Helichrysum petiolare

Helichrysum petiolare

Helichrysum petiolare is a shrubby perennial plant from South Africa, where it grows mainly as a groundcover on the margins of forests - sometimes climbing up trees or shrubs. It sends out long stems covered in heart-shaped leaves that look like they have been cut from silvery-grey felt. It forms a mound around 60cm high and up to 1.5m or more wide. It can be used to cascade over walls or intermingle with other plants; or it can be pruned into a dense rounded thicket. It needs regular trimming to keep it in reasonable shape, but even so, it will need to be replaced by a cutting after a few years when it becomes too sparse at its centre.

Helichrysum petiolare with Salvia Indigo Spires in the garden of Tracey Fleischner in Sydney

It grows well in both sun and shade and copes well with dry conditions. It is frost-sensitive but copes with the mild frosts sometimes experienced in elevated Sydney suburbs. It is useful for bringing light to shaded areas and can form quite a good groundcover or spillover plant for a wall. It grows best in well-drained soil - it may rot in very moist soil. It is sometimes used in mixed plantings in containers and baskets in cooler climates, to provide foliage contrast. It is even possible to train it as a standard plant. It has rounded of heads of cream flowers, but these are not particularly interesting. There is a lovely cultivar called 'Limelight' that has pale lime-green foliage, which will also grow in sun or shade, and a silver-cream variegated form, 'Variegatum'.