French Lavender vs Spanish Lavender: What Are The Differences?

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: September 29, 2022
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French and Spanish lavender are both stunning lavender plants known for their bright purple color and wonderful aroma. They are both evergreen herbs that are widely grown as ornamental plants. However, they have an incredibly similar appearance, and it can be difficult to tell them apart. But don’t worry, as we’ll explore everything you need to know about French lavender vs. Spanish lavender!

Comparing Spanish Lavender vs. French Lavender

Lavandula stoechas

Spanish lavender flowers are produced on the top of leafless stems.

©iStock.com/13threephotography

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Spanish LavenderFrench Lavender
SpeciesLavandula stoechasLavandula dentata
Alternative NamesTopped lavender, French lavender (UK only)Fringed lavender, butterfly lavender
OriginSpain, France, Portugal, Italy, GreeceThe Mediterranean, Atlantic islands, the Arabian peninsula
SizeHeight – 12 to 18 inches
Width – 18 to 24 inches
Height – Up to 36 inches
Width – Up to 60 inches
Flower ColorPink to purpleLilac purple
Leaves0.4 – 1.4 inches, straightNarrow, toothed edges
Flower AppearanceDense, cylindrical heads, upright petalsShort petals on narrow spikes
BloomSpring and early summerMid to late summer
Cold ToleranceZones 7 to 9Zones 8 to 9

The 4 Key Differences Between French Lavender and Spanish Lavender

The main difference between French and Spanish lavender is the appearance of their leaves. Spanish lavender has straight leaves, while French lavender has leaves with “toothed” edges. The other differences between these two lavenders include their size, the color of their flowers, when they bloom, and how well they tolerate the cold.

There is often some confusion between Spanish and French lavender because they look so similar, but this is often exacerbated by how they sometimes go by different names depending on their country. Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) tends to go by the name “French lavender” in the UK, while outside that country, it goes by Spanish lavender.

French Lavender vs. Spanish Lavender: Size

French Lavender

French lavender (

Lavandula dentata

) reaches 3 feet tall and can spread to an impressive width of 5 feet.

©iStock.com/cesarmartintovar

One of the main differences between French and Spanish lavender is their size. Spanish lavender grows to a height of between 12 and 18 inches and a width of 18 to 24 inches. However, French lavender is much larger and bushier. It reaches 3 feet tall and can spread to an impressive width of 5 feet.

French Lavender vs. Spanish Lavender: Leaves

Lavandula stoechas

Spanish lavender has straight, narrow leaves which are 0.4 to 1.4 inches long.

©iStock.com/Berezko

The most noticeable difference between French and Spanish lavender and one of the easiest ways to tell the two plants apart is the appearance of their leaves. Both are evergreen, so their leaves remain green throughout the year. Spanish lavender has straight, narrow leaves which are 0.4 to 1.4 inches long. However, French lavender has narrow leaves with toothed edges. This is where French lavender gets its scientific name, as dentata literally means “toothed.”

French Lavender vs. Spanish Lavender: Flowers

French Lavender

French lavender blooms mid to late summer and produces stunning lilac purple flowers.

©iStock.com/Tanaonte

Another difference between these two plants is the appearance of their flowers and when they appear. Spanish lavender flowers are produced on the top of leafless stems. They appear as a distinctive dense, cylindrical flowerhead topped by petals in a noticeably upright position. Spanish lavender blooms in spring and early summer with brilliant pink to purple colored flowers.

French lavender blooms mid to late summer and produces stunning lilac purple flowers. They are produced on short, narrow spikes on leafless stems. French lavender develops small flowers up the flower spike and is topped with larger petals at the top. Although this may seem somewhat similar to Spanish lavender, the noticeable difference comes in the size of the petals in the upper portion of the flower spike and the absence of the small flowers up the spike of Spanish lavender.

French Lavender vs. Spanish Lavender: Cold Tolerance

Spanish Lavender

Spanish lavender is slightly hardier than French lavender and is suited to zones 7 to 9.

©iStock.com/Esin Deniz

The final difference between Spanish and French lavender is their cold tolerance. French lavender is not particularly hardy and thrives best in zones 8 to 9. However, it needs to be protected from excessive wet weather during the winter. Spanish lavender is slightly hardier than French lavender and is suited to zones 7 to 9. Anything colder than this puts it at serious risk of dying during the winter.

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About the Author

Hannah is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, marine life, mammals, and geography. Hannah has been writing and researching animals for four years alongside running her family farm. A resident of the UK, Hannah loves riding horses and creating short stories.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Spanish and French lavender harmful to pets?

Yes, despite their pretty and colourful appearance, both Spanish and French lavender can be incredibly harmful to our furry friends. This is because they contain the substance linalool which is harmful to animals such as cats and dogs.

What are French and Spanish lavender used for?

Like all lavender plants, French and Spanish lavender produce an oil which has a wide range of uses around the world. Lavender oil is hailed for its relaxation effects and is often used to help alleviate stress and anxiety. In other places it is also used to treat minor ailments such as bug bites and stings.

Are Spanish and French lavender easy to grow?

Yes, most lavenders are easy to grow and both Spanish and French lavender are classed as being ideal plants for beginners to grow. The most important thing to remember about growing lavender is that they need well drained soil and plenty of sun for them to thrive.

Is lavender a perennial or an annual?

In most cases lavender is a perennial plant – particularly if it is in well-drained soil. This means that your lavender plant will keep growing back every year!

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