French Lavender vs English Lavender: Is There a Difference?

Written by August Croft
Updated: January 24, 2023
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While it can be extremely difficult to tell them apart at first, there are some significant differences between French lavender vs English lavender. These lavender varieties both smell amazing, but is there truly a difference between them, and are they used for the same thing? Which variety will work best in your home garden?

In this article, we will compare and contrast French lavender with English lavender so that you can fully understand the differences between them. We will go over what they look like as well as where they grow best, including their planting preferences. Plus, we’ll let you know what these two lavender varieties are typically used for too. Let’s get started!

Comparing French Lavender vs English Lavender

French Lavender vs English Lavender
English lavender plants grow slightly larger than French lavender plants.

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French LavenderEnglish Lavender
Scientific ClassificationLavandula stoechasLavandula angustifolia
DescriptionLarge shrub with green leaves and stems. The flowers are a vibrant purple shade with a bulbous section and more delicate petals at the top. The stems are more crowded and thick compared to English lavender. Averages 4-5 feet tall and wideLarge shrub with gray-green stems and leaves. Flowers are grayish purple, placed along the top of a thin stem. The flowers are delicate and made up of small clusters, rising above the leaves. Likely the lavender you picture in your head. Averages 5-6 feet tall and wide
UsesUsed in a variety of perfume and essential oil manufacturing; the most popular lavender variety used in French perfumes centuries agoUsed culinarily in teas and in essential oil production; the most popular lavender variety used in English perfumes centuries ago 
Origin and Growing PreferencesNative to the Mediterranean, particularly Spain; prefers full sun and well-draining soil, though it isn’t as long-lived or frost-hardy as English lavenderNative to the Mediterranean; prefers full sun and well-draining soil, and it may survive well in colder climates compared to French lavender
Scent and Blooming Time of YearSmells stronger than English lavender, but also more piney overall. Blooms in early summer and the flowers last until fallSmells light and clean, similarly to rosemary. Blooms in early summer and the flowers last for roughly a month

Key Differences Between French Lavender vs English Lavender

French Lavender vs English Lavender
English lavender flowers bloom at the top of a narrow, leafless stem, while French lavender has more leaves overall.

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There are a number of differences between French lavender and English lavender. For example, English lavender plants grow slightly larger than French lavender plants. The flowers of the French lavender plant smell stronger and last longer on average compared to the delicate smell of English lavender. Finally, French lavender has larger flowers compared to English lavender.

Let’s go over all of these differences in more detail now.

French Lavender vs English Lavender: Classification

While they are both technically lavender varieties, French lavender and English lavender have different classifications from one another. For example, French lavender is classified as Lavandula stoechas, while English lavender is classified as Lavandula angustifolia. While this is of course a subtle difference between the two plants, it is important to note that they are indeed different species from each other. 

French Lavender vs English Lavender: Description

French Lavender vs English Lavender
The flowers found on French lavender are much larger and bulbous compared to the delicate flowers found on English lavender.

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If you compare English lavender and French lavender side by side, it can be a bit easier to tell the differences between them. For example, the flowers found on French lavender are much larger and bulbous compared to the delicate flowers found on English lavender. In fact, English lavender flowers bloom at the top of a narrow, leafless stem, while French lavender has more leaves overall. 

When it comes to their colors, both French lavender and English lavender have a delicate purple hue to their flowers. However, English lavender is more gray overall compared to French lavender. Finally, English lavender plants grow slightly larger on average compared to French lavender plants, though both make excellent shrubs in any garden. 

French Lavender vs English Lavender: Uses

French Lavender vs English Lavender
English lavender is used culinarily more than French lavender is, given its delicate flavor and general commercial propagation.

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Given the fact that they are closely related, French lavender and English lavender are used for a variety of the same purposes. However, English lavender is used culinarily more than French lavender is, given its delicate flavor and general commercial propagation. In addition to this, French lavender was the primary plant used in French perfume production centuries ago, while English lavender was popularized by English nobles and their own preferred perfume! 

French Lavender vs English Lavender: Origin and How to Grow

There are some significant overlaps in the origin and growing behaviors of both French lavender and English lavender. Both of these sweet-smelling plants originated in the Mediterranean. French lavender is commonly known as Spanish lavender for its popularity in Spain. Given the origins of both of these plants, they enjoy full sunlight and well-draining soil, as root rot is something they suffer from frequently. However, English lavender can tolerate cold temperatures far better than French lavender, making it longer-living overall. 

French Lavender vs English Lavender: Scent and Blooms

French Lavender vs English Lavender
French lavender has a slightly stronger and pinier lavender smell compared to the delicate and subtle English lavender.

©iStock.com/Olesia Bekh

It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference in Scent between French lavender and English lavender, but there are some things to keep an eye out for. For example, French lavender has a slightly stronger and pinier lavender smell compared to the delicate and subtle English lavender. In addition to this, the blooms of the French lavender plant last far longer than the blooms found on the English lavender plant.

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french lavender field
French lavender is popular for its large shrublike growth.
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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