Lavender Flower Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance Around the World
Only a handful of plants gain worldwide recognition and acclaim for their distinctive color and fragrance and lavender is certainly one of them. Lavender varieties stand out with purple-hued blooms, gray-green foliage, and relaxing scent, as well as for their many uses in the garden and around the home. In this article, we uncover the meaning and symbolism of these wonderful flowers and their importance around the world.
- All About the Lavender Flower
- Popular Types and Varieties of Lavender Flowers
- Lavender Flower History, Origins, and Cultural Significance
- Lavender Flowers Uses and Benefits
- Lavender Meaning and Symbolism
- How to Grow Lavender Flowers
- Lavender Flower Care Tips
- Wrap Up
All About the Lavender Flower
Lavenders are flowering plants from the Lavandula, a genus in the same botanical family as mint. They are prized for their delicate beauty and earthy floral fragrance.
These small evergreen shrubs flaunt gray-green, linear leaves covered with gray or white hairs. The dainty five-petaled flowers form clusters at the end of long spikes. Although most flowers come in varying lavender shades, some types present white, pink, purple, violet, and blue flowers.
Popular Types and Varieties of Lavender Flowers
Lavender is grown in many parts of the world because of its uses in floristry, health, beauty, aromatherapy, and more. This versatility, and the charming aesthetics, ensure these blooms continue to gain popularity more than ever.
You can also propagate lavender easily at home to multiply your collection or gift to friends and loved ones. To date, hundreds of lavender cultivars are available, but the most common types include the following:
English Lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia)
English lavender, dubbed the true lavender plant, is the most commonly grown and one of the most fragrant types of lavender plants. Renowned for its recognizable scent and the best essential oils, this Lavandula species flaunts dainty flowers in various shades. The plant grows up to three feet in height and blooms in early summer.
Best English lavender varieties to grow:
One of the most common lavender cultivars is ‘Hidcote.’ It boasts silvery-gray leaves and aromatic, dark purple-blue flowers. These famed lavenders grow up to 20 inches tall and bloom in late spring or summer.
Like Hidcote lavenders, ‘Munstead’ lavender is also famous for its strong fragrance. These plants have compact growth, silvery foliage, and violet-purple blooms. They grow up to 18 inches tall.
Other popular varieties of English lavenders include:
- Nana Alba
- Betty’s Blue
- Thumbelina Leigh
- Miss Katherine
- Little Lottie
- Royal Velvet
- Lady Ann
Spanish Lavenders (Lavandula stoechas)
Spanish lavenders, also called Butterfly lavenders, are native to North Africa and the Mediterranean. They have petals that sprout from the top of each cone-like spike of deep purple flowers.
A long-blooming lavender species, Spanish lavenders give a vibrant display of flowers throughout spring and summer. Unlike other lavender types, their flowers are not fragrant. Yet, the silver to gray-green foliage makes up for that as they are usually heavily scented.
Best Spanish lavender varieties to grow:
‘Ballerina’ is a recognized Spanish lavender cultivar. It has distinctive bulbs showcasing white flowers that eventually fade to pink and purple. The ‘Kew Red’ Spanish lavenders, on the other hand, feature crimson-violet and pale pink flower spikes.
Other popular varieties of Spanish lavenders include:
- Willow Vale
- Ann’s Purple
- Purple Ribbon
- Winter Bees
- Lutsko’s Dwarf
- Van Gogh
Hybrid Lavender or Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia)
Lavandin is a popular hybrid between English lavender and Portuguese lavender. Known for being extremely fragrant, both its foliage and clusters of blooms give off a relaxing, easily recognizable scent. It showcases beautiful flowers throughout summer in varying colors that range from creamy white to vibrant purple.
Best Lavandin varieties to grow:
Lavandin ‘Impress Purple’ is a popular cut flower choice for fresh bouquets and floral arrangements since it’s one of the most fragrant lavenders. It features dark purple flower spikes that sit atop long stems.
‘Grosso,’ sometimes called fat lavender, is another famous Lavandin variety. It has one of the strongest scents of other lavender types.
Other popular Lavandin varieties include:
- Gros Bleu
- Hidcote Giant
French Lavenders (Lavandula dentata)
Another common type of lavender is the French lavender, also known as fringed lavender. It may not be as widely grown as the other lavender species, but it is the type that produces flowers for potpourri and scented sachets.
Unlike the English lavender, it has light-scented flowers and won’t tolerate cold winters. It’s also larger, growing about 2 to 3 ft in height. The narrow and finely-toothed leaves, however, have a rosemary-like fragrance.
Best French lavender variety to grow:
- Royal Crown
Lavender Flower History, Origins, and Cultural Significance
Lavenders are native to the Mediterranean region, but some species originated from Russia, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Today they are cultivated extensively in various parts of the world, including the United States, Australia, and Europe, for ornamental purposes, culinary uses, and essential oil production.
This plant’s name comes from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash.” Some believed that the Romans had named it after lividus, meaning bluish and livid and referring to the flowers’ appearance.
Lavender Flowers Uses and Benefits
Aside from their irresistible beauty, lavender shrubs have many other uses. Most notably, they produce essential oils that have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory healing properties.
Lavender essential oils serve as a natural remedy for sleeping problems. They are effective insect repellents, too. In some households, lavender oil is dissolved in water and used to clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
On the other hand, the flowers are commonly dried and used in closets to scent clothes and repel moths. As for the Ancient Romans, the aromatic blooms work well in baths.
Lavenders are useful in the kitchen, too. Lavenders find their way into a wide range of tasty food and drinks, from lemonade to jellies, cookies, and salads.
Lavender Meaning and Symbolism
As with most well-received ornamentals, lavender flowers’ meaning and symbolism make them all more appealing and significant.
For instance, the purple-hued blooms signified devotion in Victorian times. In Europe’s Middle Ages, lavenders expressed love. The flowers are also associated with the Virgin Mary, representing purity, cleanliness, and virtue. For others, lavenders symbolize good luck and trust. Also, lavender flowers are believed to signify serenity, silence, grace, and calmness.
Lavender flowers played a crucial part in ancient Greece, too. Lavenders were considered sacred flowers and frequently used in temples and shrines as fragrances. In ancient Rome, these flowers symbolized higher social status due to their sky-high price.
Lavender Meaning & Flower Colors
Most flowers come in varied colors, but lavenders are one of the peculiar ones. Unlike the popular rose, carnations, or other highly prized flowering plants that present many color options, you often see lavender in different hues of the color purple, sometimes in cream, pink, or blue-violet.
This lavender color represents royalty, elegance, luxury, nobility, and refinement because of its purple color. This color likewise relates lavenders to the Seventh Chakra, known as the Crown Chakra. Lavenders also have spiritual meaning in some parts of the world. Thus, the flowers usually play a part in spiritual and religious rites.
Regardless of the limited color options, this beautiful flower still makes an excellent gifting flower for any occasion. With their alluring beauty and relaxing scent, lavenders are a perfect way to express care, love, and thoughtfulness to someone.
How to Grow Lavender Flowers
Knowing the growing requirements will help you achieve healthy and attractive lavender plants. Give them the right conditions and proper care, and these fragrant ornamental herbs won’t be shy to adorn your garden with their beauty. Here are a few lavender flower growing tips to help you get started.
Where to Grow
Growing lavender plants is relatively easy. They are typically planted in garden beds or as hedges, but these shrubs can also be grown in pots or containers. Planting lavenders in a flowerpot is ideal in areas with harsh winters or heavy and dense soil conditions. You can place the plants anywhere in your home, from patios to bright windowsills.
Most lavender plants grow about 1 to 3 ft tall on a multi-branched stem. They usually take two to three years to reach full maturity with maximum flower and foliage production. Flower production starts to decline when the plants are about five years old.
Whether planting in garden beds, as hedges, or in containers, lavenders grow best in fertile, well-draining soil. You can add some organic matter to heavy and dense soils to improve soil quality. Allow spacing of about 3 ft between plants, or about 1 ft if planting a hedge. If growing in containers, select large pots that measure at least 1 to 1.3 ft in diameter.
Lavender plants prefer full sun with at least eight hours of direct sunlight. However, they will still grow in partial shade with fewer flowers. If you are growing your plants indoors, place them on a sunny windowsill or any area where they can still receive direct sunlight.
Water your lavender plants thoroughly after planting to keep the soil moist. Thereafter, they are considered drought-tolerant. Water only when the soil is almost completely dry. Frequent and unnecessary irrigation may only result in root rot.
Prune lavender plants in spring or summer right after flowering. Cut back the new growth to about 1cm from the woody part of the stem. Regular pruning once or twice a year will encourage new growth and keep the plants in good shape for the next season.
Pest and Disease Considerations
Generally, pests and diseases are not a problem for lavenders. However, in some cases, like poor growing conditions, the plants suffer from root rot. Minor lavender pests include rosemary beetles and leafhoppers.
Lavender Flower Care Tips
Lavender flowers look beautiful in any floral arrangement. They’re lovely to look at, yet they are not like any other regular florist-favorite blooms. They have a wonderful versatility in that they are able to be used in fresh or dried bouquets.
Arrange fresh lavender stems for a beautiful, fragrant display, allowing them to air dry in a vase as a nice piece of home decor. Because lavender flowers dry well, you can enjoy their charm for a long time (for more see our in-depth guide to harvesting and drying lavender).
Getting the best out of your lavender cut flowers is not as tricky as it seems. One key to achieving that is harvesting them at the right stage. Pick ones that have about three-quarters open buds in each flower head. Once you have these, maximize the beauty and fragrance by following these tips:
- Pick a clean vase and fill it with about a third full of cold water.
- Trim the stems of your lavenders before placing them in the vase.
- Change the water regularly to avoid the buildup of bacteria.
- Keep the lavender cut flowers out of direct sunlight to help them last longer.
Dry the lavender flowers to preserve their beauty and fragrance. You can either arrange them in a vase without water or hang them. For the latter, make a bundle of lavender flowers and secure it with an elastic band or string. Then, hang the bundle of lavenders upside down in a dry, dark, warm spot where it can’t grow molds.
Lavender flowers continue to gain popularity in floristry, culinary, cosmetics, and aromatherapy because of their beauty and intoxicating scent. They present countless types and varieties that make it difficult for anyone to pick just one favorite.
They may not offer a broad range of colors, but lavender flowers’ meaning and symbolism make these plants a definite must-have. You can find lavender flowers almost anywhere, and you can undoubtedly grow one in your home or garden.
Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant Guides:
Looking for a particular stem or in need of some inspiration on the best blooms for a certain occasion? Check out Petal Republic’s expert guides to Roses, Edelweiss, Ranunculus, Lilies, Irises, Tulips, Orchids, Carnations, Gerbera Daisies, Gladiolus, and Peonies.
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Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.