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What is a Helichrysum Plant and How to Care for It??

Beautiful yellow flower heads and silvery foliage of the helichrysum plant

Genus Helichrysum

Don’t be intimidated by its scientific name, the helichrysum plant is a wonderfully simple looking plant that is as equally simple to care for. You’ve most certainly come across one before and probably didn’t have a clue of it’s amazing properties.

Helichrysum is a member of the aster botanical family (asteraceae), making it cousins with other flowering plants like daisies and sunflowers. It’s got some common names you can also call it if you want to get familiar, but there’s quite a few, so buckle in: everlasting flower, flower immortelle, strawflower, curry plant, golden eternal flower, or liquorice plant.

Those are odd names, you may be thinking, but I swear they have their reasons. Reason number one being that regardless of the species, helichrysum plants have some seriously fragrant foliage. The other common names are in reference to the flower maintaining its color and shape after it has been dried!

The scientific term is derived from two different Greek words: the first being helisso, which translates to “sun”, and chrysos, which translates to “gold”. The minute you see a photo, you’ll understand why.

What do Helichrysum Plants Look Like?

Beautiful side view of silvery sage foliage and bright yellow flowers heads of a helichrysum plant

Flowers

Very characteristic of the asteraceae family, flower heads are comprised of many tiny flowers that give the inflorescence a honey comb appearance. Helichrysum flowers resemble miniature clusters of daisies with extravagant stamens.

These flowers are are known for being highly valuable to pollinating species because they have a wildly long blooming season. Many of them will first flower in early spring and they will last all the way until the first frost of the season.

Leaves

The more admired feature of the helichrysum plant is its foliage. They have evergreen leaves, meaning that they will remain green and persist all year long.

Though leaf shape and color will vary slightly from species to species, most will have small leaves that are oblong to lanceolate in shape. They are usually flat and will be covered in soft, downy hairs on either side of the leaf.

Helichrysum leaves will commonly be a silvery green color, and they look remarkably similar to lavender plants before they have flowered.

A helichrysum leaf is also responsible for the amazing scent of the plant. This is where the common name curry plant or liquorice plant comes from. The fragrance doesn’t only come when the leaves are crushed either, they can fill a corridor with some serious scent.

Growth Habit

Helichrysums are small, bushy plants. They are a rather small shrub that can grow anywhere from 12 inches to up to 2 feet in height. Again, they hold a very similar growth habit to a lavender plant.

Helichrysum leaves grow all along stems from the very base of the plant to the very tip. The flower heads are born in umbels or clusters at the tips of the stems.

Reproduction

Once a helichrysum flower is fertilized, it will produce many tiny seeds that are easily dispersed through wind, water, or through the defecation of various animal species.

Helichrysum plants can easily be propagated either through sowing seed or through stem cuttings. They should be sowed indoors in the early spring, or they can sowed outdoors after the last threat of frost.

What are Some Helichrysum Species?

Amazing yellow clusters of flower heads and foliage of helichrysum plants

Helichrysum Italicum/Helichrysum Angustifolium

Helichrysum Italicum, more commonly going by the names of curry plant, Italian strawflower, or immortelle, is one of the most popularly known of the helichrysum species.

This helichrysum variety can be found growing in the Mediterranean in very dry and rocky sites. Growing to be only about 24 inches in height, they bear clusters of incredibly bright yellow flowers.

This species is responsible for the common name, curry plant, and it is mostly responsible for the cultivation of helichrysum essential oil and it is also used as a spice. Though it doesn’t taste like curry, it is said to have a bitter taste and a scent similar to clary sage or wormwood.

Helichrysum Gymnocephalum

Helichrysum gymnocephalum is also known as the Madagascar helichrysum because of its growing origins. They can be found growing wild on rocky mountainsides.

You can identify the Madagascar helichrysum as a large shrub that reaches heights usually between 1 and 4 metres. They have a similar growing pattern and flower type to the common helichrysum.

Helichrysum gymnocephalum is harvested as a medicinal plant. It has been used in traditional medicine practices for centuries and is said to have both antiseptic properties and aphrodisiac qualities (wink wink).

Macro image of helichrysum foliage

Helichrysum Bracteatum

More commonly known as the everlasting flower or strawflower, helichrysum bracteatum is a short lived, tender perennial plant or an annual plant that is native to Australia.

The everlasting flower can be identified by its large daisy-like flowers (larger than the rest of the genus) that span 1-3 inches across. Everlasting flowers are usually yellow, or, pink, or white with a central yellow disc. They have an inordinately long blooming season as well, lasting all the way from late spring to first frost.

Helichrysum bracteatum is called the everlasting flower because it is a variety that makes for an excellent dried flower. They maintain the exact shape and color no matter how long they are dried for.

Helichrysum Petiolare

We have helichrysum petiolare to thank for its liquorice scented foliage. Commonly known as the liquorice plant or silver liquorice, this variety is an annual plant species that is native to South Africa.

This one can be identified for its smaller growth habit, only achieving heights between 8 and 12 inches, and foliage that is wonderfully felted with silver downy hairs. Flowering tops are bright yellow and lovely.

This is grown as a ground cover plant and it valued as an ornamental plant because of its low maintenance and incredibly lovely foliage. They make the perfect plant for hanging baskets, containers, and rock gardens.

Where is Helichrysum a Native Plant?

Helichrysums are native to regions that are relatively warm all year long and that don’t receive too much annual precipitation. They can be found growing wild in sunny, dry areas all over Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Outside of their natural growing range that can exist in USDA zones 8 through 11.

What are the Growing Conditions of the Helichrysum Plant?

Healthy helichrysum bush with yellow flowers growing in sandy soil

Everything about the helichrysum plant is simple. Simple look, simple care, simple benefits. Planting helichrysum is a wonderful way to contribute to the local wildlife economy, and it also gives you access to a plant with both medicinal properties and edible components! It does it all! Just follow some of these tips to help keep it happy and healthy.

Soil Type

The main things to remember when it comes to the proper soil type are easy to guess when you try to mimic the plants natural growing range. They prefer to live in dry soil that is very well drained.

Helichrysums are also more used to living in soil that is either poor or moderate in fertility, and they prefer to be more neutral or alkaline on the pH scale.

Because helichrysums roots can be sensitive to cold, don’t be afraid to add a thin layer of mulch to the top soil to help insulate some warmth underneath.

Sun Exposure

Helichrysum is a sun loving plant. That means that they prefer to live in direct sunlight for a bare minimum or 6 hours a day. If they are planted in partial shade they’ll do okay, but if they are planted in full shade they will not be happy with you at all.

Planting a helichrysum plant in full shade can also result in soil not drying out all the way which these plants do not appreciate either.

Water Level

Not only are helichrysum plants drought tolerant, they actually prefer to exist on dry sites. They have very low watering requirements and needn’t to be watered any more than the natural precipitation of the area.

If there has been an unreasonably long period of drought feel free to give the plant a little sprinkling. Just remember it is far better to under water than to over water a helichrysum.

Tall yellow flowers heads shining in the sun growing by a coast

Temperature

The most picky a helichrysum will be is when it comes to temperature. They are not tolerant of cold winters whatsoever, and will only exist in USDA zones 8 through 11. Otherwise, they need to be kept as an indoor plant in the winter.

Helichrysums seeds also have a temperature requirement occurring between 63 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit in order for seed germination to occur.

Pruning

Nothing really needs to be done in terms of pruning when it comes to the helichrysum plant. Because they have such a long blooming period (lasting all the way through spring, summer, and fall) there is no point in deadheading them, as flowers will persist anyway.

The process for making a dried flower bouquet of helichrysum flowers is very simple. Simply take a bundle of flowers and arrange them to ensure each cluster is getting enough air flow. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry area with plenty of draft and they should be ready in a few days.

Fertilizer

Helichrysum plants do not need to be fertilized. They are used to living in soils that are very poor in the wild, and that is how they prefer to remain!

Intolerances

As long as they are living in the proper climate, helichrysums are tolerant of almost everything. The main things to remember are that they can’t tolerate soils that are moist or water logged, and they can’t tolerate extremely low temperatures either.

How are Helichrysum Plants Used?

Bottle of helichrysum essential oil sitting on wooden table next to cut flowers

Ornamental Plant

You can’t get a much better ornamental plant that helichrysum. They’re beautiful, they’re a great companion plant for your show stoppers, and on top of that, they’re they perfect cut flower as well!

They are commonly planted along beds and borders, in rock gardens and zen gardens, and they’re perfect for coastal gardens, cottage gardens, and city gardens alike.

If you’re looking for a good dried flower, you needn’t go any further than the helichrysum flower. They maintain their exact shape and color after they are dried, earning them the nickname everlasting flower or flower immortelle.

Medicinal Plant

Helichrysum plants have been apart of traditional herbalist medicine for a very long time, and in modern day they are still utilized in the form of essential oil.

Helichrysum essential oil is known to have several beneficial compounds and flavonoid types, as well as having high anti inflammatory activity, antifungal properties, and antibacterial properties.

These properties help the human body by encouraging a healthy metabolism, healing properties that help fight infection, they reduce inflammation and help reduce allergic reaction symptoms as well.

Not to mention applying the essential oil topically (on skin) can help reduce the signs of aging and fine lines, stretch marks, and minor blemishes as well. When applying to skin, it is advised to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil (like jojoba oil) to dilute it slightly into an essential oil blend.

Helichrysum essential oil is produced by distilling the leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant to create helichrysum extract. It is a 100 pure essential oil. It is also known for having a wonderful scent that is herbaceous and sweet and has been likened to a spicy honey!

Lovely image of bright yellow helichrysum flower heads

FAQs

Are helichrysum plants perennials?

Depending on the helichrysum species, it can grow to be either an annual species or a perennial species. An annual plant will experience its entire life cycle within one year, whereas a perennial plant will continue to bloom year after year as long as it can exist in its ideal growing conditions.

Are helichrysum plants hardy?

The main downfall to helichrysum plants is that they are not particularly hardy. They can only exist in USDA growing zones 8 through 11 and are not tolerant to cold temperatures whatsoever.

Does helichrysum contain neryl acetate?

Helichrysum italicum oil is a helichrysum variety that is known to contain neryl acetate, which is a chemical compound found in citrus oils that give it that fresh and spicy scent.

Helichrysum italicum essential oil is wonderful for aromatherapy for this reason. It’s also amazing for skin care not only when used topically, but also when combined with steam distillation. This can help with skin inflammation, wound healing, and sore muscles. Combining tea tree oil or other medicinal plants make for great steam distilled aromatherapy.

When do helichrysum flowers blossoms?

Very characteristic of the asteraceae family, flower heads are comprised of many tiny flowers that give the inflorescence a honey comb appearance. Helichrysum flowers resemble miniature clusters of daisies with extravagant stamens.

These flowers are are known for being highly valuable to pollinating species because they have a wildly long blooming season. Many of them will first flower in early spring and they will last all the way until the first frost of the season.

Can helichrysum be grown from seed?

Once a helichrysum flower is fertilized, it will produce many tiny seeds that are easily dispersed through wind, water, or through the defecation of various animal species.

Helichrysum plants can easily be propagated either through sowing seed or through stem cuttings. They should be sowed indoors in the early spring, or they can sowed outdoors after the last threat of frost.

How is helichrysum oil made?

Helichrysum essential oil is produced by distilling the leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant to create helichrysum extract. It is a 100 pure essential oil. It is also known for having a wonderful scent that is herbaceous and sweet and has been likened to a spicy honey!

Should a helichrysum plant be deadheaded?

Nothing really needs to be done in terms of pruning when it comes to the helichrysum plant. Because they have such a long blooming period (lasting all the way through spring, summer, and fall) there is no point in deadheading them, and flowers will persist anyway.

The process for making a dried flower bouquet of helichrysum flowers is very simple. Simply take a bundle of flowers and arrange them to ensure each cluster is getting enough air flow. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry area with plenty of draft and they should be ready in a few days.

What does helichrysum smell like?

The scent of a helichrysum plant will vary from species to species, though they are mainly known for having a foliage scent that is very similar to curry spices! Helichrysum petiolare is known for having a smell similar to liquorice.

What is helichrysum essential oil?

Helichrysum plants have been apart of traditional herbalist medicine for a very long time, and in modern day they are still utilized in the form of essential oil.

Helichrysum essential oil is known to have several beneficial compounds and flavonoid types, as well as having high anti inflammatory activity, antifungal properties, and antibacterial properties.

These properties help the human body by encouraging a healthy metabolism, healing properties that help fight infection, they reduce inflammation and help reduce allergic reaction symptoms as well.

Can helichrysum live in full sun?

Helichrysum is a sun loving plant. That means that they prefer to live in direct sunlight for a bare minimum or 6 hours a day. If they are planted in partial shade they’ll do okay, but if they are planted in full shade they will not be happy with you at all.

Planting a helichrysum plant in full shade can also result in soil not drying out all the way which these plants do not appreciate either.

How often should you water a helichrysum plant?

Not only are helichrysum plants drought tolerant, they actually prefer to exist on dry sites. They have very low watering requirements and needn’t to be watered any more than the natural precipitation of the area.

If there has been an unreasonably long period of drought feel free to give the plant a little sprinkling. Just remember it is far better to under water than to over water a helichrysum.

Does helichrysum need fertilizer?

Helichrysum plants do not need to be fertilized. They are used to living in soils that are very poor in the wild, and that is how they prefer to remain!

What is the preferred soil type for a helichrysum plant?

The main things to remember when it comes to the proper soil type are easy to guess when you try to mimic the plants natural growing range. They prefer to live in dry soil that is very well drained.

Helichrysums are also more used to living in soil that is either poor or moderate in fertility, and they prefer to be more neutral or alkaline on the pH scale.

Because helichrysums roots can be sensitive to cold, don’t be afraid to add a thin layer of mulch to the top soil to help insulate some warmth underneath.