Though both English and French lavender are part of the mint family (Labiatae), the differences between these two varieties of lavender include their range of flower colour, bloom time, size and level of hardiness.
The scientific name for English lavender is Lavandula angustifolia. It is also classified as Lavandula officinalis. The scientific name for French lavender is Lavandula stoechas.
Both lavenders have been used historically as an antibacterial agent; an expectorant, which clears mucus from the respiratory tract; an antiseptic; an antispasmodic herb; a stimulant; and a carminative relieving abdominal pain or flatulence. Both are also used in food.
English lavender is the sweetest smelling of all lavenders, according to Lavender Enchantment, and is the source of most of the lavender oil used in perfumes. This variety of lavender is also used in baked goods, vinegars and other recipes calling for lavender. The French variety is best suited as a garden plant and is noted for attracting more hummingbirds than its English cousin.
The flowers of French lavender range in colour from purple and lavender to pink and have a dense cone shape. The flowers of English lavender range from blue to lavender and purple. They form clusters of airy, budlike blooms on tall stems.
French lavender blooms from early spring or early summer until late summer. English lavender blooms from midsummer until late summer or early fall. In areas with warmer climates, French lavender has a longer bloom time than English lavender, and it could bloom nearly year-round in a greenhouse environment, notes Lavender Enchantment.
In the United States, English lavender is found in Vermont and New York, while French lavender is found in California.