Create an ideabook for your next remodeling project!
Browse more than 1,500,000 photos from top designers and save your favorites
Botanical name: Santolina chamaecyparissus
Common name: 'Lavender cotton'
USDA zones: 6 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: regular water to establish root system; occasional once established
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Benefits and tolerances: Tolerant of deer, drought, heat, wind and coastal conditions; firewise planting
Seasonal interest: Flowers in mid to late summer; evergreen
When to plant: Plant seedlings in early summer; divide in spring or fall
Distinguishing traits. Lavender cotton is a sun lover, and its appearance conjures everything bright — from the bleached gray foliage to its sunny yellow button flowers. It’s a densely clumping and mounding shrub with narrow divided leaves, resembling lavender. While lavender cotton is not a lavender species, aromatic foliage is enhanced when disturbed or bruised. (Note: Bruised foliage can irritate skin.) Several cultivars exist, ranging in size and color.
How to use it. Lavender cotton is a landscape workhorse, bringing color, texture and an easy space filler to the garden. Notice how it fills out the bank alongside orange snake flower shrubs (Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark') in this design by Eileen Kelly.
Popular in native Mediterranean gardens, lavender cotton's dusty foliage and vibrant flowers complement light-toned Spanish architecture. Trailing edges cascade effortlessly over terra-cotta paths and courtyard edges.
In addition, lavender cotton has seen heavy use in formal Tudor knot gardens. Depending on your garden style, lavender cotton can adapt to nearly anything — simply prune or let it grow wild.
Planted en masse alongside ornamental alliums (Allium spp) and lavender shrubs (Lavandula spp), lavender cotton's bright yellow flowers just peek above the surrounding foliage.
Planting notes. Cotton lavender is a typical Mediterranean native — it is tolerant of full sun, full heat and needs sandy, well-drained soil.
Cotton lavender does better when regularly pruned. To maintain a healthy dense appearance, cut the shrub back before spring growth emerges every year. Otherwise, it has a tendency to become woody and sparse. You can trim the edges or cut the plant nearly to the ground. After shoots have flowered, deadhead to encourage more blooms. If the entire plant becomes too woody, you can remove and start again.
In colder regions, the plant may freeze to the ground, but if the roots remain undamaged, it should survive.