17 December 2010

Santolina chamaecyparissus (gray santolina)

Gray Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

"Gray Santolina, has many uses in residential landscapes. Also known as Gray Lavender Cotton, this plant is actually a small shrub, but it acts like a groundcover and smells like an herb. It offers attractive foliage, small flowers, texture and durability. Properly located in the yard, it has no serious pest or disease problems.

Size: Gray santolina typically grows from 12 to 18 inches tall. However it looks best if it is clipped to about 1 foot tall. A moderately fast grower, a single plant is likely to spread 3 to 5 feet. As its branches grow longer and fall to touch the soil, they will take root.

Foliage: As its name suggests, gray santolina has gray foliage. Its finely divided leaves are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, but because they grow in clumps along woody stems, they have a rough appearance. They are covered with silvery-gray hairs and are evergreen. When they are crushed they emit a strong aroma, but it is not regarded as a pleasant one.

Flowers: If it is not clipped, gray santolina produces yellow, buttonlike flowers in mid-summer. They appear in clusters at the top of stems which shoot up several inches above the foliage. A typical flower head may be 1/2 to 3/4 inch across. These blooms are quite showy."

Figure 1: Santolina chamaecyparissus in flower in mid-summer.

Figure 2:  The same plant as above, this photograph was taken in the autumn.
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