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The Best French & English Lavender Varieties to Grow in Zone 5

As a homesteader, I have a lot of experience managing various plants in my garden.

There's more than one type of lavender.

There's more than one type of lavender.

Why Grow Lavender?

I grow lavender for a few reasons. Number one is the sheer fun of it and the lifelong love of those beautiful, blue, aromatic flowers. Other reasons for growing them are home herbal uses, tisanes, cooking, and sachets. I love the fact that my honey bees are drawn to the lavender flowers once they are wide open, and the honey they make with the aromatic nectar is truly unique.

A sachet of lavender can keep insects at bay in the linen closet and garden, and insomnia away in the bedroom! Dried lavender buds can be used in cooking to add an unusual but pleasant flavour to both savoury and sweet recipes. Teas can help with relaxation and essential oils can help with skin healing. There is lots more information and recipes online for these uses.

Today, I want to share our experiences with various lavender varieties, and why I will plant them again, or not.

Sweet English lavender: Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote.

Sweet English lavender: Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote.

Types of Lavender for Zone 5

  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): This is the hardiest variety. It is a true lavender, and it generally produces flowers earlier, on shorter stems. The English lavender produces a slightly sweeter-smelling flower with less camphor in its essential oils.
  • Lavandin X: This is a hybrid of Lavender angustifolia and the less hardy, more pungent, Lavandula spicata. This Lavandin X hybrid generally has taller flower stems and bigger plants and slightly later flowering plants. There is more camphor in the essential oil giving the oils and flowers a stronger, more pungent clean smell.

Both the above types have many varieties bred and selected for many qualities and uses. These are primarily dried sachet buds, dried stem flowers, culinary buds, essential oil extraction and some for simple beauty in the garden.

Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote.

Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote.

English Lavender Varieties

  • Munstead: These tend to be the hardiest. It is the most cold-hardy, easy to find and has paler purple flowers. It is a good all-purpose lavender with a strong aroma, but stems tend to be less straight and have the odd kink in them, so I find it better for dried buds than stems. It over-winters well up to zone 3.
  • Hidcote: This variety is also very cold hardy. It has medium to long straight stems and is excellent for cut flowers. It had very dark blue petals, so makes a wonderful dried bud variety, especially for potpourri where it can be seen once dried as it keeps its deep colour as well as a gentle sweet lavender aroma.
  • Twickle Purple: A paler purple, very long-stemmed English lavender. It is the cold hardiest long-stemmed lavender we have here, hardy to at least zone 4. Our bees love it. It is taller and more showy than the Munstead, and is a pretty lavender in the garden. The long stems are nice for dried or fresh lavender stems for arrangements and bunches, but once dried, the colour fades.
French Lavandin X Grosso.

French Lavandin X Grosso.

French Lavandin Varieties

The three Lavandin X varieties most readily available in Ontario are Grosso, Provence and Fred Boutin.

  • Grosso: This is the cold hardiest and we have four-year-old plants in our four-year-old lavender plantation. On an average winter we may lose 5% of the 'Grosso', a cold winter or one with less snow cover but temps under -20 Celsius maybe 20%. This plant gives the longest stems of any we have gown and gives spectacular 2 feet+ dried stems with mid purple flowers. This can be less hardy in some areas. We are zone 5B lake moderated temps from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, further inland these don't always overwinter well.
  • Fred Boutin: This is the next most hardy. We got a few of these showy paler-leaved plants with pale flowers. More of an ornamental garden plant than a cut stem or bud lavender, these can overwinter here in milder winters. They look fantastic lining pathways and losses of 10-20% are common here.
  • Provence: An amazing bud plant for savoury culinary 'herbes des Provence' and the dried buds are the most aromatic of all. Unfortunately, winter kill losses of 40-95% make replanting a huge chore here with lots and we will no longer replant. They are a long-stemmed Lavandin X that is bred to drop the buds once dry speeding up the bud stripping process. I'd highly recommend trying them in milder climates and micro-climates as the aroma is amazing!

How to Give Your Lavender the Best Chance Overwinter

  • Well-drained soil: Without well-drained soil, the winter snowmelt will saturate the soil and kill the lavender. Planting on a slope or amending the soil (with sand and gravel) and planting lavender on the top of the hill will allow you to grow lavender in heavier, clay soils.
  • Snow cover: The deeper the snow cover, the better. If you have a sheltered area where snow collects, the deep snow is only 0 degrees celsius which is often warmer than the air temperatures in the winter. Our lavender survives better when the snow has been deep in the winter. In theory mulching with straw of something similar may help, but we have never tried it.
  • Sheltered location: The lavender should be planted out of the wind so that windchill and winker-kill are reduced.
  • In-ground: Plants do better in the ground rather than in pots. A plant in a pot would experience a zone 4 winter which means the English lavenders are the only ones to survive.
Lavender is beautiful and useful!

Lavender is beautiful and useful!

Enjoy Your Lavender!

I hope the information on the hardiness of common lavenders in zone 5 is helpful. This will apply to exposed sites in zone 6 and sheltered areas in zone 4, as well.

If you want to buy enough lavender to make a hedge, Richters herbs is wonderful for selling trays of 128 plugs of all these lavender varieties for little more than 50 cents a plant. They ship worldwide.

Lavender keeps garden pests away, makes attractive borders and you can make beautiful crafts with them. Plant some today!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments and Questions?

Kate Hartley on May 30, 2020:

Which variety is the first to come into bloom, Providence or Grosso?

Jonny on June 29, 2018:

Hi I'm looking for a Hard Lavender which can grow well in a walled border that is not too big. I'm happy for a smaller variety with a nice colour and smell. Any suggestions ?

Lois Curtain on February 03, 2018:

Hello Nina l would like to put Lavender in our garden, both my husband & I are clueless gardeners, myself I favour in what I've seen is I think French Lavender, does it grow straight up & keeps it's shape & is a deeper purple than the English one.... we are having our front garden redone by a gardener, which is not a real big area regards Lois

claudia on August 08, 2016:

my lavender plants reaches around 4-5' ea summer. how far down do you trim after cutting flowering stems?

Skeffling (author) from Wiarton, Ontario, Canada on March 15, 2012:

Remember high and dry! Good luck, you will love it. Even before it flowers, you can go out and touch the leaves then smell your hand. I think it is every bit as strong as the flower smell. By next year they will be those nice big cushions but you should get a few flowers this year. my favourite way to plant lavender is to plant a ton of it all in one block or as a border! Good luck and enjoy.

Skeffling (author) from Wiarton, Ontario, Canada on March 15, 2012:

Hi Nina, Thanks! It's more Lavandula angustifolia, 'Hidcote'! It's my favourite and if I could have just one variety, that would be it! very cold hardy, buds nice when dried, showy, stems straight, and smells lovely. Good luck with your lavender!

Nina on March 15, 2012:

also, what type of lavender is in that last picture of this article?? just beautiful!!

Nina on March 15, 2012:

This information was very helpful.... so thanks for sharing and I am going to plant some of my first this spring!! Can't wait!