Santolina or lavender cotton is a Mediterranean small shrub with soft, woolly, finely divided foliage, that make neat, rounded bushes. They are valuable for mass planting, ideal for knot gardens, parterres and small hedging around herb gardens etc.
A perfect plant for control freaks as it will stand any amount of clipping and shaping. They can serve as a stable element in a flowerbed, holding the border while perennials have been cut down, and annuals replaced, and are particularly effective as niche plants between rocks or flagstones. If left untrimmed they will be covered with bright yellow pompon flowers in July.
Santolinas are not fussy plants, but they do need good drainage. Other than that, they perform perfectly well under a low watering regime, and so are ideal bedding plants for dry climate gardens.
Their scent is much like lavender, but to truly appreciate santolina, you need to brush your hand lightly and slowly across the flowerheads.
Sowing: Sow in autumn or in spring
Sow at temperatures of 18 to 20°C (65 to 70°F), use a well drained soil and “just cover” with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite. Cover with a plastic cover or place container inside a plastic bag. Water from the base of the container (never water directly onto seeds) and keep the compost a little on the dry side. Germination is often irregular and slow. Do not throw away too soon.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Foliage is green in early stages. Water at soil level, not from above, and make sure they have given good drainage at all times.
Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Normally plants should be spaced 45cm (18in) apart, however for a low hedge; seedlings can stand 30 to 38cm (12 to 15in) apart.
Lavender cotton, like many other herbs enjoy warm sunny positions will grow in soil that is dry, even a little sandy. Plants are hardy to 21°C (5°F)
Plants can be cut back hard in spring to maintain their form but never trim these shrubs during cold weather, as the drastic temperatures can damage exposed branches.
Even if there wasn't a practical use for Lavender cotton, it would be an interesting and pretty herb to grow, however the foliage is excellent when used to deter moths and other insects, in sachets or hung in small bunches. Lie in drawers and under carpets, hang in closets and distribute among books.
The flowers can be dried as everlastings, and the fresh foliage and flowers can be used in cut flower arrangements. While leaves can be harvested anytime, flowers should only be picked in late summer. To preserve, dry, then store in an airtight container.
Santolina incana is an older name for Santolina chamaecyparissus.
Species of Santolina with green leaves include S. pinnata and S. rosmarinifolia (virens).
Garden Edging, Mediterranean or Gravel Garden, Knot gardens, Parterres, Small Hedges
Extremely fragrant, Santolina was predominantly utilised in the Mediterranean as a natural air freshener. It acted as an insect repellent, often gracing floors alongside other strewing herbs.
During the sixteenth century, Greek gardeners introduced this plant to British society. It was an essential component to the highly fashionable knot gardens of that era. Santolina offered a neater, more compact hedge while brightening the area with cheerful yellow blooms.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 40mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 2,500 seeds per gram Family Asteraceae Genus Santolina Species tomentosa Synonym Santolina chamaecyparissus ssp. tomentosa Common Name Lavender Cotton Other Common Names Grey Santolina Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers 2cm yellow button flowers in Summer Foliage Pale Grey/Silver. Height 60cm (24in) Spread 60cm (24in) Position Full sun Soil Well-drained/light, Chalky/alkaline, Dry, Sandy Time to Sow Sow in autumn or in spring