Plant Description

Helichrysum petiolare

Helichrysum petiolare

Helichrysum petiolare is a shrub 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 60 cm high and up to 1.5 m 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.

It can look stunning when paired with burgundy or purple foliage, such as that of shrubby Loropetalum chinense, grassy Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' or Alternanthera cultivars. It grows well in both sun and shade and copes well with dry conditions once established. 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, where it can form quite a good groundcover. 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 domed of heads of tiny creamy-yellow flowers in late spring, but these are not particularly interesting; they tend not to appear when the plant is grown in shady spots or if the plant is trimmed frequently! 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'. 'Licorice' is a smaller-leaved cultivar, that grows a little lower (ht 50 cm) and spreads to about 1 m wide.

Note that when the plant is used to cascade over walls, snails can enjoy hiding beneath the foliage. This is actually a good way to capture and dispose of snails!


Helichrysum petiolare
Foliage useful in floral arrangements.
Flowers in November.
Plant Family: Asteraceae

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