Lavender Cotton

Lavender Cotton
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Lavender Cotton Santolina chamaecyparissus
Credit: Cynthia Haynes
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Lavender Cotton Santolina chamaecyparissus

Lavender Cotton

A rugged Mediterranean herb, lavender cotton 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. Although flowers are not its main feature, lavender cotton does bloom in midsummer with small, fuzzy, yellow blossoms.

genus name
  • Santolina
light
  • Sun
plant type
height
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • 1 to 3 feet wide
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
zones
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
propagation

Colorful Combinations

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 borderline hardy.

Lavender Cotton Care Must-Knows

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 because this plant does not like wet winters and is likely to die from root rot. It also tends to prefer soil that is nutrient poor; 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 it 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, this plant benefits from occasional trims to keep looking neat and healthy. It 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

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Gray santolina Santolina chaemacyparissus
Credit: Denny Schrock

Gray Santolina

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

Green santolina
Credit: Denny Schrock

Green Santolina

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

Lavender Cotton Companion Plants

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