Xeriscape Gardens

Santolina Chamaecyparissus (Lavender Cotton) Care Guide

Yellow button-like flowers are a staple of Santolina chamaecyparissus

Santolina chamaecyparissus, also known as lavender cotton or gray santolina, is a beautiful evergreen shrub with silvery gray and green foliage. It belongs to the family Asteraceae and blooms with button-like flowers in the summer.

A great candidate for borders, beds, rock gardens, and as a xeriscaping plant, lavender cotton adds a subtle but silvery gray-green color to a green space and grows as tall as 2′ feet.

Quick Care

Yellow button-like flowers are a staple of Santolina chamaecyparissus
Gorgeous, yellow button-like flowers are a staple of this plant. Source: fturmog
Common Name(s): Cotton lavender or lavender-cotton, gray santolina, ground cypress, holy herb, and petite cypress
Scientific NameSantolina chamaecyparissus
Family:Asteraceae or Compositae
Height & Spread:1-2′ tall and 2-3′ wide
LightFull sun
SoilWell-draining sandy soil
Water:Dry to medium
Pests & Diseases:Fungal root and basal crown rot is a problem if soil is poorly drained.

Santolina chamaecyparissus is a fragrant, dwarf green shrub. It has dissected, narrow leaves in silvery-woolly color with long-stalked, bright yellow flower heads that are 1″ in width.

Grown for its foliage, Santolina loves dry soil. Native to western and central Mediterranean regions, lavender cotton is a fast-growing, low-maintenance flowering plant that blooms in May-June.

Types of Lavender Cotton

The plants have a few popular varieties that are native Southern Europe and Northern Africa. ‘Weston’ is a dwarf shrub that doesn’t grow above 1′ foot. It has a unique silver foliage with a strong, pungent fragrance. ‘Edward Bowles’ is another variety with creamy-yellow flowers and gray-green leaves.

‘Lemon Queen’ has pale yellow blooms and rich green leaves and grows up to 2 feet. ‘Morning Mist’ is 15 inches tall and bears yellow blooms with grayish-waxy leaves. It’s the only variety that can tolerate wet soils.

Santolina Chamaecyparissus Care

Cotton lavender in a natural xeriscape habitat
The carpets of bright blooms make cotton lavender an excellent xeriscaping choice. Source: fturmog

Lavender cotton is drought tolerant and thrives well in poor, dry soils. Here’s everything you need to know about its care and maintenance.

Light & Temperature

Lavender cotton grows well in full sun and can grow well in USDA hardiness zones 6-9.

Water & Humidity

Since it tolerates drought, the plant has minimal water needs. Simply give an inch of water every week when the plants are young to help strengthen the root system. Once established, watering is only required twice a month.


The plants like well-drained, gritty soils, preferably dry to medium. A wet soil should be avoided at all costs as it can easily lead to root rot. They prefer alkaline soil so don’t add too much compost or excessive moisture.


These plants don’t need additional fertilizer since they prefer poor, rocky, and dry soils. During the growing season, add organic fertilizer every two months.


The flowers are excellent as house plants and ground cover for your gardens. Smaller lavender can grow well in containers and pots. Prepare a pot – larger than the root ball – with potting mix. Untangle the root ball, separate the roots, place the plants 6″ inches apart and give plenty of bottom heat so that it grows. Keep it in a well-lit spot and water once a week until the plant grows.


Propagate in spring using semi-ripe stem cuttings or seeds. If the plant gets too large, take the flopping stems and bury them close to the plants. Once the roots form, cut the new plant when the season ends and place it in your garden.


Snip off the dead wood in spring. Prune the plants into a nice, circular shape after flowers have bloomed. This will prevent the plants from collapsing or becoming woody.


Over-watering can be a major problem for lavender cotton. Excess moisture can cause the roots to develop destructive diseases. If you’re growing them in your garden, watering is required twice a month.


Lavender ground cover is virtually pest-free.


Poorly drained soils can lead to basal crown rot and fungal root, which can be prevented by reducing watering. Occasional use of fungicides can also prevent the disease from worsening.


Q. What is Santolina used for?

Santolina grey has fragrant leaves, which can be used for flavoring stews, soups, broths and as a herbal medicine – although rarely – to treat indigestion and menstrual problems.

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