.

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At a Glance: Spanish Lavender

  • Common Names: Spanish lavender, Butterfly lavender, Bract lavender
  • Botanical Name: Lavandula stoechas
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Shrub, Herb
  • Mature Size: 18 to 36 inches tall and wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Soil Type: Sandy, Moist but well-drained
  • Soil pH: Acidic to Neutral
  • Bloom Time: Spring to Summer
  • Flower Color: Pink, Purple, White
  • Hardiness Zones: 8a to 9b (USDA)
  • Native Area: Europe, Africa, Mediterranean Region
  • Toxicity: Toxic to pets

Understanding the Lavender Family: From Spanish to French Lavender

When it comes to the enchanting world of lavender, understanding the differences between the various species can enhance your gardening experience. Among the lavender varieties, two types often capture the limelight: Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and French lavender (Lavandula dentata).

Spanish Lavender: The Star of Warmer Climates

Spanish lavender is a favorite among gardeners in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 9, owing to its resilience in warm climates and sunny locations. Unlike other lavender species, Spanish lavender is renowned for its unique flower heads that resemble rabbit ears, its deep purple blooms, and its fragrant flowers. Spanish lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, North Africa, and parts of the Middle East, making it well-suited for dry climates and well-draining soil.

French Lavender: A Staple in Perfumery

In contrast, French lavender is more delicate and is cherished for its soft, gray-green leaves and lighter blooms. French lavender thrives in slightly moist soil and prefers a climate that's not too hot. Often used in the world of perfumery, French lavender's scent is softer and more subtle compared to the strong, piney fragrance of Spanish lavender.

By understanding the unique qualities and care requirements of these two remarkable species, you can make a more informed decision when it comes to planting lavender in your garden or as a potted plant. Whether it's Spanish or French lavender that captures your heart, rest assured that both offer their own sets of delights and challenges.


Where Does Spanish Lavender Thrive?

Spanish lavender's origins trace back to the Mediterranean region, a land of sun-soaked hillsides and rocky soil, making it a resilient plant that thrives in similar climates worldwide. Known for its ability to flourish in warm and dry climates, Spanish lavender is your go-to plant for a touch of the Mediterranean in your own backyard.

This fragrant herb prefers a sunny location with well-draining soil, embodying the essence of its native landscape. If you're planning to grow Spanish lavender in the United States, you'll want to pay attention to USDA hardiness zones. Specifically, Spanish lavender thrives in zones 7 through 9. These zones are characterized by their milder winters and longer growing seasons, aligning well with Spanish lavender's natural preferences.

While it might not be the best fit for colder climates with harsh winters, it's an excellent choice for gardeners in regions where winters are mild and summers are long and hot. With proper care, Spanish lavender can be a perennial powerhouse in the right conditions, providing endless blooms from late spring to late summer.


How to Grow Spanish Lavender: A Step-by-Step Guide

Growing Spanish lavender can be a rewarding experience. Its fragrant flowers, unique rabbit ears-like flower heads, and vibrant dark purple blooms make it a standout in any garden. Let's dive into the essential steps for planting and caring for this Mediterranean beauty.

Step 1: Choose the Right Location

Spanish lavender loves full sun and well-draining soil. Aim for at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily and ensure the soil drains well to prevent root rot. Good air circulation is crucial, so give your plants enough space to breathe.

Step 2: Prepare the Soil

Before you plant Spanish lavender, make sure to cultivate well-draining soil. A well-draining potting mix can work wonders for potted lavender. For garden beds, add some organic matter or compost to enhance drainage. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5 for optimal growth.

Step 3: Planting Time

The best time to plant Spanish lavender is in early to mid-spring after the last frost. However, in warmer climates, late summer to early fall can also be suitable. Young plants are generally better as they adapt quicker to new soil conditions.

Step 4: Plant Properly

Dig a hole that's twice the size of the root ball and set the plant in. Fill the hole, ensuring the plant sits at the same level as it was in its original pot. Press the soil firmly and water it well.

Step 5: Watering and Ongoing Care

Spanish lavender is drought tolerant but does best with consistent watering, especially during its first growing season. Avoid standing water as it can lead to root rot. Use mulch to keep the root system cool and the soil moist, but avoid getting leaves wet.

Step 6: Fertilizing and Blooming Season

A slow-release, balanced fertilizer applied in late spring can encourage bushier growth and more blooms. Pay attention to the blooming season, usually late spring to late summer, to maximize your flower spikes.

Step 7: Prevent Diseases

Good drainage and air circulation can help prevent fungal diseases. If your plants show signs of disease, consider using an organic fungicide.

Step 8: Harvest or Enjoy

Once your Spanish lavender plants are established, you can enjoy their fragrant herb qualities or even harvest some flower heads for various uses.


Spanish Lavender Plants: Pot or Garden?

The question often arises: should you plant your Spanish lavender in a pot or directly into your garden? Both options have their pros and cons, and much depends on your particular circumstances and preferences.

Planting in a Pot: The Flexible Choice

If you're short on garden space or live in a colder climate, planting Spanish lavender in a pot could be your best bet. Potted lavender offers the flexibility to move the plant indoors during harsh winters or to a sunny location if needed. Make sure to choose a container with multiple drainage holes to prevent root rot. However, you will need to be vigilant about watering, as potted plants can dry out faster.

Planting in the Garden: The Natural Habitat

Planting Spanish lavender in the garden allows it to spread and thrive more naturally. This is especially ideal if you're considering mass plantings or want to encourage bushier growth. The garden environment also offers more consistent soil moisture and better air circulation. That said, excellent drainage is a must to prevent root rot. Incorporating sand or gravel into the soil can improve drainage.

The Importance of Excellent Drainage

Regardless of where you plant, drainage is crucial. Spanish lavender doesn't like "wet feet," so ensuring good drainage can make a significant difference in the health and longevity of your plant. Use well-draining soil and consider elevating the planting area if drainage is a concern.

In summary, whether in a pot or garden, understanding your plant's needs and providing excellent drainage are key steps in successful Spanish lavender care.

Caring for Your Butterfly Lavender: The Subtype of Spanish Lavender

If you're enchanted by Spanish lavender, you'll be absolutely smitten by its charming subtype known as butterfly lavender. Officially a part of the Spanish lavender family, butterfly lavender is distinctive for its beautiful flower heads that resemble butterfly wings. It adds a whimsical touch to any garden or potted plant collection.

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Introduction to Butterfly Lavender

Butterfly lavender, like its Spanish lavender counterpart, is native to the Mediterranean region and thrives in similar conditions. However, what sets it apart are its unique flower heads and sometimes more vibrant coloration. Its leaves are also gray-green but may be slightly finer in texture. The aromatic blooms are not just a feast for the eyes; they are also deer-resistant, making them a practical choice for various landscapes.

Special Care Instructions

While butterfly lavender shares many of the care requirements of typical Spanish lavender—such as the need for full sun and well-draining soil—it does have some unique needs. Butterfly lavender is particularly sensitive to overwatering, which can quickly lead to root rot. This subtype also benefits from a well-draining potting mix if you're keeping it as a potted lavender plant. It's essential to provide good air circulation and avoid leaving the soil too wet.

Additionally, if you're looking to encourage bushier growth, consider tip pruning to boost its appearance and overall health. Butterfly lavender usually enjoys a slightly longer blooming season, so make the most of it by providing the right care and attention.

In summary, while butterfly lavender may look like it needs special treatment, its care routine largely mirrors that of Spanish lavender, with just a few extra considerations.

Common Issues and How to Avoid Them

Spanish lavender, like any plant, can face certain challenges. Let's discuss some of the common issues and how best to avoid them.

Root Rot: The Silent Killer

One of the most prevalent problems for Spanish lavender plants is root rot, especially if the plant is left in standing water or poorly-drained soil. This issue is best prevented by ensuring excellent drainage. Use well-draining soil or a well-draining potting mix for potted lavender. Elevate the planting area or use a container with multiple drainage holes to facilitate better water flow.


Fungal Diseases: The Stealthy Intruder

While not as common as root rot, fungal diseases can afflict Spanish lavender. This often occurs when the plant's leaves are left wet or when air circulation is poor. Good air circulation is vital, so space your plants appropriately and consider using an organic fungicide as a preventive measure.

Leggy Growth: Aesthetically Unpleasing

Leggy growth can make your Spanish lavender plants look sparse and unattractive. To encourage bushier growth and a thicker plant, you can prune the plants during the growing season. This not only helps the plant's growth but also promotes more flower spikes, enriching your garden's visual appeal.

Additional Tips

  • Avoid standing water to prevent root rot.
  • Ensure good air circulation around your plants.
  • Keep an eye on soil moisture without making it too wet.

Understanding these issues and their solutions is an essential part of Spanish lavender care. Proper attention and preventive measures can help your plants thrive, whether you're dealing with the typical Spanish lavender or its butterfly subtype.

Spanish Lavender Vs. Spanish Lavender Plants: What to Know Before You Buy

When you decide to add Spanish lavender to your garden or home, you'll often encounter two main options: pre-packaged Spanish lavender and young plants. Understanding the pros and cons of each can help you make a more informed decision.

Pre-packaged Spanish Lavender

These are usually seeds or dried flowers that allow you the experience of growing Spanish lavender from scratch. While it's rewarding to see your plants grow, this method requires more time and patience.

Young Plants: The Quicker Route

Young plants, on the other hand, offer a head start. These plants have already gone through their initial growth stages and might even have some blooms. Choosing a thicker plant ensures that you're getting a healthier, more robust specimen.

What to Consider

Before making a purchase, consider the plant's growth potential and whether it already has blooms. Blooms not only add instant beauty but also indicate a healthy plant. Thicker plants are often healthier and can adapt more quickly to a new environment.

Whether you're buying pre-packaged Spanish lavender or opting for young plants, remember that your choice will have implications for how quickly you'll see those fragrant flowers and charming rabbit ears that Spanish lavender is known for.

Your Spanish Lavender Calendar: From Late Spring to Late Summer

Spanish lavender has a relatively specific growing and blooming season that you'll want to be aware of to maximize its beauty and vitality. Here's a quick calendar to guide you through the care of your Spanish lavender plants from late spring to late summer.

Late Spring: Planting and Initial Growth

This is often the best time to plant Spanish lavender. If you've selected young plants, you might even see some early blooms. Ensure they get plenty of full sun and well-draining soil to kick off the growing season right.

Mid to Late Summer: Peak Blooming

Late summer is when Spanish lavender really shines, offering an abundance of fragrant flowers and unique rabbit ears-shaped flower heads. Keep an eye on water levels but avoid overwatering.

As Blooms Fade

When blooms start to fade, this is your cue to get to work. Pruning back the flower spikes encourages bushier growth and can even stimulate a second, albeit smaller, blooming cycle.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a newbie, keeping track of the Spanish lavender calendar will help you better care for your plants, ensuring a vibrant and aromatic garden throughout the warmer months.

Additional Tips for Those in Colder or Harsher Climates

While Spanish lavender is native to the warm climates of the Mediterranean region, you're not out of luck if you live in colder or harsher climates. A few tweaks to your plant care routine can help your Spanish lavender thrive even under less-than-ideal conditions.

Harsh Winters: Extra Protection Required

If you're outside the typical USDA hardiness zones for Spanish lavender, you'll need to take extra steps to protect your plants during harsh winters. Mulching around the root system can provide added insulation. Also, consider moving potted lavender indoors or to a greenhouse where you can better control the temperature.

Adapting to Colder Climates

Spanish lavender can be cold hardy to a certain extent, but if you're living in a climate that experiences frequent harsh winters, consider planting varieties of lavender more suited to colder climates like English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). These species still offer fragrant flowers and a similar aesthetic but are more resilient to extreme temperatures.

Key Considerations

  • Make sure to provide excellent drainage to prevent root rot, which can be exacerbated by constant freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Maintain good air circulation around the plants to minimize fungal diseases, even more critical in humid or damp winter conditions.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener in warm climates or trying to grow Spanish lavender in less accommodating weather, these tips will help you navigate the challenges and ensure your plants' growth and vitality.

Your Journey with Spanish Lavender

Whether you're a seasoned green thumb or just getting started, the world of Spanish lavender offers a wealth of beauty, fragrance, and even a touch of the Mediterranean right in your garden. We've covered everything from the unique qualities that set Spanish lavender apart from other species like French lavender, to the specifics of where it thrives best and how to care for it across seasons and climates.

From the joy of choosing between pre-packaged seeds and young plants to the intricacies of caring for butterfly lavender, there's a Spanish lavender journey waiting for everyone. Remember, good air circulation, well-draining soil, and adequate sunlight are your plants' best friends. So don't hold back—embark on your Spanish lavender adventure today and fill your space with its unique rabbit ears and fragrant flower heads!

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