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Rosemary and Lavender: 10 Key Differences that Surprise You.

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Although lavender and rosemary are two of the most popular culinary herbs, each has unique features. Learn ten main similarities and differences, their uses, and their benefits.

I live in an alpine region where rosemary and lavender grow everywhere with distinct scents. They decorate gardens and parks and even appear on the menus of restaurants. People use them in cooking, home remedies, aromatherapy, or herb gardens. So is me, implementing them daily in the kitchen and homemade beauty products. 

Flavor difference between rosemary and lavender.

Turning lavender into scented oil or salve is a great experience, as it fills the whole kitchen with the lovely scent of lavender. I often use fresh lavender to make lavender milk tea and dried to make lavender sachets that I keep in cupboards and drawers. I also love adding a rosemary sprig to my gin tonic, so having fresh rosemary on hand is essential. 

Moreover, I like to incorporate rosemary into my hair care routine. For example, I make a rosemary hair rinse, rosemary water or oil to promote hair growth and improve the overall health of my hair. Additionally, rosemary makes an excellent ingredient for beard balm, and butter for grooming.

I have been working with these herbs, growing, touching, and smelling them, which has allowed me to compile a list of things that make them unique and different.

1. Appearance: Are rosemary or lavender evergreen?

To better understand the differences in appearance, let’s see from which families these herbs are. 

Well, Rosemary and Lavender belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae), like many other popular culinary and medicinal herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, and oregano. 

In case you are confused, I compiled a list of plants that look like lavender.

Members of the Lamiaceae family are typical for their square stems, opposite leaves, and flowers arranged in spikes or whorls.

Lavender Flashcard
Lavender Flashcard

Leaves

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that can get quite large, up to about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It has deep green leaves on top and silver on the underside. Rosemary leaves are long, narrow, needle-like, thick, and waxy, with a pine-like aroma when crushed.

Lavender, on the other hand, is a flowering plant with slender foliage that is also evergreen and covered with fine, soft hairs that give them a fuzzy texture. There are more than 40 different species of lavender, including English lavender, Egyptian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and wild lavender.

Lavender leaves are usually green or grayish-green in color, and when crushed, they have a sweet, floral scent similar to the flowers.

Flowers

Medicinal Properties (lavender vs rosemary)
Rosemary Flower

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) typically produces small, tubular flowers ranging from white to pale blue or pink. The flowers grow in clusters at the end of the stems and have two lips, with the upper lip divided into two lobes and the lower lip having three lobes.

On the other hand, English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) produces larger, more showy flowers that are usually purple or blue, although some varieties may have white, pink, or yellow flowers. Lavender flowers grow in dense, cone-shaped clusters at the end of long stems, and each flower has a distinctive tubular shape with two lips, one upper and one lower.

Depending on the variety, some lavenders might have needle-like leaves, like rosemary. 

Propagation: Can You Propagate Lavender and Rosemary plant From Cuttings?
lavender Flower

Stems

While both plants have thin, square, woody stems, a well-cultivated rosemary plant can develop a thicker stem.

Scent and its Uses in Aromatherapy

They are both fragrant herbs with pleasant aromas.

Rosemary has a distinct, pine-like aroma that is strong and woody. The rosemary essential oil contains a compound called cineole, which gives it its characteristic scent. The scent of rosemary is invigorating and energizing, and it is frequently used in aromatherapy to help improve focus, memory, and concentration.

Lavender has a sweet, floral aroma that is calming and relaxing. The lavender essential oil contains compounds called linalool and linalyl acetate, which give it its characteristic scent. A few drops of Lavender oil are often used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality.

Flavor difference between rosemary and lavender.

Lavender or rosemary? Each has distinct flavors that differ.

Rosemary has a strong, woody, and slightly bitter flavor, often described as piney or resinous. The rosemary flavor is robust and complex and pairs well with meats, vegetables, and grains. In cooking, use rosemary for seasoning roasted or grilled meats, poultry, and fish, as well as in sauces, marinades, and dressings. It is also a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

This rosemary salt makes it easy to implement rosemary flavor to season meats, vegetables or air fryer roast potatoes.

Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor with subtle hints of mint and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The flavor of lavender is delicate and aromatic, and it pairs well with sweet and savory dishes. In cooking, lavender flavors desserts, such as cakes, cookies, and ice creams. It is also commonly used to infuse honey, tea, and other beverages.

making lavender oil
making lavender oil

Medicinal Properties (lavender vs rosemary)

Rosemary has a long history of uses in traditional medicine. It improves memory and concentration, relieves muscle pain and soreness, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system. 

Lavender, on the other hand, is calming and relaxing. It has been used to reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep quality, and alleviate headaches and migraines. 

Both rosemary and lavender are also used topically for various skin and hair care benefits. For example, rosemary promotes hair growth, improves scalp health, and reduces dandruff. In contrast, lavender soothes and moisturizes the skin, reduces acne and inflammation, and promotes wound healing.

Growing conditions: Can Rosemary and Lavender Grow Together Indoor?
Rosemary

Growing conditions: Can Rosemary and Lavender Grow Together Indoor?

Rosemary and lavender are popular herbs and can grow together indoors. Both herbs require bright, direct full sun and well-drained soil. Rosemary and lavender do not like too much water. Water them only sometimes and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. I water rosemary plants evenly throughout the growing season, less in the winter.

Of course, rosemary can be grown successfully in the garden too. Lavender is more adaptable to live colder climates and can grow well in USDA Zones 5-8; rosemary is hardier and can thrive in Zones 8-10. I like to grow them in containers and bring them indoors for the winter.

Both herbs are easy to grow and benefit from regular pruning to maintain shape and promote new growth. 

Lifespan: Will Rosemary and Lavender Last Years?

Propagation: Can You Propagate Lavender and Rosemary plant From Cuttings?

You can propagate both herbs from cuttings. Take about 3-4 inches of rosemary cutting from new growth in the spring or summer. Lavender cuttings in the late summer or early fall and cut them 4-6 inches long. 

Use a sharp knife and cut just below the leaf nodes. Remove the lower leaves from each cutting and place the cuttings in well-draining soil with a rooting hormone. Keep them in a warm, humid place until they develop roots.

In addition to propagating them from cuttings, they can also propagate them by division. Carefully dig up the plant and separate the root system into smaller sections. Replant each section and keep it moist until they are well established.

While it is possible to grow lavender from seeds and rosemary, it may take up to a year or two of nurturing before they are ready to be transplanted into a garden. To save time and effort, purchasing potted rosemary or lavender from your garden center is more convenient.

pot of rosemary pot of lavender
pot of rosemary pot of lavender

Lifespan: Will Rosemary and Lavender Last Years?

Lavender plants have a longer lifespan than rosemary plants and can live for up to 20 years or more with proper care.

Rosemary, on the other hand, typically lives for 4-6 years. 

Symbols

Both herbs have also been used in various spiritual and religious practices throughout history. For example, in Christianity, rosemary is associated with the Virgin Mary and is sometimes called the “holy herb.” 

In ancient Greece and Rome, rosemary was considered a symbol of remembrance and fidelity. Therefore, it was often used in wedding ceremonies and funerals to represent loyalty and memory. 

Lavender is often associated with relaxation, tranquility, and calmness. These are also reflected in lavender quotes. Its soothing aroma of lavender often promotes relaxation and stress and anxiety reduction. In some cultures, lavender is also associated with purity and cleanliness and is used in cleaning and purification rituals.

lavender milk tea
lavender milk tea

History – interesting facts

Rosemary was said to be a favorite herb of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is believed that he used to carry a vial of rosemary oil with him at all times and would often sniff it to help with concentration and memory. Rosemary became known as the “herb of remembrance” because of its association with memory and mental clarity. In addition, some stories claim Napoleon’s soldiers would put rosemary sprigs in their boots to help ease foot pain during long marches.

The name “lavender” is derived from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.” This is because lavender was commonly used to scent and freshen up bathwater in ancient times. The Romans, for example, were known to add lavender to their bathwater, which was also used in medieval times to freshen up and disinfect linens and clothes. Lavender is still widely used in soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products because of its pleasant scent and natural antibacterial properties.

Lavender strawberry jam
Lavender strawberry jam

Food pairing: Rosemary vs lavender

Rosemary and lavender are versatile herbs with strong but different aromas and flavors. While the robust rosemary flavor pairs well with meats and vegetables, the fruity lavender flavors sweet dishes and drinks.

Rosemary:

Lavender:

  • Lavender pairs well with sweet desserts like cakes, cookies, and ice cream.
  • In drinks to flavor teas, lemonades, cocktails, and other beverages.
  • Lavender can add a subtle floral flavor to fruit or mixed greens salads.
  • in French cuisine to season lamb dishes.

When cooking with rosemary and lavender, it’s important to use them sparingly, as they have intense flavors and can easily overpower a dish.

Appearance: Are rosemary or lavender evergreen? 
Vladka Merva on May 2nd, 2023

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