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Lavandula Angustifolia vs Lavandula x Intermedia: What's The Difference?

blooming lavender at wanaka lavender farm

At Wānaka Lavender Farm, guests are introduced to lavenders of different shapes, sizes and colours throughout the blooming season. You might have noticed yourself that there seems to be a wide range of lavenders with unique appearances. There are indeed close to 50 known species of the fragrant flowering herb, made up of over 450 varieties. And all of these lavender plants are part of a wider family named Lamiaceae (aka the mint family!). So, what's the difference between these varieties of lavender?

Whilst we can't go through the distinct qualities of all known lavender we can share the differences of two of our favourite kind, Lavandula Angustifolia and Lavandula x Intermedia. These are just a couple of the most common varieties that are grown all around the globe, their differences subtle but impactful on their uses. We have the two types growing gracefully in long rows at the farm, and we'd like to share the attributes of both so that you can better understand the contrasts, and the reasons for growing varieties of Angustifolia vs varieties of Intermedia.

The first thing to note is that Lavandula Angustifolia is its own species of lavender. Whereas Lavandula x Intermedia is a hybrid, a cross between Lavandula Angustifolia and Lavandula Latifolia.

Lavandula Angustifolia

Although commonly referred to as English Lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia is mainly from the Mediterranean region and is associated by many with Provence. From Portugal, through Northern Italy, to Spain and France, this type of lavender thrives in the dry air and warm sunshine. Some varieties from this species did start off in England, too.

lavandula angustifolia - true lavender watercolour drawing

The colours are deep and bright, ranging from dark purple and blue to shades of pink. And these flowers may seem like they "pop" more because they are denser than the x Intermedia, looking shorter and stubbier. The Angustifolia variety is aromatic when brushed and has a lovely sweet smelling scent. This may be because of its low camphor content; lavender with higher amounts of naturally occurring camphor don't smell as sweet.

The quality that sets Lavandula Angustifolia apart from all other varieties of lavender is that it may be used for food flavouring. Given the nickname "True Lavender", Angustifolia is a complete culinary lavender that may be used in food, drinks, baking and desserts*. This is the species to grow in your herb garden! It has many varieties within the family so you may choose the one that's most attractive to you. We grow the varieties Pacific Blue and Violet Intrigue here at the farm, and we use them in our tearoom treats.

The Angustifolia lavender are pretty hardy (zones 5-9) and can be grown well in many different countries and regions. The only requirements are: sandy soil with good drainage and a sunny spot to absorb the rays!

*Always stick to the guidelines and follow trusted recipes as lavender must be used in small doses. Please note not all manufacturers produce lavender to a food grade quality.

lavandula angustifolia/true lavender/english lavender

Lavandula x Intermedia

As mentioned, Lavandula x Intermedia is a hybrid of two species, Angustifolia and Latifolia, and is referred to as Lavandin. This crossbreed mainly originates from France and England, just like its Angustifolia side. But the Latifolia parent is native to hotter regions such as Portugal and Northern Italy.

lavandula x intermedia watercolour drawing

The colours of x Intermedia flowers can appear in a range of shades from dark violets to white. And these varieties tend to be bigger than Angustifolia, growing longer and looking spikier. The x Intermedia lavenders are highly fragrant so they are perfect if you want a welcoming, beautiful smelling garden. The plants as a whole grow more in the shape of a dome, looking a little like a hedgehog, which makes them perfect for decoration; think borders, hedging and mass planting.

Just like Angustifolia, x Intermedia needs well draining soil and a lot of sunshine! They're somewhat less hardy but still good in zones 5-9. This variety flowers later than Angustifolia, but they tend to yield more oil. For example, Grosso is in the x Intermedia family and is the variety that produces the most oil of all the lavenders. For this reason, we grow this one in bigger quantities so that we can add its aromatic oil into our carefully-crafted farm-made products.

lavandula x intermedia - a bee collecting nectar from lavender

We love both of these species of lavender at the farm and embrace their unique qualities. Guests often have differing opinions on which lavender looks prettier or smells better and it's always a delight to see people enjoying lavender and learning about the differences of the varieties.

Seen here: Lavandula x Intermedia on the left, Lavandula Angustifolia on the right.

Planning on planting some lavender? Read our Planting Lavender For Success Farm Story for some helpful tips to get you going.


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