Lavender Cultivars: Picks for the Northern U.S.

Welcome back to Uncommon Ranch, nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Northern Michigan! I’m Michelle Anschuetz, and today we’re going to delve into the fascinating world of lavender cultivars, particularly those that thrive in the cooler climates of the Northern United States. Lavender isn’t just one-size-fits-all; the right cultivar can make a big difference in how well it grows in your garden (or not).

1. Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) Often heralded as the quintessential lavender, Lavandula angustifolia is prized for its sweet fragrance and is commonly used in essential oils and culinary applications. This species is particularly well-suited to the Northern climate due to its hardiness. Popular varieties include:

  • ‘Munstead’: This compact variety is known for its cold hardiness and early blooming. It’s a great choice for Northern gardeners looking to enjoy lavender blooms even in zones 5-9.
  • ‘Hidcote’: Famous for its deep purple flowers and silver-gray foliage, ‘Hidcote’ is a smaller variety that fits well in limited spaces and is extremely hardy, thriving in zones 5-9.

2. Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin) Hybrids of Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia, these cultivars are larger and more robust, with a longer flowering period and a stronger, more camphorous aroma. They are well-suited for creating lavender oil and dried floral arrangements. Notable cultivars include:

  • ‘Grosso’: Renowned for its high oil content and long, attractive flower spikes, ‘Grosso’ is a favorite among commercial growers and is hardy to zone 5.
  • ‘Phenomenal’: A newer variety that has gained popularity for its exceptional winter hardiness and tolerance to heat and humidity. It performs well in zones 5-9 and is noted for its vibrant flowers and strong fragrance.

3. Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender) Known for its distinctive “rabbit ears” petals atop the flower heads, Spanish lavender is more heat tolerant and less winter hardy, typically recommended for zones 7 and above. However, with proper winter protection, they can sometimes be grown in cooler climates. Examples include:

  • ‘Anouk’: This variety is popular for its unique flower shape and can be grown in zones 6-9 with some winter protection.

4. Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender) Less common but noteworthy for its high camphor content, which is ideal for certain types of aromatherapy and cleaning products. Spike lavender prefers warmer climates but can be cultivated in northern regions with specific care in zone 6-9.

Planting Tips for Northern Climates

  • Winter Protection: To help lavender survive harsh northern winters, consider mulching with gravel or sand to improve drainage and reduce root rot, and cover plants with a frost cloth during the coldest months. At the Uncommon Ranch, we use blankets to cover our crops during the cold months, typically November through April.
  • Site Selection: Always choose the sunniest, most sheltered spot in your garden. Lavender thrives with full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Proper Pruning: Northern cultivars benefit from regular pruning to maintain their shape and promote airflow, which is crucial in humid climates.

Choosing the right lavender cultivar for your Northern garden can greatly enhance your gardening success and enjoyment. Whether you’re crafting bouquets, creating essential oils, or simply enjoying the beauty and scent of lavender in your garden, there’s a cultivar that fits your needs.

Visit us at Uncommon Ranch to see these beautiful cultivars in person, or learn more at Happy lavender growing!

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