How to Plant and Grow Lavender Cotton

This attractive plant is great for creating low hedges.

A rugged Mediterranean herb, lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is grown for its attractive silver foliage. The name is deceiving, though, because the plant is neither lavender nor cotton. It's often found growing in rock gardens and formal knot gardens because it stands up well to frequent trimming.

The silver foliage of lavender cotton makes an excellent backdrop for other flowers. The delicate toothed leaves of this plant have a pungent aroma that can be likened to a strong oregano or woody camphor scent. The pungent aroma repels rabbits and deer.

In midsummer, this shrubby plant is topped with buttonlike yellow blossoms that some gardeners think detract from the overall appeal. Lavender cotton may not bloom in areas where it is borderline hardy.

Lavender Cotton Overview

Genus Name Santolina
Common Name Lavender Cotton
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Layering, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Lavender Cotton

When planting lavender cotton, consider its native Mediterranean climate. It enjoys full sun and well-drained and gritty soil and doesn't tolerate excessive moisture.

If you aren't planting a formal knot garden (where lavender cotton excels), use it in rock gardens or at the front of borders. It makes a fine low hedge, can be shaped as a topiary, and is a useful xeriscaping plant.

How and When to Plant Lavender Cotton

Lavender cotton is readily available as nursery-grown plants. Choose a well-draining planting area, but don't add compost to improve the drainage. Compost makes soil more acidic, while lavender cotton prefers slightly alkaline soil. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same height as the nursery container. Settle the new plant in the soil at the same depth it was in the nursery container. Backfill the hole, pressing down with your hands to prevent air bubbles. When planting multiple plants, space them 3 feet apart.

In cool areas, plant lavender cotton plants in spring so they have time to become established before winter. In temperate areas, plant lavender cotton in spring or fall.

Lavender cotton seeds can be started inside before the last spring frost for later transplanting into the garden.

Lavender Cotton Care Tips

Lavender cotton is a low-maintenance plant when its basic needs are met.


Lavender cotton grows best in full sun, which encourages the best color foliage and most compact habit. Give lavender cotton as much sun as possible, as it flourishes in hot and dry summer weather. Although it can tolerate part shade, the plants require more maintenance because part shade encourages floppiness and a more open, sprawling habit.

Soil and Water

In addition to being well-draining, soil for lavender cotton should be nutrient-poor; rich soil makes plants floppy and weak-wooded. Like many other Mediterranean plants, lavender cotton prefers alkaline soil over acidic soil.

This drought-tolerant plant prefers dry to medium-dry soil. During their first year, give young plants an inch of water a week. After that, water established plants twice a month if there is little rain.

Temperature and Humidity

Lavender cotton plants thrive in warm, dry areas with temperatures in the 65°F-80°F range. They tolerate summer temperatures up to 95°F and cold temperatures to 15°F for short periods.


Fertilizer isn't necessary for lavender cotton plants. They prefer poor, rocky soil.


One of the many reasons gardeners grow lavender cotton is its tolerance for repeated shearing, which makes it an excellent option for topiaries and hedges. Even when not growing in a formal garden, this plant benefits from occasional trims to keep looking neat and healthy.

Potting and Repotting Lavender Cotten

Small lavender cotton plants or seedlings can grow in containers with good drainage as houseplants. Choose a container larger than the plant's root ball and fill it with potting mix. Carefully loosen the plant's roots with your hands before planting it. Keep the container and plant in a warm, well-lit spot, such as a south or east-facing window. Water it once a week. As the plant grows, transplant it to a larger container as needed.

Pests and Problems

Lavender cotton plants are almost pest free. The oils in the foliage keep away deer and rabbits.

Areas with cool temperatures and humid weather can cause fungal problems, as can overwatering the plant. Lavender cotton doesn't like wet winters and is likely to suffer or die from root rot or crown rot in these conditions.

How to Propagate Lavender Cotton

Lavender cotton is easy to start from cuttings, seeds, or by layering.

Layering: Pull down a low branch and shallowly bury a section of it in the soil with both ends exposed, weighing it down with a rock if needed to hold it in place. After a few weeks, roots will develop. At this time, sever the branch to remove the rooted part from the main plant and plant the rooted cutting in a new area.

Seed: Prepare a seed flat by filling it with moist vermiculite eight weeks before the last spring frost. Press the seeds into the planting medium, lightly dusting them with fine vermiculite, but don't cover them. They require light to germinate. Place the seed flat in an area where it receives a steady 68°F and water it sparingly. Germination occurs one to three weeks later. Transplant to the garden after the last spring frost.

Cuttings: Take stem cuttings no longer than 3 inches from fresh growth during warm months. Stems that are brown are too old to root successfully. Remove the foliage from the bottom two-thirds of the cutting, leaving the tip intact. Fill a seed flat or small container with moistened perlite or a mix of perlite and compost. Make a small hole in the perlite for each cutting. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone, insert them into the planting medium and firm it around them. Water the container sparingly and put it in a sheltered area away from the sun and wind. After that, water it only when the planting medium is dry to the touch. Too much water causes the cuttings to rot. It takes two to three months for the cuttings to root.

Types of Lavender Cotton

Gray Santolina

Gray santolina Santolina chaemacyparissus
Denny Schrock

Santolina chaemacyparissus, gray santolina, also known as lavender cotton, is named for its soft, silvery-gray foliage that forms a mound up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The plant can be sheared to keep it more compact. It bears buttonlike yellow blooms in early summer. These can be sheared back after bloom to keep the plant tidy. Zones 6-9

Green Santolina

Green santolina
Denny Schrock

Santolina rosmarinifolia is called green lavender cotton and formerly was classified as Santolina virens. The plant has fine-texture, fragrant, medium-green foliage and grows 1-2 feet tall. In spring, it bears buttonlike yellow flowers. It is a good choice for rock gardens and herbal knot gardens. Avoid overwatering it to prevent the stems from flopping open in midsummer. Zones 7-9

Dwarf Lavender Cotton

Santolina chaemacyparissus 'Nana' is a dwarf form of lavender cotton. It grows to only 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide. The silver-gray foliage is fragrant and covered with bright, golden-yellow globe-shaped flowers in summer. 'Nana' is longer-lived than other lavender cotton cultivars. Zone 6-9

Lavender Cotton Companion Plants


purple coneflower
Greg Ryan

Purple coneflower is so easy to grow and draws so many birds and butterflies that you must grow it if you have room. Valued for its large, sturdy daisylike flowers with drooping petals, this prairie native spreads easily in good soil and full sun. It is bothered by few pests or diseases. It's a great cut flower—bring in armloads to brighten the house.—and birds and butterflies love it. Allow it to spread so you have at least a small stand of it. Let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches will love you, coming to feast on the seeds daily. Butterflies and helpful bees also love purple coneflower. It used to be that rosy purple or white were the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.

Blanket Flower

Blanket flowers
Denny Schrock

Blanket flowers are wonderfully cheerful, long-blooming plants for hot, sunny gardens. They produce single or double daisy flowers through most of the summer and well into fall. The brick-red ray flowers are tipped with yellow—the colors of Mexican blankets. Blanket flowers tolerate light frost and are seldom eaten by deer. Deadhead the flowers to keep them blooming consistently through the summer and into fall. Some species are short-lived, especially if the soil is not well-drained.


Sedums plants
Jo-Ann Richards

Sedums are nearly the perfect plants. They look good when they emerge from the soil in spring and continue to look fresh and fabulous all growing season long. Many are attractive even in winter when their foliage dies and is left standing. They're also drought-tolerant and need very little care. They're favorites of butterflies and useful bees. The tall types are outstanding for cutting and drying. Does it get better than that? Yes. There are many different types of this wonderful plant, from tall types that top 2 feet to low-growing groundcovers that form mats. All thrive in full sun with good drainage. Groundcover types do a good job of suppressing weeds but seldom tolerate foot traffic. Some smaller ones are best grown in pots or treated as houseplants.

Lavender Cotton Garden Plan

Tough-as-Nails Perennial Garden Plan

You can plant this gardenplan and almost forget it! It relies on a selection of tough-as-nails perennials that thrive in full sun, tolerate heat and humidity, and reliably come back each year. Even then, these plants need little more from you than the occasional tidying up. Silvery gray-green foliage is a common thread tying together these drought-tolerant perennials

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do lavender cotton plants live?

    They can be relatively short-lived perennials, so plan to replace them about every five or six years.

  • Does lavender cotton attract pollinators?

    Bees, butterflies, and other insects visit the yellow blooms of lavender cotton throughout the summer.

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