Tender Lavender

Tom Wajda
Adams County Master Gardener

Most gardeners enjoy the lush beauty of lavender, but do not know that the genus lavendula comes in many different shapes, sizes, and degrees of hardiness. This article will describe some of the tender lavenders.

Like their hardy brethren, tender lavenders thrive in full sun and well-drained soils with a pH of 7.0-7.3. Unlike the hardy varieties (L. angustifolia and L. intermedia) tender lavenders will not survive our winters outdoors. Nonetheless, they are interesting plants and worthy of space in your garden as annuals. They also are wonderful in pots either on the patio or in a sunny window in winter,

(L. stoechas)

There are many vanities of this species including ‘Snowman’ (white blossoms), ‘Kew Red’ (red), and ‘Tickled Pink’ (pink blossoms, of course). The species is very popular in California where mild winters allow it to be grown outdoors year-round. Often called Spanish lavender, the plants are easily identified by the "butterfly" wings appearance of the blossoms. The leaves are similar to the hardy varieties and care needs to be taken when purchasing the plants to ensure that you are getting what you want.

To a certain degree, Stoechas lavenders (and other tender varieties) can be forced to bloom on your schedule rather than theirs. I have had good luck in pruning these plants by about half; the plants will then push out new growth and bloom about three months after pruning.

L.. dentata,

L. dentata is easily identified by its toothed leaves. Also called Fringed or French lavender, Dentata comes in many varieties including ‘Grey Fringe’, Green Fringe’ and ‘Linda Ligon’. ‘Linda Ligon’ is a very interesting cultivar as it is one of only two variegated lavenders. Its leaves are green with a reliable cream colored variegation. As their names indicate, ‘Grey Fringe’ and ‘Green Fringe’ have, respectively, grey and green hints in the leaves.

L. Canariensis

Lavender grows wild in the Canary Islands, so it is not surprising that there is a variety called ‘Canary Islands’. The plants are quite different from other lavenders both in leaf structure and in flowers. Sometimes referred to as ‘Fernleaf’ lavender, this variety is more of a woody shrub than most lavenders. It is aromatic with violet-purple blossoms.

L. Chaytorae

This species covers a broad variety of newly developed hardy lavenders including ‘Joan Head’ and ‘Anna Luisa’, as well as the tender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’. ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ should be planted in a large pot that can be moved from the patio to a sunny indoor window when frost threatens. This variety can be reliably counted on to produce flowers all year long.

Read other articles on growing herbs or vegetables

Read other gardening articles by Tom Wajda