Santolina grey, Olive Herb Plant
(Cotton Lavender) is a compact shrub with silver-grey divided leaves and small yellow flowers that appear in Summer. Ideal in borders. The foliage, when crushed, produces a fragrance.
Santolina Grey is found within the Asteraceae family and has the botanical name Santolina chamaecyparissus. The species designation means ‘like cypress’ and refers to the resemblance of the leaves to the cypress family of plants. This plant is also known by other common names including Cotton Lavender, Lavender Cotton, Ground Cypress, Grey Cotton and French Lavender with the references to lavender being due to both the colour and the aromatic leaves. Santolina Grey is not closely related to either lavender or cypress. S. chamaecyparissus was previously named Santolina incana and is also sometimes identified by the scientific synonym Chamaecyparissus africanus.
This decorative grey plant does have a history of medicinal use. Today it is mostly grown for its ornamental value and is a great companion for roses or hedged to form borders. It is known for its great value in hot, dry regions so will do well in most Australian gardens. There are a number of cultivars that have been developed for home gardens.
Santolina Grey has aromatic leaves that may be used for flavouring soups, broths, stews, sauces, meat and fish or grain dishes. It should be used sparingly so taste is not too strong. The leaves and flowers may be harvested in summer and dried for later use.
In earlier times, Santolina Grey was used for medicinal purposes by herbal medicine practitioners. The leaves and flowers were considered to be antispasmodic, disinfectant, stimulant, vermifuge and to assist with regulating menstrual cycles. They were also crushed and used to treat insect bites and stings, relieving pain very quickly. When applied to the surface of wounds this plant would help them to heal.
Santolina Grey has many active constituent chemicals which have been shown to be useful. However the scientific research is inconclusive in regard to how effective they really are for their intended use. The concentration of chemicals within plants is often variable depending on circumstances such as amount of sun, nutrients, season, growth cycle and age of the plant. It is therefore difficult to isolate how much of any particular herb would be a useful home remedy. Santolina is rarely used as an herbal remedy today, with the main reason for growing this plant being ornamental.
However, it is worth noting that for some people the crushed leaves may cause a rash or allergic reaction
Santolina Grey may be used as an herbal tobacco substitute and when hung in wardrobes it makes a useful moth repellent. It can also be used as pot pourii and for making dried wreaths. Essential oils are made from the flowers and leaves and used in perfumery.
All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.
Planting and care
Sunlight: Santolina Grey prefers full sun and a dry, warm position. It does not do well in shade or with wet, humid and damp conditions. Overwatering will kill this plant
Soil: It prefers poor soil, which is sandy to medium loam, and well drained. This plant will do well in chalky, calcium rich soils and is wind tolerant, so maritime exposure is acceptable. Santolina Grey does not need rich soils.
Temperature: Once established it will be drought tolerant and also tolerates frost and cold temperatures to -15C.
Pruning: This is a hardy and easy to grow plant that may be hedged and pruned regularly to keep its shape. Flowers grow on two year old wood. Since they are quite small, the flowers are often prevented from growing by shearing the plant to create a hedging effect. This plant is very hardy, but may tend to be short lived. Propagation may be via seed, semi-hardwood cuttings and division in spring and summer.