Home » Gardening » Garden Flowers » Santolina, Cotton lavender: pruning, care, uses

Santolina, Cotton lavender: pruning, care, uses

Santolina, cotton lavender

Santolina is a Mediterranean plant with silvery evergreen leafage.

Key Santolina facts:

Name Santolina
Family Asteraceae
Type shrub, sub-shrub

20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 cm)
Exposure sunny

Soil: ordinary    Foliage: evergreen    Flowering: early summer

Sometimes called cotton lavender, its blooming is worthwhile, too.

Planting santolina

Santolina be grown in rocky, dry soil that is poor and arid, and it can also be grown in pots, garden boxes or containers to decorate a patio, deck or balcony.

  • Santolina plantingPlant preferably in fall, but planting in spring is also possible.
  • Select a very sunny spot.
  • Santolina tolerates part sun in warm climates.
  • Follow our tips on planting.

Pruning and caring for santolina

Santolina demands minimal care and maintenance, it is a plant that is very easy to grow.

Santolina careYou could thus not worry about it at all, but there are a few tips that can make it even nicer.

  • Prune just after the blooming or at the end of winter if the season is mild in your area.You can deadhead to remove wilted flowers.
  • Give it the round shape that is typically associated to santolina. Snip away at the plant to shape it, while trying to remain in the “green leafy zone”.
  • In a pot, you must water when the soil is completely dry deep down. Water sparingly.

Woody santolina – how should I prune it?

Santolina, like lavender and rosemary, can grow woody, sparse and leggy in time. It’s possible to rejuvenate your cotton lavender in less than half an hour’s work.

How to prune santolinaFirst, deal with dead wood. Identify in your woody santolina the older branches. They’re either “on the rise” or “dying back”.

  • Branches that are “on the rise” have more growth and bear more flowers.
  • Those “dying back” are either all dead already or have lots of dead portions, weak growth, and corky bark.

Generally, cut all “dying back” branches back to the trunk or to the nearest junction to a healthier branch. This portion of the pruning you can perform any time in spring, summer or fall. In winter, it’s sometimes harder to tell whether a branch is vigorous or not.

Second, after removing dead and dying wood, wait for fall. That’s the best time to perform “maintenance pruning”: shorten the greenery by half to trigger branching out more flowers in the following spring.

All there is to know about santolina

Often used to landscape rocky ground, decorate edges or the sides of alleyways, santolina offers us beautiful summer blooming.

Santolina shrub in fall with seed podsIt’s typical of Mediterranean gardens and the bright yellow flowers offer a beautiful contrast to the famous lavender plant.

This sub-shrub is melliferous, particularly pleasing to bees, and it is easy to grow and only requires minimal care.

Its flower appears in summer and is humble but very interesting, especially if you want to prepare beautiful dried flower bouquets.

Varieties of Santolina

Different types of cotton lavenderThe most famous, Cotton lavender, is a species called Santolina chamaecyparissus

There are quite a few varieties to chose from nowadays:

  • ‘Lemon queen’ santolina, shown here, has ivory-colored pompom flowers
  • ‘Small-Ness’ is small enough to grow in tiny pots
  • ‘Lemon Fizz’ santolina has bright yellow leafage

Cotton lavender herbal uses

It has medicinal uses, too: oil produced from the plant is used as a de-worming agent, and the flower is drunk in the form of herbal tea for its stimulating properties.

Read also:

Smart tip about santolina, cotton lavender

Santolina naturally repels clothing moths, it is quite effective if you prepare small bouquets, dry them, and then store them with your clothes in the drawers. In lavender wands, you use only the flower, but for santolina leaves and branches work well, too.

Images: 123RF: juver123, spring75, CC BY 2.0: K M, CC BY-SA 2.0: yewchan; dreamstime: David Jalda; own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois
A comment ?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your reactions
  • Elaine wrote on 18 June 2023 at 18 h 49 min

    it’s only June but my santolina, I suspect through lack of proper pruning has become very leggy and untidy. Do I have to wait until autumn before I cut it back?

    • Gaspard wrote on 20 June 2023 at 9 h 19 min

      Well, you can deadhead already as soon as the flowers are wilted away – just cut them back to the stem where it emerged from.

      Dead wood: you can identify in your woody santolina a few of the older branches. Typically, they’re either “on the rise” or “dying back”. Those that are “on the rise” have a lot more growth at their tips and ends, and bore more flowers. Those that are “dying back” are either completely dead already or have more dead portions, scraggly growth, and corky bark.

      Generally, you’d cut the “dying back” branches back to the trunk or to the nearest junction to a healthier branch. This portion of the pruning you can perform any time, so go ahead and do it during your next round through the garden.

      Once that’s done, best wait for fall to get the “maintenance pruning” done: shorten all the greenery by half, this will lead to more branching out and produces more flowers next spring.

      If it’s really woody, you can go ahead and try the same techniques you’d use to deal with old woody lavender, the “regular” species. It includes hard pruning and then maintenance pruning.