Lavenders are very hardy shrubs. They do have some important cultural requirements. They do not like soggy soil. They can be grown in containers or raised beds in wet climates. Lavenders also require a full sun position in the garden. Give them average water the first year, and then they will be quite draught tolerant. Before cutting the flowers, withhold water completely for the strongest oil content.
The English lavenders, or Lavandula angustifolia, are dubbed the "true lavenders." They are considered to be sub-shrubs because they develop woody stems that do not die back in winter. English lavender has 2-inch long thin gray-green leaves and long flower spikes. There is also an attractive white form named Lavandula angustifolia "Alba." The most pure variety of English lavender is "Vera." This one can be started from seed. It has tight medium-purple flowers. The oil of English lavender is said to be the best choice for aromatherapy and skin preparations. The flowers are also cut and dried for potpourri and floral arrangements. "Munstead" is a variety with very long, thin, light-purple spikes. The deepest purple flower spikes can be found on "Hidcote." This is a 1- to 2-foot plant suitable for use as a low hedge. "Buena Vista" is one of the newest varieties of English lavender. This plant is very compact with long, loose blue-purple flower spikes. It is highly favored because it blooms twice. English lavender is native to the Mediterranean regions and is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 5.
Spanish and French Lavender
Spanish lavender, or Lavandula stoechas, has an unusual purple flower. It is short and round, with a tuft of sterile bracts at the top. Spanish lavender should not be confused with French lavender. Both plants do originate in France but look very different. French lavender, or Lavandula dentata, has soft gray leaves that have indentations along the edges. French lavender has light- to medium-purple flower spikes. Both of these lavenders are more tender than the English lavenders. They are hardy to USDA Zone 8.
Spike lavender, or Lavandula latifolia, is prized for its low-growth habit. The long flower stems make up two-thirds of the plant. This makes them very accessible for cutting. Spike lavender also bears very fragrant essential oil. It grows at the lower elevations of Spain. Many of the most popular hybrids come from a cross between Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula angustifolia. This lavender is hardy to USDA Zone 8.
Lavender X Intermedia
Lavender X Intermedia is a large group of hybrid lavenders also called lavandins. They are tough plants and produce high amounts of oil. If you are interested in producing lavender oil, these plants are a good choice. Hardiness varies with the species crossed, but they are generally very hardy to USDA Zone 5.