21 Drought Tolerant Lavender Varieties For Arid Desert Climates

If you are looking for some lavender that can tolerate both heat and drought, you've come to the right place! There are many different desert friendly types of lavender you can plant, depending on your location. In this article gardening expert and former lavender farmer Logan Hailey examines her favorite varieties of lavender for hot and dry desert climates.

drought tolerant lavender

If you live in a hot, dry climate, it can be challenging to find garden crops that can actually withstand your region’s harsh weather. Long periods without rain don’t leave a lot of extra water for irrigation, so thirsty perennials, delicate lettuces, quick-bolting cilantro, and wilted basil just won’t cut it.

Thankfully, lavender is specially adapted to arid climates (even the desert!) In spite of its elegant purple blooms and romantic fragrance, lavender is remarkably hardy. It can withstand — and I daresay enjoy — drought conditions and harsh summer sunshine.

Whether you’re in the Southwest, Southern California, or the Rocky Mountain plateau, lavender’s high-elevation Mediterranean roots make it the perfect herb for your arid garden. However, you have to select the right types of lavender that will thrive in this harsh environment. Let’s dig into the top lavender cultivars for hot, dry regions.

Can Lavender Grow in Dry Conditions?

Purple flowers growing in a field. They are growing on tall flower stalks, and the background is slightly blurred. The flowers are a light purple in color.
Lavender is a drought-tolerant plant that grows in desert landscapes.

Lavender is one of the most drought-tolerant herbs for your garden. In fact, it is so well-adapted to desert landscapes that Arizona gardeners use it as a scorpion repellent!

In its native Mediterranean and Middle Eastern habitat, it thrives in gravelly, rocky soils that rarely receive rainfall during the summer. It loves to bask in the heat and actually despises too much water (which can lead to root rot).

As long as lavender has enough moisture to get established as a young plant, it only requires occasional irrigation when in dry conditions.

Planting lavender with companions that also love the sun can be beneficial. Most plants that prefer the same growing conditions as lavender can help attract favorable insects that are helpful in the garden, keeping unfavorable pests out.

Will it Survive in the Desert? 

Shrubby plants blooming in the middle of the desert. The shrubs are somewhat low growing, and there is desert rock on the ground near the shrubs.
Lavender prefers to grow in bright full sun and in rocky, gravelly soils.

Lavender may look dainty and delicate, but it’s surprisingly tough. This desert-friendly perennial herb can grow in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Southern California, and even the high desert of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

Lavender loves the rocky, gravelly, alkaline soils and vibrant sunlight of these desert regions. It only requires infrequent waterings (preferably deep soaking) every few months to keep it lush during the dryest, hottest parts of the summer.

Drought Tolerant Varieties

Growing lavender in a hot, dry climate is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. This dazzling flower actually prefers drought over humidity and excess rain. Many varieties of lavendar naturally adapted to the dry heat of desert climates. With proper care, they can even withstand temperatures up to 110°F (or hotter)!

Here are the best cultivars for hot climates, plus a few tips on how to help them thrive in the dry summer:

Spanish Lavenders

Its exceptional heat tolerance and drought resistance make Spanish lavendar a popular choice for gowing in hot climates. They are the most drought-tolerant varieties of lavender. Spanish lavenders can tolerate the hot climates of most southern U.S. states, but they particularly enjoy the dry west over the humid east.

These varieties have distinctive pine-cone shaped flowers with little bracts that look like rabbit’s ears. Their scent is reminiscent of rosemary, pine, or eucalyptus, and their growth habit is perfect for dense edging borders.

‘Silver Anouk’

Bee Pollinating a Purple ‘Silver Anouk’ Flower. The flowers are blooming on top of silvery green foliage.
‘Silver Anouk’ has silvery foliage and gorgeous purple flowers.
  • Hardiness Zones: 6-10
  • Water Needs: Moderate

This compact Spanish lavender has silvery foliage and dark purple flowers with paler petal bracts. It blooms heavily in the spring and boosts an impressive disease-resistance package. A fragrant evergreen, ‘Silver Anouk’ is perfect for rock gardens, patio containers, and desert landscape accents.

It loves the full sun and happily tolerates drought. However, when grown in extreme heat or in containers, it needs a bit more water than usual. These plants can reach up to 3 feet in height.

‘Strawberry Ruffles’

Pink ‘Strawberry Ruffles’ Flower Up Close. The flower is blooming with bright pink blooms that have a somewhat purple tint to them.
This beautiful variety blooms with rose-colored spikes.
  • Hardiness Zones: 8-9
  • Water Needs: Very low

Also called Butterfly Lavender, this dazzling pink and fuschia lavender is a showstopper in ornamental landscape. It grows in a bushy, evergreen mound and blooms chubby rose-colored spikes.

Once established, ‘Strawberry Ruffles’ is quite drought tolerant. To encourage more blooms and a compact habit, give this variety a heavy spring pruning of about ⅓ of the plant’s growth.

‘Primavera’

Dark Purple Blossoms of the Primavera Lavendula Plant. It is blooming in the desert and the image is focused on the two blooms of the plants. In the out of focus background, silvery green foliage is present.
‘Primavera’ was bred to withstand hot conditions.
  • Hardiness Zones: 7-9
  • Water Needs: Very Low

This newer cultivar was bred specifically for ultra-high heat tolerance. Though it sometimes takes a break from flowering during peak southern summers, it will produce copious blooms throughout spring and fall, as well as winter in the Deep South.

Bees and butterflies are especially attracted to ‘Primavera’ lavender. This is thanks to the contrast of its deep purple spikes against aromatic green foliage. To encourage new flower growth throughout the season, trim down to half the height.

‘Ballerina’ 

Shrub with white flowers blooming in the field. You can see about forty plants, with thirty or so different white blooming flowers coming off the top in the middle of a field.
‘Ballerina’ produces wonderful purple flowers with white petals that sit on top.
  • Hardiness Zones: 8-9
  • Water Needs: Low

This bicolor lavender is as beautiful as it is hardy. The plump purple flowers are crowned with white butterfly-shaped bracts that fade to pink as they mature. It typically has three major flushes of blooms in the spring, summer, and fall.

The silver-toned foliage is extra aromatic and it thrives in poor, dry soils. It is similar to the foliage of rosemary with long, pointed leaves. ‘Ballerina’ spreads about 1 to 2 feet in each direction and enjoys a heavy pruning after its summer bloom.

‘Kew Red’

Kew Red Flower With Burgundy and Pink Petals. You can see the magenta colored flowers atop the silvery green foliage. The focus is the blooms of three of the plant stalks.
This is a unique variety has a burgundy hue with light bracts.
  • Hardiness Zones: 7-9
  • Water Needs: Low

As if the Spanish Lavender group couldn’t get any more interesting! ‘Kew Red’ lavender has a uniquely burgundy tone contrasted with light pink bracts that mature to white as the plant grows.

It’s evergreen in hot climates and tolerates long periods of drought like a champ. Ensure that ‘Kew Red’ has extra well-drained, alkaline soil and plenty of air circulation. If you want to promote shorter, sturdier flower stems, then trim back to about 50% after the peak summer bloom.

‘Otto Quast’

Purple Otto Quast Flowers Blooming in a Field. Deep purple blooms are on display atop silvery green foliage below it. The purple blooms are deep purple, and there are dozens of plant stalks in bloom.
‘Otto Quast’ blooms with purple-lilac flowers that emit a pleasant aroma.
  • Hardiness Zones: 7-9
  • Water Needs: Low to Moderate

Unlike other Spanish lavenders, ‘Otto Quast’ has distinctively fragrant flowers in addition to the aromatic leaves. It is super sturdy and fuss-free, especially when planted as a border plant or in rock gardens.

Summer heat and long droughts are no match for this royal-purple butterfly lavender. It especially loves rock gardens and sunny borders, but it needs a little extra water under extreme heat or when grown in a container.

Lavandin Hybrids

If you’re looking for a more classic plant, Lavandins are hybrid crosses between English Lavender and Portuguese Lavender. These varieties are specifically bred for their high essential oil content and elegant long-stemmed flowers. They bloom a little later than other types but tend to tolerate heat just as well.

‘Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender’

Silvery Green Foliage of ‘Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender’. The plant is not yet in bloom and only in focus is the silvery green foliage.
This shrub has gray serrated foliage and is very heat tolerant.
  • Hardiness Zones: 7-9
  • Water Needs: Low to Moderate

This dense lavender shrub has long, slender flowers that grow in deep blue to purple and gray-toothed foliage. It is extra tolerant of sunlight, heat, and droughts characteristic of arid climates.

Once established, ‘Goodwin Creek Gray’ only needs occasional water except in extreme heat. It also smells divine as a fresh or dried bouquet in the mid-summer warmth. This variety grows about 2 feet high when flowers are not present and about 3 feet when in bloom.

‘Grosso’

Violet Grosso Flowers Growing in a Large Field. There are thousands of plant stalks with blooms atop most of the stalks.
‘Grosso’ is a fairly large hybrid with dark purple flowers.
  • Hardiness Zones: 6-10
  • Water Needs: Low

Lavender known as ‘Grosso’ is a classic extra-large French hybrid variety that is extremely popular amongst lavender farmers. It has charming deep purple blooms for drying as well as culinary use.

In spite of these delicate fragrant flowers, ‘Grosso’ is tough in extreme weather. However, keep in mind that its heat tolerance only withstands the dry, arid climates of the West. It really dislikes the humidity of the Gulf Coast and becomes more prone to rot under moist conditions. Be sure this variety has at least 3 to 4 feet of space in all directions.

‘Provence’

Purple Hybrid Provence Flowers Growing in a Large Field in the Countryside. Visible behind the blooms is also a dry, desert area with brown dirt and more shrubs with deep purple flowers.
‘Provence’ is a classic type of lavender that is great for creating a hedge in the garden.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

For mass evergreen plantings and sunny, non-irrigated borders, ‘Provence’ is another perfumey classic drought tolerant lavender hedge that doesn’t mind long periods without water. In fact, it prefers to thoroughly dry out between irrigation. It enjoys the direct, hot sun of exposed slopes.

‘Provence’ lavender is known to be one of the most fragrant of the lavender varieties. Better yet, ‘Provence’ has those coveted long stems for cutting and drying in bouquets. It is also known as ‘Fat Lavender’ for its large flower heads that can reach up to 3 inches.

‘Phenomenal’

Large Bunch of Phenomenal Lavender Growing in a Sunny Field. The foliage is green, and the blooms are almost blue in color.
‘Phenomenal’ is commonly known for its 5 in flower spikes and silvery foliage.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

This drought tolerant lavender lives up to its phenomenal name: it’s hardy, heat-resistant, humidity-tolerant, and cold-hardy. You can’t find a lavender more adaptable than ‘Phenomenal’. The breathtaking color looks fabulous as a border in flower beds.

With its extra long bloom time, low water requirements, and growth through extreme heat, we love how this cultivar performs in desert climates. It’s also great for higher elevation climates because it can withstand extra cold nights.

‘Hidcote Giant’

Lilac-Colored Hidcote Giant Flowers in a Field. The stalks of the plant are in full bloom, and the flowers are a bright purple color. There are hundreds of blooms in the picture.
‘Hidcote Giant’ grows well on sandy-alkaline soil and in .
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-8
  • Water Needs: Low

Though it may not like the zone 10 heat as well as other Lavandins, ‘Hidcote Giant’ was worth including here thanks to its drought resistance and tolerance of sandy alkaline soils. These plants grow in large mounds up to 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

With their tall spikes of light to medium purple flowers, ‘Hidcote’ looks gorgeous in hedges and mass plantings. These flowers bloom abundantly and make for beautiful dried arrangements.

‘Riverina Thomas French Lavender’

Riverina Thomas French Lavender Flowers Growing Near a Road. The flowers are light purple, and foliage grows below it. The road is empty next to the blooms.
This is an incredibly fragrant variety, as it contains five times more essential oil than other types.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low to moderate

If you love the scent of lavender wafting through the summer heat, this is the variety for you! It has up to 5 times more aromatic oil than other hybrid types. Often used on commercial lavender farms, ‘Riverina Thomas’ is not technically a French lavender, but a triploid hybrid with showy blooms.

The gray-green foliage grows quickly and withstands drought exceptionally well. This cultivar will repeatedly bloom throughout summer and fall in spite of high temperatures.

‘Fat Bud French Lavender’

Fat Bud French Lavender Growing in a Large Field. The blooms are light purple, and the foliage below is deep green.
‘Fat Bud French Lavender’ blooms with fragrant flowers that attract many butterflies.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low to moderate

Technically a cousin of ‘Grosso’, ‘Fat Bud’ grows in a tidy mound with loads of chubby fragrant flowers that butterflies can’t get enough of. It does well in containers and on the dry edges of herb gardens.

This variety doesn’t mind high heat or drought but does require more attentive watering when young. In more extreme heat, the plant may need more water as well.

English Lavenders

This classic “true lavender” is native to the Mediterranean, not England. However, it has been grown for hundreds of years in Britain for culinary, herbal, and aromatherapy use. These cultivars are extra fragrant, drought resilient, and love the full sunshine.

While not as desert-hardy as Spanish lavender or their hybrid cousins, they can still withstand some dry heat. English varieties are often compared to Spanish varieties in certain climates.

‘Munstead’

Field of Blue Munstead Flowers. You can see thousands of deep violet flowers in full bloom. This variety is smaller than others, only one to two feet in height.
‘Munstead’ produces incredibly frangrant rosy-purple flowers.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

Rugged yet beautiful, this mounded drought tolerant lavender thrives in arid conditions. It has traditional pastel purple spikes that are perfect for perfumes, oils, and herbal sachets. The flowers dry really well and maintain their color, making them great for dried arrangements.

‘Munstead’ lavender can be pruned to grow low to the ground as edging or hedgerows. It loves rocky outcroppings and xeriscape installations.

‘Nana Alba’

Small White Nana Alba Flowers Up Close. You can see many flowers blooming from one single stalk.
‘Nana Alba’ is a unique variety of drought tolerant variety that blooms with delicate white flowers.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

White flowers are striking and noticeable in any desert landscape. This white lavender flowers like crazy and withstands long periods of summer heat. This particular variety is a dwarf plant, making it an excellent option for borders or edges with little maintenance.

Though it only blooms once or twice during the season, it is hardy and perennial in desert climates. It looks dazzling when swaying alongside uniquely-shaped Spanish lavender varieties.

‘Thumbelina Leigh’

Bee Pollinating Purple Thumbelina Leigh Flower. The flowers are a lighter purple color, and the bee rests atop the blooms. There are roughly five flowers in bloom with an out of focus background of green foliage.
‘Thumbelina Leigh’ attracts many pollinators, such as beed and butterflies.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low to moderate

One of the most aromatic repeat-flowering cultivars, ‘Thumbelina Leigh’ is undemanding and compact. Being a dwarf variety, it is perfect for containers and low borders.

It doesn’t mind southern summer heat. Just remember to give it a little extra water when growing in a pot. It will bloom once in the beginning of summer and should grow up to about 12 inches tall.

‘Folgate’

Row of Folgate Purple Flowers Growing in a Garden. They are shrubby mounds of purple flowers, and there are two large rows growing next to each other.
‘Folgate’ blooms with stunning blue-violet flowers.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

This hardy English lavender can withstand hot weather and cold temperatures. It spreads 2 to 3 feet in all directions and blooms fabulous iridescent flowers with blue-violet hues. ‘Folgate’ is one of the most popular cut flower varieties.

It is also the first to bloom in desert springs. ‘Folgate’ typically has a smaller second or third flush later in the season if it is given an extra dose of water after summer droughts.

‘Sentivia Blue’

Deeply Colored Sentivia Blue Flowers Up Close. The flowers are in full bloom, and each flower has several buds blooming off each stalk. The flowers are a deep violet color.
This is an insanely fragrant and colorful type of English lavender called Sentiva Blue.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

This semi-evergreen English lavender is extra aromatic and has an upright growth habit with attractive branching at the tips. The strong stems are supportive of the extra large bluish flower spikes that bloom early in the season.

It loves vibrant sunny garden borders and warm summer weather. If you are looking to plant lavendar that does well in dried arrangement, this would be an excellent option.

‘Big Time Blue’

Big Time Blue Flowers Blooming in a Large Field. The flowers are tall, and a deep violet color.
‘Big Time Blue’ produces large, purple, and very fragrant flowers that bloom about 20 inches high.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9
  • Water Needs: Low

One of the most rigorous and rugged English lavenders is ‘Big Time Blue.’ This plant is named for its abundant large flowers and its rapid growth. Plant this variety in perennial borders, hedges, or large patio pots.

The blooms are extra fragrant and rich in nectar to attract happy pollinators to your garden. We love that it begins flowering in spring and keeps up the blossoms into fall. It is also deer and rabbit resistant.

Other Drought-Hardy Varieties

Though Spanish, English, and hybrid varities are popular and have drought-tolerance, there are other lavender types that do not fall under these categories. These will do well in dry, hot climates, providing the garden with a pop of purple color and sweet aroma that is so iconic to lavender.

French Lavenders

Tall Spiked Flowers of Lavandula dentata. The flowers sit atop many stalks, and they bloom in a lighter purple color.
French lavender is considered to be native to North Africa, not France.
  • Hardiness Zones: 8-11
  • Water Needs: Low

In spite of its name, this type of lavender is not actually native to France at all. It actually thrives in the hot desert regions of northern Africa that lie south of the Mediterranean Sea (including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt). The unique silvery “toothed” foliage of this lavender variety is exceptionally adapted to these dry regions.

Queen Cleopatra was known to have used lavender to win the hearts of lovers. Egyptians also used this hardy desert herb in their mummification practices. Though not as fragrant or cold-tolerant as their English and Lavandin counterparts, the plants flower abundantly almost year round and absolutely love the heat.

Desert Lavender

Purple and White Condea emoryi Growing on a Sunny Day. The foliage below is a silvery color, and the blooms are a deep purple color.
Desert Lavender exudes an incredible aroma with a hint of honey.
  • Hardiness Zones: 8-10
  • Water Needs: Low

Not to be confused with true lavender plants (Lavandula spp.), this southwestern native plant looks like a cross between lavender and sage. Like lavender, it is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family and is often called a “bushmint.” The misnomer “desert lavender” refers to its purple flowers that smell similar to lavender, but with a tinge of honey fragrance.

These massive plants grow 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Therefore, they’re definitely not fit for a small space garden. Nonetheless, they are ideal for native plantings with little to no maintenance. Desert lavender grows wild all the way up to 3,000 feet, from the Sierra Nevadas of California to the Sonoran desert of Mexico.

Final Thoughts

It is a common misconception that lavender can’t handle the heat. This fragrant herb is actually well-adapted to the desert-like climates of the southern Mediterranean and northern Africa. Most lavender varieties are naturally resistant to both drought and heat. However, certain cultivars have been bred to be particularly resilient.

If you want to grow vigorous, aromatic lavender in an arid region, be sure to provide it with plenty of water as it gets established (especially during the first 6 months). This will help build a strong root system to withstand long dry periods later on in life.

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Non fertilized lavender growing in a field. The blowers are deep purple and appear at the top of the stalks of many of the plants.

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