Silver foliage has long been considered a valuable mixer in any flower border. There are few boring silver-leaved plants, the foliage, in addition to its lovely light silveriness, is usually endowed with interesting shapes or textures, providing contrast among green-leafed plants.
Silver foliage also enhances the visual appeal of flowers, brightening pastel colours while softening more vibrant colour schemes. Repeated groupings of silver plants throughout a border is an easy and effective method of unifying a planting scheme.
Silver leaves usually belong to plants that love sun and good drainage. Artemisia, Stachys, Lychnis and Lavender - they all glitter in a sunny border, and indeed the physical properties of the leaves which make them lustrous are normally a protection for the plant against extremes of sunlight, wind, heat and drought.
Helichrysum italicum is an easy to care for silver-leaved, hardy perennial. An evergreen subshrub growing to 60cm tall by 90cm wide (24 by 36in) when mature. Clusters of yellow flowers are produced in summer, they retain their colour after picking and are useful in dried flower arrangements.
The plants prefer a sunny position in light, well-draining soil and will thrive in rock gardens and xeriscapes but can cope with semi-shade, poor soils and somewhat heavier soils. They are drought-tolerant once established and hardy to minus 10°C (15°F). The plants provide contrast amongst green leaved plants and can be grown as a low hedge
Helichrysum italicum is commonly known as the Curry Plant, though it has nothing to do with the familiar spice it has a resinous aroma perhaps more reminiscent of sage or wormwood. And, though the leaves and flowers are edible, they are not routinely used for cooking.
Used more for its ornamental appeal and more significantly, Helichrysum italicum is the primary source of the rather famous, expensive and uplifting essential oil widely used in perfumery and aromatherapy.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Helichrysum italicum has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Early to late spring
Seeds require light for germination, they should be sown on the surface and not be covered.
Fill individual pots or trays with well drained seed compost. Moisten by standing the container in water, then drain. Sow the seeds thinly on the surface of the compost, pressing lightly into the compost to secure them. They will germinate in 14 days at 18 to 26°C (65 to 75°F).
Keep the compost moist by watering from the base of the container, never directly on top of the seeds. Once seedlings have their first true leaves, prick out and transplant to individual 7.5cm (3in) pots to grow on.
Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out, 1 to 2 weeks after the last expected frosts. Space 25 to 38cm (10 to 15in) apart.
Choose a position with a well-drained soil that is moist. They should be exposed to the sun half the day or more. They will tolerate drought and do well in dry, infertile soils. Plant 25 to 38cm (10 to 15in) apart. Prune the plants once or twice a year to keep them compact.
Normally a dusty grey, new flushes of growth in spring take on a greener appearance. Curry Plant looks very similar to a Lavender in its early leaf stage.
Native to the Mediterranean, it thrives on sunny slopes, the plants adore warm and dry conditions and prosper during hot summers. They are not tolerant of full shade and high humidity or continual damp may cause stem rot.
The plants have a resinous aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood which can be intense, so plant in a position where you can enjoy the aroma without it overpowering other fragrances in your garden.
Clusters of yellow flowers on tall white stems are produced in summer, they retain their colour after picking and can be used in dried flower arrangements. Pick when foliage is quite dry and the flowers are well open, tie in small bunches and hang upside down in a dry, well ventilated place until dry.
Helichrysum italicum plants are sometimes used as a spice. Although called The Curry Plant, it has nothing whatsoever to do with this mixture of spices, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii). Rather, it has a resinous aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood and is used like these herbs: the young shoots and leaves are stewed in Mediterranean meat, fish or vegetable dishes until they have imparted their flavour, and are removed before serving.
The taste of the small flowers has been likened to blue cheese. Both flowers and leaves are potent so use only a very small amount.
Helichrysum italicum species exhibit interesting biological activities that seem to be due to the large diversity of its chemical contents.
Helichrysum italicum produces an oil from its blossoms which is the primary source of a rather famous, expensive and uplifting Helichrysum Essential Oil widely used in perfumery and aromatherapy.
Dilute essential oil is used therapeutically, with similar activity to the herb Arnica, to heal bruises and swellings. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent and is used in treating skin problems such as acne or psoriasis, as well as burns, abrasions and wounds. Decoctions of flowering tops are also used for fumigations in the treatment of asthma.
The plant is known to possess several biological properties, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-viral activities, as well as preventive effects against insects including mosquitoes.
The genus Helichrysum consists of an estimated 600 species, Native to Africa (with 244 species in South Africa), Madagascar, Australasia and Eurasia. The species may be annuals, herbaceous perennials or shrubs, growing to a height of 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in). Several species are grown as ornamental plants, and for dried flowers.
Helichrysum italicum is native to the Mediterranean. Growing at a wide range of altitudes from the sea level up to 1700 m, preferably on sandy or loamy soils. Almost 25 species are native of Mediterranean area and the most widespread species is Helichrysum italicum.
It is cultivated in Italy, the Balkans, Spain and France.
The genus name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek words helisso meaning to turn around and chrysos meaning gold. Referring to the colour of the flowers of the species.
The species name italicum means ‘of or from Italy’. In some areas this species is referred to as the Italian Helichrysum. The old species name angustifolium means 'having narrow foliage'.
Commonly called The Curry Plant, Helichrysum italicum is a highly aromatic plant, the leaves when cut have a resinous aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood that is said to be similar to curry.
Formerly called Helichrysum angustifolium. It has the synonym Helichrysum serotinum
The genus Helichrysum is described as the 'everlasting' plants because several of its species serve well as dried cut flowers if harvested before the blooms fully open. Helichrysum italicum, the perennial sub-shrub is related to the very popular annual flower Helichrysum bracteatum, the Strawflower, Immortelle or Everlasting.
It seems illustrators, and even some purveyors of Curry Plant oil, tend to confuse this form of Helichrysum with the Strawflower. They even confuse the common names of Strawflower, Immortelle and Everlasting with Curry Plant. These names apply to the beautiful Strawflower but certainly don't describe the wispy H. italicum.
Another common misconception is that Curry Plant is the rare tropical tree Murraya koenigii whose leaves are used in curries.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10mg Average Seed Count 130 Seeds Family Asteraceae Genus Helichrysum Species italicum Synonym Formerly Helichrysum angustifolium, Syn: Helichrysum serotinum Common Name Italian Helichrysum, The Curry Plant Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 10°C (15°F). Flowers Clusters of yellow flowers Natural Flower Time June to August Foliage Pale Grey/Silver. Height 60cm (24in) Spread 90cm (36in) Position Full sun Soil Well-drained/light, Dry, Sandy