The helichrysums  comprise aound 500 species which can be found in Europe, Asia and especially in Australia and South Africa; they are members of the Astraceae family.

Plant of the Month – Helichrysum petiolare

The helichrysums  comprise aound 500 species which can be found in Europe, Asia and especially in Australia and South Africa; they are members of the Astraceae family.

The name ‘helichrysum’ comes from the Greek ‘elios’ – the sun – and ‘chrysos’ – yellowy green. 
This presumably referring to the yellow or gold flowers produced by these plants, although they do bloom in other colours.

In this species ‘petiolare’ refers to the fact that the flowers bloom on long stems.

Helichrysum petiolare is native to South Africa.  It is a soft-leaved, fast growing and spreading and long-lived shrub.

It reaches a height of 50cm and a width of around 1.2m.

The scented leaves are 3 – 3.5cm in length with rounded edges.

In August and September cream-coloured flowers appear on long stems and add another dimension to the beauty of this plant.

In the wild it is found in the Cape region of South Africa, inland on the edges of forests and at the foot of the mountains.

It can stand short sharp frosts or longer periods of light frost.

It isn’t fussy about soil type but does thrive best on well-drained soil which is rich in humus.
 
Propagation is from seed or cuttings taken in autumn.

As the plant grows quickly in may need pruning from time to time to retain its shape.

The ‘Limelight’ variety instead of silvery grey leaves has yellowy green leaves.

This variety grows best in dappled shade but it isn’t as long-lived as the original plant and will rarely survive beyond two years.

We also have ‘Aurea’, ‘Sky Net’ and ‘Varigeata’ varieties in stock all of which are now used regularly in landscape design schemes.

In general this plant is used as a border plant or for colour contrast between plants with red leaves.

Other than its uses in garden design, in South Africa local people use it as a cure for colds, coughs and asthma as well as all lung problems and high blood pressure.

The leaves are burnt and the ensuing smoke inhaled to open airways and reduce pain.

The leaves applied to open wounds are also said to ward off infection.

The leaves of helichrysum and Artemisia  burnt together are a mosquito/flying insect repellent.

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