Santolina chamaecyparissus
Common Name: lavender cotton 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Western and central Mediterranean
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Fragrant, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants appreciate regular moisture during the first year, but tolerate drought once roots are established. Plants perform well in limey soils. Plants tolerate poor dry soils. Avoid rich soils. Avoid wet soils. Gritty or sandy soils help provide the exceptional drainage that these plants need. Plants dislike humid weather where they are more susceptible to fungal diseases and tend to lose compact shape by opening up in the center. Deadhead spent flowers as soon as they fade. This species is not reliably winter hardy to the St. Louis area where it should be grown in protected locations with a winter mulch. Cut back in spring to maintain compact shape and encourage new growth. This plant may be grown as an annual.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Santolina chamaecyparissus, commonly called lavender cotton or gray santolina, is a small, semi-woody, tender sub-shrub with aromatic, evergreen, silver-gray foliage. It typically grows in a mound to 2' tall spreading to 3' wide. It is native to the Mediterranean area (southern Europe and northern Africa). Pinnately divided leaves have a rough texture and musky fragrance. Button-like, 3/4-inch wide, bright yellow flowers (rays absent) of this aster family member bloom in summer atop stalks rising well above the foliage to 6" tall. Flowers may not appear if plants are regularly trimmed/sheared. Plants are often grown in herb gardens. Foliage has historically been used as an insecticide and moth repellant.

Synonymous with and formerly known as S. incana.

Genus name comes from the old name for the species S. virens.


No serious insect or disease problems. Blight and root rot may occur.


Herb gardens, rock gardens, foundations, terraces, border fronts. Knot gardens. Edging. Dwarf hedge along walkways. Ground cover. Dried leaves may be used in sachets and potpourris.