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Updated: 20 May 2022

How to grow lavender and best varieties

Lavender ticks all the boxes: it has colour, scent and is bee-friendly. Discover our best lavender varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Lavender

Lavenders have been a mainstay of our gardens for hundreds of years, loved for their scented flowers that can be dried after their finish blooming. Bees love them and they thrive in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties in the north and south of the UK over two years to see which would give us the best display and be hardy enough to get through UK winters.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Shrub

POSITION Full sun

SOIL Well-drained

How to grow lavender: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune



PLANT/PRUNEPLANTFLOWERING
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
FLOWERINGPRUNE



Best lavender varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for lavenders

Variety name Overall ratingHeight x spread (cmFlower duration Flower impact Foliage impact Shape of plant Scent Pest & disease problems Bee attraction 
50 x 90
60 x 85
50 x 90
50 x 100
60 x 90
60 x 90
65 x 80

USING THE TABLE OVERALL RATING The more stars the better. Rating ignores price and is based on: flower duration 20%; flower impact 20%, foliage impact 15%; plant shape 15%; bee attraction 10%, pest and disease problems 10%, scent 10%. Ratings given were taken during the second year of the trial. Height and spread measurements taken from trial plants grown in north London, when in full flower in the second year of the trial.

How we test lavenders

We grew three plants of 16 types of English lavender and four varieties of L. x intermedia at Capel Manor in north London and in the Winter Gardens in Glasgow Green park. They were planted in spring and we grew the plants for two years and assessed them regularly. We watered them after planting and kept the soil moist until they were established and growing well. After that we didn’t water them again, nor did we feed them.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Lavender plants grow quickly, so it’s fine to start with a 9cm-sized pot. Plant in well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun for most of the day. If you have heavy or clay soil, either improve drainage by adding plenty of well-rotted compost or some grit at the base of the planting hole, or grow lavender in pots instead using a Best Buy compost for containers. Water your plants until they’re established.

Pruning

Lavender thrives in poor soil, so there’s no need to add any feed. To keep them compact, trim lightly in either late summer or spring. Remove old flower spikes and the top 2-3cm of growth.

Don’t prune lavender into old wood that hasn’t got leaves as it won’t regrow. It’s best to replace old, woody plants. You can take heel cuttings very successfully, so there’s no need to buy a new plant if you don’t want to.

Common growing problems

Dieback

Lavender roots can rot in wet or heavy soils, so if plants start to die off in sections, check the drainage and see if it can be improved.

Rosemary beetle

Rosemary beetle can attack leaves and flowers. Damage is caused by larvae and adult beetles, and is usually seen in spring or late summer. The larvae are off-white, while the adults have iridescent green shells with purple stripes. Plants can cope with a light infestation, which can be removed by hand. A heavier infestation may need to be sprayed with an insecticide when plants are not in flower.

Read more about rosemary beetle