What to grow instead of Lavender in the South


Best 5 Lavender Alternatives for the South

Growing Lavender is challenging in East Texas and the Deep South in general, for multiple reasons.

Humidity, heavy clay soil that does not drain plus our hot, sweltering nights are all enemies of the much-loved lavender. Sadly, it does not like East Texas or any part of the South. However, that does not mean there are not suitable substitutes that are just as lovely and fragrant.



My top 5 plants to grow as lavender substitutes are:

Hyssop O., Nepeta, Russian Sage, Mealy cup Sage & Larkspur

Keep reading to learn why these made the list plus tips to grow them in your home garden. 

#1 Hyssopus officinalis (Hyssop) – Hyssop o. is a shrub in the mint family native to Southern Europe.

For the cut flower grower looking for a suitable alternative to lavender that can take the Texas heat this plant is #1. It thrives in the high heat and summer drought conditions of East Texas gardens.



Expect to water it about once a week during the hottest summer months (August). Locate it in full direct sun and in loose, sandy soil that drains well. A little compost around the base in late November is all the extra care it requires. The fragrance of the woody stems, blooms and leaves is similar to lavender though slightly more astringent in my opinion. It has beautiful silvery foliage and delicate purple blooms. Pollinators love this plant! Many visitors to my farm mistake it for lavender even upon close inspection. Blooms appear in early May through summer. It will last 4-7 days in arrangements with water. To dry, hang it in bundles out of direct sunlight in a hot dry shed. It is popular in fall wreaths as well as fresh bouquets.

Do not confuse Hyssopus officinalis with Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) these are two very different plants.

#2 Nepeta ~ ‘Walker’s Low’ (catmint) – This catmint variety prefers full sun with a little afternoon shade in the triple digit heat of August in East Texas. Choose a site with average soil that drains well. Nepeta, ‘Walker’s Low’ has low to average water requirements.  It will reach about 30” tall with silvery-green, aromatic foliage and blooms making it perfect for walkways. The soft lavender-blue blooms are held erect on woody stems. Excessive watering can make ‘Walker’s Low’ floppy and require staking. Its fragrance and silver green foliage make this plant a winner as a lavender substitute for Southern gardens. It makes an excellent cut flower for bouquets. This variety of Nepeta x faassenii, ‘Walker’s Low’ is not indicative of its size but is named for the garden where it was first cultivated in the Netherlands.



#3 Salvia yangii, previously identified as Perovskia atriplicifolia, ~ Russian Sage ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ this perennial prefers hot, dry climates and is cold hardy. They do not bloom as early in spring as other plants on the list; however once they begin blooming they produce all summer. The blooms are amethyst colored calyxes on a stronger stem than previous varieties of Russian Sage. Denim n’ Lace is deer resistant. Expect it to grow about 30” tall. No staking is required for the blooms.



#4 Larkspur consolida sp. Larkspur is an early spring bloomer typically available in mixed pastels. The lavender-blue blooms are slightly larger than true lavender or the other plants listed here though its beauty is unrivaled on the list. Larkspur is a true wildflower and thrives in poor soil with minimal water. It requires full sun in the early spring when it blooms in a single calyx for each plant. It’s been my experience the Texas spring weather warms up quickly in April ending its short but lovely season. I start the seed indoors in mid-January and plant my seedlings out in February. This plant also dries well.

 Are you interested in growing your wedding flowers? Learn how here!



#5 Salvia farinacea (Mealysup Sage) ~ ‘Henry Duelberg’ – Despite its delicate look, this Texas native perennial can handle our extreme weather. With royal purple-blue spikes, this native is heat and drought tolerant. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil. It cannot tolerate wet soggy locations. Expect hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to be attracted to this plant. A little interesting history of this particular variety, it was discovered at the Texas gravesite of Henry Duelberg. It has a smaller bloom than the others listed here. 



Lavender is a multipurpose plant and for your wellness and aromatherapy needs I recommend purchasing high quality lavender essential oils and organic food quality lavender buds. For fresh flower arrangements, landscaping and dried crafts the plants listed here will provide the color, style and appearance of lavender.  Hyssop O. will provide a very similar fragrance! 

Get growing and don't forget to share your blooms on Instagram. Be sure to tag your 'lavender substitute' blooms with #easttexasflowerfarm so I can celebrate your success with you!



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