Helichrysum italicum, the Italian everlasting, curry plant: all these names bear witness to just how surprising this plant can be, whether for its unusual silver-hued foliage or for its fragrant-smelling flowers.
Helichrysum italicum key facts
Botanical name – Helichrysum italicum, Helichrysum angustifolium
Common names – Italian everlasting, Curry plant
Family – Asteraceae, Compositae
Type – perennial plant
Height – 24 inches (60 cm)
Planting density – 1 to 2 per square yard (m²)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – More on the light side, well drained, pH neutral to alkaline
Hardiness – not very hardy
Flowering – summer
Foliage – Evergreen
Getting to know Helichrysum italicum
The Italian everlasting is a bushy upright sub-shrub. It unfurls masses of silver-gray leafage that is evergreen and very narrow. Its linear leaves have a special characteristic: they’re very fragrant, and the smell they release is nearly identical to that of curry. This gave the plant one of its many common names, the “curry plant”.
Come summer, flowers open up at the tip of tall white upright stems. Each globe-shaped flower is a flashy bright yellow, and they’re clustered together in oblong heads called capitulums.
Planting the curry herb
In order for it to thrive in proper growing conditions, Helichrysum italicum should be cultivated in rather dry and poor soil. Drainage is important because Italian Everlasting hates excess moisture. The plant copes quite well with chalky and alkaline soil types, but it doesn’t like acidic pH.
As for exposure, favor warm, sunny spots, and if possible, make sure it’s sheltered from cold drafts if ever your garden is prone to them. Finally, make note of the low hardiness of Helichrysum italicum , meaning you’ll have to plant this one in spring. Regarding the planting, normally one or two specimens of your curry plant will comfortably cover a square yard or meter.
Once you’ve chosen the right spot:
- Dig a hole about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) deep.
- If ever you’ve got heavy soil, don’t dither: lavishly amend the soil by adding sand or wood ash to lighten it up somewhat.
- Pull the plant out of its pot and break the clump up to free a few of the roots that were cramped inside. Do this delicately so that you don’t break them.
- Place the plant in the hole, and backfill it, pressing the soil down around the roots.
Helichrysum italicum in a pot
Potted Helichrysum italicum is a great idea. It doesn’t need very deep soil, but excellent drainage is required. Remember that the plant isn’t very hardy, but it will also easily sprout back from seed if you let them develop. Make sure a few fall to the ground in the pot.
Caring for Helichrysum italicum
The curry plant doesn’t call for much care. It resists drought, so you won’t need to water it, and deadheading of wilted flower scapes and broken or damaged stems is only required in spring. Harsh winters should lead to protect the base of the plant with a thick layer of mulch.
Multiplying and propagating Helichrysum italicum
Propagation of a specific Italian Everlasting specimen is typically done through semi-hardened cuttings, either at the end of spring or at the end of summer. What matters most is that the weather is warm at the start.
Diseases and pests
It’s pretty well established that pests are completely uninterested in foliage of Helichrysum italicum, but when it comes to diseases, it’s another thing altogether: in case of hot and wet summers, it’ll probably contract mildew. Leaves are the part that is mostly affected in this case, and it’s usually harmless for the plant’s health.
Did you know… ? Thanks to the high amount of essential oils, Helichrysum italicum is naturally protected against leaf-eating insects.
Landscaping and uses of Italian Everlasting
The curry plant comes in handy in a great many situations:
For gardens that are planted in areas with harsher winters, plant Helichrysum italicum in flower beds as an annual. As for which companion plants are best for Italian Everlasting, the list is long: just select plants that can take the same growing environment, such as Sedum, Cystus, Gazania, French marigold, rudbeckia, etc.