Rosemary vs Lavender: Differences, Similarities, and How to Tell Them Apart

Rosemary vs lavender plants

When it comes to herbs, rosemary and lavender are some of the hardest to tell apart from each other, especially when they aren’t flowering. Both have their own unique qualities, but some people find it hard to tell them apart. In this article, we will discuss the similarities and differences between rosemary vs lavender, as well as how to tell them apart in the ground. We will also explore why you might want to grow each herb in your garden!

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Lavender vs Rosemary Plant – Similarities (Why They are Difficult to Tell Apart)

Rosemary and lavender can be difficult to tell apart, especially when they aren’t flowering. A lot of this is due to them being part of the same mint family, the lamiaceae family. They are also native to the same part of the world, liking similar climates, soil, and moisture amounts.

They are both fragrant, and depending on the variety of lavender, can smell quite similar. The leaves also look a similar shape and color.

With all of these things in mind, it’s no wonder that they seem almost impossible to tell apart sometimes, especially when not flowering.

Difference Between Rosemary and Lavender

With all of those similarities in mind, there are also quite a few differences and ways to easily notice which plant you are looking at or seeing!


While the leaves and stems differ depending on which variety of lavender or rosemary you have, these tend to look almost the same. An easy comparison if you are looking at both at the same time, is that lavender is more of a blue-green, and rosemary is more of a yellow-green. The rosemary leaves are also more pointed, while the lavender’s tend to be much more rounded.

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spanish lavender
Lavender flowers
rosemary flowers
Rosemary Flowers

This is one of the easiest ways to tell rosemary and lavender apart from each other! Unfortunately, these plants don’t flower all year long, so that doesn’t help during other ties of the year. Lavender flowers will often be a light purple, and in a cone shape. Rosemary flowers tend to be more of a white or light blue, and just small flowers dotted around the plant.


Scent is the easiest way for me to differentiate between lavender and rosemary since they have two distinct scents. Rosemary has a more woodsy scent, that I always associate with potatoes (since I love eating potatoes with rosemary cooked on them, and I think of lavender as lavender sachets in drawers, essential oils, and soaps/lotions. Lavender I almost think is slightly more of an acidic smell (unless you’re looking at Spanish lavender which is more woodsy, similar to rosemary)

Growth & Size

giant rosemary bush
Rosemary bush

Another way to tell the difference between lavender and rosemary when you see it growing outside is by the size. Rosemary can grow quite a bit larger, becoming shrubs 3ft+ tall, whereas lavender will stay shorter and looks more like a small bush.

Which Should I Grow?

Now we’ve gone through rosemary vs lavender in differences and similarities, which one should you grow?

It really depends on the climate you are living in, and what you prefer! You can also grow both quite easily.

There are more varieties of lavender that can survive various winter seasons, so if you’re looking for a plant to grow outdoors all year long and live in a colder climate, choose lavender.

If you want to grow them indoors or live in a more temperate climate, then it really doesn’t matter which you pick based off how they’ll grow! Lavender is more for enjoying the scent, rosemary works much better in meals. Choose whichever one you prefer or mix it up with both!

Companion Planting

Best of all if you do decide to choose to grow lavender and rosemary, they need very similar soil, light, and temperature requirements, so you can grow them right next to each other. These plants work well as companion plants.

Keep reading about the best rosemary companion plants or lavender companion plants

In Summary

Whatever you decide, rosemary and lavender are both beautiful additions to any garden. With a few easy steps to tell them apart, you can easily enjoy each herb for its own qualities. From the smells to uses for each, rosemary and lavender are a great addition for any gardening enthusiast. So choose one or both today and enjoy!

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Looking for information specific to Colorado? Check out Naturalist Perspective!

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