(Image credit: Caroline Gauvin / Getty Images)

Diane Downey is a highly experienced landscape consultant, licensed landscape contractor, and landscape designer - she ran The Yard Fairy, an award-winning residential landscape design/build company for 10 years, holding a CA landscape contractor's license (C-27). Diane blended her passion for landscaping and the environment with a background of teaching adults, and now regularly teaches homeowner classes on rainwater capture, soil health, the use of native plants, turf removal, and efficient irrigation, both in the landscape, in the classroom and via one-to-one garden coaching sessions. Find out more at Earth Friendly Homeowner.

Lavenders are the iconic plant of drought tolerant Mediterranean climates and they grow beautifully in a wide range of Sunset zones. They provide flowers, fragrance and handsome foliage that are right at home in the water wise landscape. The flowers can be dried to create fragrant sachets and potpourri, and eaten in ice cream, cakes and as rubs for grilled meats.

Lavenders can be planted as individual focal points, in groups of 3 or 5 for filling in hillsides, or as a low informal hedge. Lavenders are bee and butterfly magnets drawing the widest range of butterflies to the garden. All thrive in full sun and well-drained soil (add organic matter to improve heavy soils).

English Lavender

English lavender or Lavendula augustifolia is the most famous variety of lavenders that is wonderful for use in perfumes, sachets and cooking. The best named selections include: "¢'Buena Vista' which gets 1 1/2' - 2' wide and tall with deep violet flowers and outstanding fragrance. "¢'Hidcote Blue' and 'Hidcote Superior' stays at 16" tall and 18" wide "¢'Thumbelina Leigh' - stays 6" high and 12" wide with bright violet blue flowers that rise 6" above foliage.

French Lavender

French lavender or Lavendula dendata typically gets 3-4ft tall and 4-6ft wide. The narrow grey green leaves have square toothed edges. Purple flowers held on short rounded spikes are topped with two 'rabbit ears'. Long bloom period, almost year round in mild-winter areas.

Goodwin Creek Grey

Lavendula 'Goodwin Creek Grey' is a hybrid with dense foliage that grows 21/2-3' high and 3-4' wide with silvery leaves that are toothed at the tips. Deep violet blue flowers year round in mild winter climates.

Lavandin or Hedge Lavender

Lavendula X intermedia 'Provence' - 2ft tall by 3ft wide with fragrant light violet flower spikes that dry well. Makes a beautiful low, easy care hedge that attracts bees and butterflies.

Spanish Lavender

Spanish lavender or Lavendula stoechas - 1 1/2ft - 3ft tall and wide with narrow grey or grey-green leaves. Small flowers are typically blackish maroon topped with two to four 'rabbit ears' in shades of pink and purple. Blooms spring to summer and will repeat if sheared. Very drought resistant. Named varieties include "¢'Lemon Leigh' with pale yellow flowers and a beautiful fragrance; ' "¢Otto Quast' has maroon blooms with red-purple 'rabbit ears' and medium green to grey-green leaves.


Go easy on the mulch - lavenders hate having wet soggy roots. No fertilizer is needed. Keep plants compact and neat by shearing back by one-third to one-half every year immediately after bloom. If a lavender plant become woody and open in center, this is typically a sign of too much water, remove a few of the oldest branches and take out more when new growth comes, otherwise replace.

Diane Downey