Is Lavender an Herb, a Shrub or a Flower?
Lavender is known for its beautiful flowers, fragrance, and woody stems. It is also used for culinary purposes even though its stem appears woody, which is why some people see it as an herb and is even among the best smelling herbs to grow indoors.
So, is lavender an herb, a shrub or a flower?
The most accurate description of lavender is that it is a flowering shrub, but because it is also used for culinary and medicinal purposes some people consider lavender an herb.
What is a Lavender Plant?
Also known as Lavandula, the Lavender plant is one of the most common and oldest plants known to humankind. Not only is lavender one of the popular flowers of France, but it is also among the best plants for balcony privacy.
In the book Lavender: The Genus Lavandula, Maria Lis-Balchin notes that Lavender has been cultivated since ancient times, and studies on this plant date back to 370-285 BC, where Theophrastus and other Greek Scholars mentioned it in their writings.
The word “Lavender” is believed to have been derived from “Lavare,” a Latin word meaning “to wash.”
Lavender is a perennial plant of the mint family commonly found in the Mediterranean region, most parts of Africa, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Asia, India, and the Arabian Peninsula.
There are more than 47 species of Lavender and at least 32 of them are original species while the rest are hybrids of various species.
This plant is characterized by whorled flowers, pinnate leaves, herbaceous/woody stems, and a strong aroma.
Today, they are widely cultivated for extracting essential oils, perfume, as a culinary plant, medicine, and as an ornamental plant.
Most Lavender plants have purple flowers, but it’s possible to find some with white, pink, and blue flowers.
Common Types of Lavender
Below are some common types of Lavender you should know about.
English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Also known as ‘Munstead,’ this is one of the most popular varieties of Lavender. It features a dark purple-ish color, which also goes by the name Lavender, and green foliage.
When this Lavender eventually dies, the flowers retain the purple color, making it an excellent option for bouquets, craft, and any other DIY activity that needs beautifully colored flowers.
Spanish Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas)
This type is also sometimes referred to as Ballerina, Butterfly Lavender, or French Lavender.
It’s one of the few types of Lavender that do well in winter or mild summer. The flowers are white during the blooming season, but they turn pink or purple as the plant matures.
The flowers also have ear-shaped sprouts that may sometimes have a different color from the rest of the flowers. The Spanish Lavender is often grown for essential oils due to the fragrant leaves.
Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula Latifolia)
Also known as the Spike lavender, the Portuguese lavender is one of the types used for culinary purposes. It’s characterized by a sweet smell that attracts bees, stems with no leaves, and pale lilac flowers.
Lavandin, a cross between the Portuguese lavender and the English lavender, is considered the most fragrant lavender.
Is Lavender an Herb?
No, lavender is not an herb. To explain this, let’s first see what makes a herb a herb.
According to brittanica.com, a herb is a seed-bearing plant characterized by a soft stem instead of a woody stem.
Lavender has a woody stem. That’s why it can’t be considered an herb. But as I mentioned earlier, some people use lavender for cooking and for making medicine, which all fit the description of a culinary herb.
According to medicalnewstoday.com, lavender is widely used in dealing with anxiety, fungal infections, nausea, menstrual pain, high blood pressure, or depression.
However, they also note that its treating power is not backed by conclusive evidence, and lavender also lacks approval from FDA. Therefore, you can’t use this plant to replace prescribed medications.
Is Lavender a Flower?
Yes, lavender is a flowering plant, and its purple flowers are why they make good ornamental plants for your garden. You can even include a lavender flower in a rose flower bouquet to mix up the colors.
Is Lavender a Shrub?
Yes, lavender is a shrub. Shrubs are simply plants with a woody stem but are not as large as trees. Besides having a woody stem, shrubs are also easy to grow. And as I’m going to show you later in the article, lavender is quite easy to grow, as long as you provide the right conditions, which include correct temperature, sill, and adequate nutritional needs.
Growing a Lavender Plant – What it Requires
Below are some tips for growing Lavenders:
The Lavender plant does well in the USDA hardy zones 5 to 11. Since they are native to the Mediterranean region, lavender plants need a hot climate, and they should be planted in areas where they have access to full sun throughout the day.
If you live in a colder region, consider growing the English lavender, which tolerates colder climates. Or you can grow the lavender of your choice in containers and utilize LED lights and other artificial lighting.
Besides hot climates, lavender also needs dry soils. To make sure the soils are warmer, especially in colder regions, consider using stone mulch, which is known to retain a lot of heat and drain any excess humidity.
Mixing gravel or sand into the soil before planting also helps with maintaining heat and draining excess moisture.
Lavender also doesn’t do well in acidic soils. So, before planting, test your soil’s pH. You can make the soil less acidic using items such as lime or crushed oyster shells.
Lavender plants need ample spacing when growing. That’s why it’s advisable to leave a space equal to the height of a fully grown lavender plant (20 to 24 inches) between the plants.
Lavender is generally a low-maintenance plant. Once it’s grown, make sure you prune it regularly and water sparingly to prevent water-logging.
Best Companion Plants for Lavender
Not only do lavender plants help to beautify your garden, but they also act as natural pest control. Their fragrance is known for repelling aphids, making lavenders a great companion plant for broccoli, cabbage, and any other plants that may be affected by aphids.
Other plants you can grow alongside lavender include:
- Baby’s Breath
- Wild Indigo
Be sure to plant lavender with other plants that have the same soil and temperature requirements.
So, is lavender an herb, a shrub or a flower? Lavender is a flowering shrub that can also be used for culinary and medicinal purposes, which is why some people consider it an herb. Regardless of what you want to use it for, lavender surely makes a great addition to your garden. Even though it has been used for medicinal purposes, there’s no conclusive evidence that it does actually cure any diseases.