Lavender is a stunning flowering herb that is native to the dry, hot Mediterranean region. It’s well-known for having a gentle scent with delicate purple flowers that appear during the warmer summer months. It can lend an air of refinement to your spacy, but this is a very picky plant that can be a challenge to grow because it’s very prone to developing issues with root rot. So, are there any plants that look like lavender you can swap out instead?
The answer is yes, there are several plants that look like lavender, and most of them are much easier to grow. If you’ve had problems in the past with keeping lavender alive, consider growing one of the eight plants that look like lavender we’ll outline below.
What Lavender Looks Like
Lavender is a herbaceous perennial flowering shrub that produces tall purple flowers with eye-catching greenish-gray foliage. It’s very fragrant, and it’s well-suited to grow in more adverse conditions where several other flowering plants will die. Because lavender is both hardy and pretty, it’s a longtime favorite plant to add with professional herb gardens or as a specimen plant.
There are currently over 450 lavender species available, and the French and English cultivars are the most popular options. In ideal conditions, this shrub can live more than 10 years, and the stems will get woodier as the years pass. Mature plants usually measure two feet wide by three feet tall, but you can prune them back to a much more manageable size.
You can easily grow lavender in containers as part of your balcony herb garden, or you can plant it in rows of hedges to get a very dramatic effect. Because it loves soil that drains well, it thrives in pots. When you grow it as accent plants on decks or porches, it can easily draw attention for pollinators, including butterflies and bees.
Ideal Growing Conditions
The sprays of graceful flowers lavender produces may trick you into thinking that this shrub requires a huge amount of maintenance to keep it happy, but it can thrive on its own once it’s established just fine. You need to give your lavender everything it needs to grow and then let it go by itself without fussing over it.
You want to plant your lavender in sandy soil in a place that gets full sun. It likes to get water once every other week or so, and you want to ensure that you allow the soil to dry out completely. It also needs to go in a well-ventilated area to help reduce the humidity around it. These are the biggest points to hit when it comes to growing lavender and keeping the plant healthy.
It can also grow in arid climates where other plants struggle since it’s a plant that does well with neglect. It’s okay for beginner gardeners, but it can be finicky and difficult to get to thrive. Growing it is an elusive task, even for experienced gardeners. This is why some people are looking at plants that look like lavender instead of the real deal.
8 Plants the Look Like Lavender
Since lavender can be difficult, these eight plants that look like lavender are all great options. They’re hardy, tough, and very pretty plants that look wonderful in various settings. You can plant them with lavender or instead of lavender to get a great foliage show with flowers that are great for attracting pollinators.
The basil cultivar that is most similar looks-wise to lavender is Holy Basil, and you may hear it called Tulsi or perennial basil by some cultures. This plant that looks like lavender is a very important herb in Indian culture, and it’s very prominently used in religious ceremonies. Just like lavender, this is a very aromatic plant that draws a large amount of bees to the mauve flower spikes when it blooms. The leaves can be purple or green. Although you don’t use it nearly as much as you do sweet basil for cooking, you can chop the leaves up and use them in pesto or sauces with other herb mixes.
Holy basil is a great garden plant that repels a host of pests like flies, aphids, and mites while helping to improve the flavor of vegetables and fruits you plant next to it. Unlike other plants that look like lavender on the list, thi isn’t a cold-hardy one. Actually, it grows best in subtropical or tropical climates, and if you live outside of these regions, you can grow it as a houseplant.
Growing Tips for Basil
Although hoy basil demands a sunny spot in your garden, it can survive in a space that gets a bit of dappled shade. You also want to take steps to shelter it from the wind. Put it in soil that is well-composted and has excellent drainage while making a point to water regularly.
Unlike traditional lavender, perennial basil cultivars require plenty of water. They also need you to add fertilizer rich in potassium once a month to ensure the flowers and leaves stay healthy. You want to cut off dead flowers to encourage new flower growth and pinch out the growing tips to ensure you get a bushier growth habit. To keep the shrub neat and compact, you want to prune it just before spring and into midsummer. Only prune it back to semi-hardwood and not to the hardwood. Take cuttings at any time and place them in a glass of water until they root to get more plants.
Catmint is a pretty herbaceous perennial that grows in conditions very similar to lavender. It’s also one plant that looks like lavender that is very drought-tolerant. The plant produces greenish-gray leaves with a heart shape and sturdy stems with lavender-colored flower spikes when it blooms. The genus name is Nepeta, and this references the village of Nepi that is north of Rome in Italy. There are roughly 250 species in this genus, and they’re native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. They grow best placed in well-draining soil in pots or beds in zones four to eight, or as a foundation plant.
Catmint and catnip are two plants people confuse a lot. Although they fall into the same mint family, they are different plants. Catmint has a very similar growth habit when compared to lavender with mauve-tinted flowers, and catnip is not nearly as neat and comes with white flowers. Cats enjoy eating catmint, but they don’t flock to it like they do catnip. The flowers on this plant are used to make a tea that has a calming effect with a slightly minty flavor profile and a sweet fragrance that helps enhance sauces and soup tastes.
Growing Tips for Catmint
Grow this plant that looks like lavender in a sunny spot and plant it in the fall or spring to get the best results possible. You want to space them at least 12 inches apart to avoid overcrowding. Enrich the soil with organic matter before you plant it and water it well while it establishes itself. As this plant grows, it’ll be very heat and drought-tolerant and not need much fertilizer or water. Prune off faded blooms to encourage more flower growth during the summer. Cut it back heavily during the fall months when the plants die back to set it up for vigorous growth during the spring. Thin it out if it gets too crowded or grows too vigorously.
LIke the lavender plant, Hyssop is a perennial that falls into the sage and mint family with mostly perennial aromatic herbs. It has several similarities to traditional lavender. In particular, the leaf shade is very similar but it has a greener color profile than lavender. During summer, it produces whorls of small flowers in pink, blue-violet, and sometimes white on the ends of the plant’s woody, long stems. Although they have similar growing patterns and flowers, hyssop comes from the Hyssopus genus. True hyssop has medicinal benefits that the other does not offer. The biggest difference between the two is leaf shape as true hyssop has more lavender-like leaves. It’s used to help with liver conditions, intestinal problems, and respiratory issues.
You can add the fresh, young leaves in soups, salads, and stews. It’s also reported to reduce how rich some fatty foods are. This is a very compact plant that does well in garden beds as a companion plant with other herbs. It’s a great pollinator plant and it will grow well in containers if you get a large enough pot to accommodate the plant’s big root system. While lavender grows best planted in zones five to eight, hyssop can tolerate colder conditions and doesn’t need protection in winter while it grows in zones 3 to 11. It gets roughly 12 inches wide and 25 inches tall.
Growing Tips for Hyssop
Hyssop will grow well in partial shade to full sun, and it needs a well-draining soil that you enrich with organic matter. It also prefers slightly drier conditions and it needs minimal watering once it establishes. You can divide the plants in the fall, and you can collect the seeds and store them when the seed capsules are 100% dry to use next spring. Prune your plants heavily in the spring and again after they flower to keep the bushy growth habit. Feed them once a month with an organic fertilizer during the active growing season in spring and summer to get the most flowers.
4. Meadow Sage
This is a member of the mint family, and this plant that looks like lavender has about 750 species of flowering plants in the Lamiaceae family. The name sage derives from the Latin word salvere, and this means “to save.” This refers to sage’s healing properties. Meadow sage is a perennial herb that grows roughly two feet tall at full maturity, and the leaves have an oblong shape and get roughly two inches long. The flowers are purple, pink, or whtie, and they grow in large spikes. It’s a plant that is native to Europe, but it has since naturalized to North America. It prefers to have well-drained soil and full sun.
Sage is an extremely versatile plant, and you can use it dried or fresh for cooking. It’s also popular for use as incense and cosmetics. Sage has a long history of use in spiritual practices and magic, and it’s considered an evergreen plant that will keep the leaves all year-round. In colder climates, this plant that looks like lavender has leaves that will turn bronze or brown, but they’ll green up again in the spring months.
Growing Tips for Meadow Sage
Meadow sage prefers an area with full sun, and you want to ensure that it gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day to get stronger blooms. Most varieties can tolerate a partially shaded space, but they’ll show fewer flowers and less dense growth if you do. They do well in virtually any garden soil, and they’re extremely drought-resistant. It will tolerate poor soil conditions and drought, but consistent water will get you stronger growth. You want to plant it in the spring after you prepare the garden bed.
A good rule for watering this plant that looks like lavender is to give it roughly an inch of water every 7 to 10 days. You want to include any rainfall in this count. Applying water right at the soil level is best, and you can do this using a soaker hose.
5. Pitcher Sage
As another member of the mint family, this plant that looks like lavender is a herb with grayish-green or pale green leaves that are covered in tiny hairs. The flowers on this plant can be white, sky blue, lavender, or pale pink with petals that also have fine hairs covering them. The leaves, stem, and flowers all have a very pleasant scent that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s a perennial plant that can get between three and five feet tall. It blooms from the middle of summer up until the fall, and it likes well-drained soil with full sun.
Growing Tips for Pitcher Sage
Plant it in an area that gets full sun to partial shade in shallow or sandy-rocky soil. It prefers moist soil as long as it gets excellent drainage, and it can tolerate short droughts. Flowers show up from midsummer into fall to give you long-lasting interest. Cut the stems back by half in the late spring months to promote more compact and fuller growth because the stems can flop over under the flower’s weight. This happens very often in organically rich soil. It’s resistant to deer, and you can propagate it using division or by seed. It’s a native that works very well in the middle of perennial borders, open meadows, or prairie gardens. You can tuck it into a rock garden too.
Pitcher Sage by Bri Weldon / CC BY 2.0
6. Purple Salvias
Inside of the Lamiaceae family, the biggest genus is Saliva with nearly 1,000 species. Like lavender, most salvias are herbaceous perennials that fall into the mint category. One plant that looks like lavender is Salvia officinalis, and it has gray foliage with purplish-blue flowers. This plant is native to the Mediterranean area, and it has a long list of medicinal and culinary uses.
The Salvia lavandulifolia is the most similar to lavender type there is. It has a compact growth habit with narrow greenish-gray leaves and blue flowers during the summer. Different cultivars vary in size, and they have different colored leaves in different shapes. The flowers are pink or lavender, or they can be a deep purple to white. Some are frost and cold-hardy while others prefer more tropical climates.
Growing Tips for Purple Salvias
Pick out a sunny spot that has well-draining soil with a rich organic matter like compost mixed in. Once this plant establishes, it’s a drought and heat-tolerant one. Deadheading and regular feeding will enhance how it looks. At the end of the season, let this plant set seed and prune it back to the woody stems. Divide it in the springtime every few years to encourage new growth, and apply a thicker layer of compost to give the active growing period a welcome boost.
Another very tough herb with several cultivars available is rosemary, and this plant that looks like lavender has very needle-like and thin leaves that grow on gray stems. In spring and winter, it produces bluish-purple flowers in clusters on the taller stems. Rosemary comes from the Mediterranean region, just like lavender, and the Latin name is roughly translated to mean the Dew of the Sea in English.
One rosemary establishes in the garden, it doesn’t require much water, mind the cold or heat, and it doesn’t grow too quickly. It’s one of the most carefree plants you can get, and it’s a very popular herb in the kitchen. It makes great herbal skewers for vegetables and meat, and it goes well with lamb and chicken or to add flavor to roasted vegetables. It also has medicinal uses, and it is supposed to help lower your stress levels, improve your concentration, and improve your memory. Also, should you brush past it in the garden, it releases a very pleasant fragrance, just like lavender. For this reason, it’s popular to plant alongside pathways. They also have the same growing requirements, and it does well in the ground or in containers in zones 8 to 11. It doesn’t appreciate colder temperatures and it needs winter protection, but there are cold-tolerant varieties available.
Growing Tips for Rosemary
Plant your rosemary in full sun in a well-draining soil for the best growth. They like poor soil conditions, and they will generally grow in any soil type. As the name suggests, rosemary does very well planted along the coast in the salty air. Unless you trim it regularly and use it as a hedge, it will need a good pruning session after it flowers in the spring to keep it looking neat. It can get up to six feet tall and wide, and it needs space to grow. It attracts pollinators, and as a plant, it’s almost disease free. The leaves also work to repel insects, and this makes it a great companion plant for carrots.
8. Russian Sage
Out of every plant on the list that looks like lavender, this one is the closest match by far. Like lavender, this plant has a clump-forming growth habit, and it’s a perennial with grayish-green foliage, long spikes of small mauve flowers, and white stems. It does down in the winter to avoid frost damage, and it grows each spring to reach four or five feet high at full maturity. You can use this plant as a replacement for lavender in a garden or along a pathway or in a flower bed as a border. It’s a highly aromatic plant with leaves that work to repel pests like whitefly, aphids, and cabbage worms when you plant it in your vegetable garden.
Russian sage is very useful as a pollinator plant, and it has a tolerance for salt that makes it great for coastal gardens. It’s hardy in zones 5 to 10, and it’s a very drought-tolerant plant once it establishes. However, Russian sage isn’t considered to be true sage because it doesn’t belong to the Salvia genus. It also doesn’t originate in Russia as it’s native to Afghanistan. You can also find it growing in Pakistan, Iran, and Tibet. This plant has very similar uses to household lavender, and you can dry the flowers and use them in potpourri or use the fresh flowers to garnish salads and desserts. The leaves aren’t edible, but you can use them to repel insects and keep away ants, fleas, and ticks.
Growing Tips for Russian Sage
Russian sage requires a sunny spot in a well-composted soil that drains very quickly. Plants in areas with too much shade get leggy. You should water regularly when you’re establishing new plants while being careful to not overwater later. In spring when the new leaves pop up, cut back your old stems to the lowest set of leaves. Pruning your plants that look like lavender to keep them neat in the summer and keep their shape helps to promote upright growth. It also encourages more flowers and more growth. You can divide them in the spring to get more plants, and you can take cuttings in the spring, dip them in rooting hormone, and plant them when roots appear.
Deciding Which Plant that Looks Like Lavender is Best
Growing plants that look like lavender can be easier for you than growing actual lavender. But, you don’t want to go out and try it without thinking it through so you don’t set yourself up for failure. So, before you pick out your lavender alternative, you want to walk around your space and do a little observing.
Start by deciding on where you want to plant your plant that looks like lavender. Look at the growing conditions in this area. How much light will the plant have access to? Is the space in partial shade or full sun? What is the soil like? It is acidic and sandy or is it neutral to alkaline and loamy? Make sure to take note of your garden specs so you can keep them in mind when you start shopping for the perfect plant that looks like lavender. This will help increase your chances of success.
You may or may not excel when it comes to growing lavender, but this doesn’t mean you have to reorganize your landscape plan. By picking out plants that look like lavender that are easier to grow, you’ll be able to take your backyard and transform it into a space full of purple flowers with soft fragrances that attract butterflies and bees.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.