Difference Between Cultivar and Variety

Cultivar vs Variety

Cultivar and variety are two terms used in plant nomenclature. These two terms are often used interchangeably, though they have different meanings. Certain plants can have both, a variety and a cultivar.


The cultivar is defined as a cultivated plant which was chosen and given a unique name due to its certain useful characteristics. Usually cultivars differ from similar plants. However they still retain some features of the mother plant when propagated. The term ‘cultivar’ is derived from the word ‘cultivated verity’. When we mention the cultivar, neither it should be underlined nor italicized like the scientific nomenclature, but it should be capitalized and placed in single quotation marks. For example, ‘Mount Airy’ is the cultivar of Fothergilla gardenia. Usually cultivars are plants that have been propagated, not from seed, but from vegetative parts. Cultivars are produced, not by naturally, but by plant breeders and gardeners using cultivation methods.  Today the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) is used when naming cultivars.


Variety is defined as a naturally occurring plant form, which is different from the species. It is usually similar to its mother plant but with minor differences. Therefore, variety is used to distinguish plants with one or more defining characteristics that are grown under natural circumstances. Variety is the lowest level of plant classification and is often combined with its genus and species name. A variety of a plant is designated by the abbreviation “var” followed by the variety name in italics. For example, Rosmarinus officinalis has the variety named; Rosmarinus officinalis var. albiflorus. Unlike the cultivar, there  are no cultivation methods to grow variety.

What is the difference between Cultivar and Variety?

• The term ‘variety’ is used for botanical taxonomy, while the term’ cultivar’ is used for the products of plant breeding.

• A cultivar is intentionally bred using cultivation methods by plant breeders, whereas a variety is grown naturally without any human influence.

• The nomenclature of cultivar is deferent from that of variety. For example, cultivar is named with each word capitalized and placed in single quotation marks. In contrast, variety is named by the abbreviation “var.” followed by the variety in italics.

• Unlike the varieties, cultivars could be mutations on plants or could be hybrids of two plants.

• Cultivars usually have characteristic features, which differ from the mother plant, whereas varieties usually have the same features of the mother plant.