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Lavender cotton, a rugged Mediterranean herb, is grown for its attractive silver foliage. The name is deceiving as the plant is neither lavender nor cotton. The plant can often be found growing in rock gardens and old-fashioned, formal knot gardens since it stands up well to frequent trimming. Although flowers are not its main feature, lavender cotton does bloom in midsummer with small, fuzzy, yellow blossoms.
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1 to 3 feet
1 to 3 feet wide
garden plans for Lavender cotton
Lavender Cotton Details
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 can be topped with button-like yellow blossoms that some gardeners think detracts from the overall appeal. Lavender cotton may not even bloom in areas where it is lightly perennial. Another species of lavender cotton has bright, almost acid-green foliage with similar blossoms.
Lavender Cotton Care
When planting lavender cotton, consider its native Mediterranean climate where it prefers well-drained and gritty soil. It will not tolerate excessive moisture. This is especially important during wintertime as this plant does not like wet winters and is likely to die from rot. It also tends to prefer soil that is nutrient poor, as too rich of soil will make plants floppy and weak-wooded. Like many other Mediterranean plants, lavender cotton prefers alkaline versus acidic soil.
Lavender cotton grows best in full sun, which encourages the best color foliage and most compact habit. Although lavender cotton can tolerate part shade, plants will require more maintenance as part shade encourages floppiness and a more open, sprawling habit. Be sure to give lavender cotton as much sun as possible, as it flourishes in hot and dry summer weather. Areas with cool and humid weather can cause fungal problems.
One of the many reasons gardeners grow lavender cotton is its tolerance for repeated shearing, which makes it a great option for topiaries and hedges. Even when not growing in a formal garden, lavender cotton benefits from occasional trims to keep looking neat and healthy. Lavender cotton can be a fairly short-lived plant, so plan on replacing it about every 3-5 years. Luckily, it is easy to start from cuttings or by layering. Layering can be done by simply pulling down a low branch and slightly burying it with both ends exposed. After a few weeks, roots will develop; at this time you can remove this part from the main plant and plant the rooted cutting in a new area.
More Varieties of Lavender Cotton
Santolina chaemacyparissus, 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 6-11
This variety is also called green lavender cotton and formerly was classified as Santolina virens. The plant has fine-texture, fragrant medium-green foliage. 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