Santolina’s nickname “Lavender Cotton” comes from its cottony appearance with narrow leaves that resemble lavender. Its aroma is enhanced when the leaves are bruised, but handling the bruised leaves could irritate your skin. The scent is reminiscent of pine.
This small evergreen shrub comes from the western Mediterranean area and is related to chamomile and sunflowers. It can be as small as 4” and grow up to 2’ in height. It is admired for its foliage which is usually silvery-grey, but can also be green. As a bonus, it gets yellow or white flowers during the summer.
The beautiful mounds are drought-tolerant and like poor soil, making them easy to grow. Once they’re established, keep them relatively dry to avoid fungus and rot. They will root wherever their branches touch the ground, helping them to spread slowly. This works as a lovely ground-cover.
It is hardy to zone 6 and tolerant to zone 2. In the colder regions, it may not retain its foliage through the winter but if the roots survive, the plant will return. Prune the dead wood and deadhead the flowers for the best appearance.
When santolina is planted in a dry, sunny and well-ventilated area it will thrive. It is relatively disease-resistant, repels deer and attracts birds.
The dried leaves are used in sachets to repel moths from clothing. Santolina has also been used as a Bonsai plant. The plant oils have also been used for several medicinal purposes.
Overall, this is a great plant to add color, texture and a little bit of everything to your garden.