Which Lavender Plant is the Hardiest?

English lavenders are the hardiest of all lavender species as they can tolerate snow during winter, and drought in the summer, resist deer and rabbit predation, and live for many years with the right care. Hidcote superior is the most cold hardy lavender surviving temperatures as low as -30 °C (-20 °F).

English lavender is the only lavender that can reliably live for several years in temperate climates that see frequent winter frosts and can grow successfully up to USDA zone 5.

Why English Lavenders are the Hardiest

English lavenders can tolerate freezing temperatures, frosts, and snow in winter without killing the plant and bloom spectacularly the next year.

This is assuming that the lavender has been prepared correctly for winter with pruning in the late summer and the clearing away of dead leaves or other sources of moisture before winter that could otherwise contribute to fungal disease.

Good pruning in the early spring and late summer to achieve a robust mound shape and structure is essential for the longevity of lavender.

Lavenders have greater resilience to the effects of winter when they are pruned into a mound as this shape effectively deflects snow or ice and prevents moisture from reaching the more vulnerable woody base for prolonged periods.

(Take a look at my article for the full checklist for how to care for lavenders through winter).

Pruning also slows down the growth of the woody base which is necessary to increase the life of lavenders.

All lavenders require the soil to be fast draining and therefore lavenders of all species mustn’t be planted in damp, water-retaining soils such as clay or boggy low-lying areas of your garden.

Non-English species (such as the Spanish, Italian, and French lavenders) are very popular with gardeners, however, they are not cold-hardy and will likely die in the first frost of winter.

For this reason, non-English lavenders are occasionally mistaken as annuals, when they are really perennial sub-shrubs that can live for many years if they receive the right care and are planted in the appropriate climate.

Non-cold hardy lavenders need to be planted in pots and taken indoors over winter in climates that receive frosts if they are to live for many years.

English lavenders will not only thrive in colder climates but are also highly drought-tolerant due to their Mediterranean heritage.

Established English lavenders will only need occasional water, if there are periods of prolonged hot weather with no rain or if they are in pots that tend to dry out quicker.

English lavender species can also tolerate more windy and exposed areas than the more delicate French, Italian, and Spanish lavenders.

English lavenders are not particularly prone to disease, however, this is true of all lavender species. The most common threat is root rot which occurs because of soil that doesn’t drain quickly enough or lavenders that are over-watered, so with some soil preparation this can be easily avoided.

Despite the name ‘English’ the English lavender is native to the hot and dry Mediterranean region of Europe which is the case for all lavenders. (They are called ‘English’ lavenders due to their ability to survive in the temperate English climate and because they have been extensively cultivated there since the 1800’s).

As lavenders are adapted to dry and even windy climates there is no lavender species that does well in areas of high humidity. Lavenders in humid areas tend to suffer from browning foliage as a result of rot, although there are some steps you can take to negate some of the effects of humidity on lavenders.

English lavenders can live in relatively rainy areas although the soil must be amended with plenty of sand so that it drains very quickly and does not retain much moisture.

English lavenders have specifically adapted to grow in the low fertility sandy soils of the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. Cultivated lavender does not require any additional fertilizer and can grow in sandy, dry, fast-draining areas that other plants would find inhospitable.

For this reason, English lavenders will grow very well in pots as they provide favorable drainage conditions.

English lavender species also tend to be reliably deer and rabbit-resistant.

The versatility of English lavenders makes them one of the easiest plants to grow in the right conditions.

Examples of Hardy English lavenders

Many varieties of English lavender come in a range of sizes. English lavenders have been enduringly popular with gardeners because of their long bloom and the characteristic strong aromatic fragrance. They are highly versatile and can be grown for low hedging, decorative use, for potpourri, or commercially for oil.

Popular Dwarf English Lavenders:

  • Hidcote Superior
  • Munstead
  • Sarah

Popular Semi-dwarf English lavenders:

  • Jean Davis
  • Hidcote blue
  • Martha Roderick

Popular Giant English Lavenders:

  • Alba
  • Hidcote Giant
  • Vera

Hidcote Superior are the best choice for compact decorative or hedge lavenders in cold climates and they are thought to be perhaps the most cold hardy variety, tolerating temperatures as low as –30 °C (-20 °F).

The Munstead and Hidcote varieties are the most common English lavender cultivars that are valued for their long-lasting flowers and intense aromas hence their popularity with gardeners.

Hidcote Giant and Vera can reach sizes as large as 40 (1 m) inches in height and 36 inches (90 cm) wide. They are commonly grown commercially in Provence France, for their oil.

For more information on the size of lavenders at full maturity take a look at my article Do Lavenders Spread?

Key Takeaways:

  • The English lavender species (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most hardy of all lavender species, able to tolerate winter frosts, snow, wind, and deer and rabbit resistance.
  • English lavenders are hardy to zone 5 and can be grown in a temperate climate.
  • The small variety Hidcote Superior can tolerate temperatures as low as -30 °C (-20 °F).
  • Non-English lavender species generally are not winter hardy and will die in the first frost of winter.
  • All lavender species will struggle to grow successfully in climates of higher humidity as they are more suited to a dryer climate.
  • English lavenders can tolerate rainfall as long as the soil has been amended with lots of sand or grit to provide the right porous soil structure so that water drains very quickly.

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