Helichrysum is an aromatic plant typical of the Mediterranean scrub that easily grows spontaneously in the coastal areas of central and southern Italy. Its intense perfume evokes the sea and the sun, however we can introduce it in our garden even without necessarily being in seaside resorts.
Due to its medicinal properties it is a species held in high regard in phytotherapy, its cultivation is rather simple, being a species that has modest needs in terms of water and fertilizers.
So let’s see how to grow the helichrysum organically and thus enrich the range of aromatic and medicinal plants, which are rightly to be considered as ornamental.
The helichrysum plant
The helichrysum (Helichrysum) has Mediterranean origins and for this reason, as anticipated, it is very easily found spontaneously. It is part of the composite family, which includes very common garden species: lettuce, chicory, endive, artichoke, thistle, Jerusalem artichoke and sunflower.
The helichrysum is a perennial plant, which every year in spring forms new shoots from the base after having spent the winter in vegetative rest. It is a small plant, which has a bushy habit, with a maximum height of 60-70 cm. The stems and leaves are not bright green, but light in color, between green and gray-white.
The flowering of the helichrysum is very abundant, appearing between April and May or even later based on the areas in which it is found. The flowers are golden yellow, they are small but grouped in dense inflorescences. Pollination is entomophilic, that is, it occurs thanks to bees and other pollinating insects.
Where it can be grown
Observing its typically Mediterranean spontaneous diffusion, we can easily understand that the areas best suited for helichrysum are those of southern or central Italy. In the northern regions, its cultivation can be penalized by the winter cold, however with the ongoing climate changes it would not be surprising to see more and more helichryses even in these environments.
The important thing, however, is to dedicate a sunny position in the vegetable garden or garden to this plant, carefully evaluating the sources of shade and exposure. Thanks to the sun it will best release its scent.
Sowing and planting the helichrysum
The helichrysum can be sown in seedbeds in spring, but in this case the wait is long to have large enough plants.
We therefore recommend purchasing at least one plant already developed at a nursery and then sowing new ones by collecting the seeds towards the end of summer. In this case we will keep the seeds until the following spring in a dry and warm place and then use them to have more specimens of this species.
How to transplant seedlings
At the point chosen for transplanting the seedling, a hole larger than the clod of earth present in the jar at the time of purchase must be dug. This helps the plant develop roots in soft soil, and prevents dangerous water build-up. The soil must be equipped with organic matter, so adding some well-ripened compost or manure is a good practice, then we won’t have to fertilize much later on. It is in fact a species that does not like very rich soils.
We keep at least 30-40 cm of distance between the helichrysum plant and the other species, so that they do not shade each other.
Helichrysum does not require a lot of water, so you need to be thrifty with irrigation to avoid root rot. However, with newly planted seedlings it is necessary to intervene more often, especially during the summer period.
In winter it is very useful to protect the roots of the plant by means of a mulch, or natural, that is, based on leaves, straw or bark or even black sheets.
Pruning does not have to be intensive for this species. We can limit ourselves to cutting the withered flowers and dried or damaged shoots.
Make helichrysum cutting
In addition to collecting the seeds, another simple method to reproduce a beautiful helichrysum plant on your own is the cutting.
At the beginning of spring we can cut small segments of branch and put them to root in a greenhouse-seedbed, in pots with soil kept moist. After about a month or a month and a half of permanence in the greenhouse and regular watering, rooting takes place and in this way it is possible to obtain specimens genetically identical to the mother plant.
Grow the helichrysum in pots
Helichrysum is a very suitable plant for ornamental purposes for terraces, balconies and window sills. Even in this case, however, it is important to place it in the sun and ensure a suitable size pot.
Irrigation, always moderate, must be more intense than in open ground cultivation, and every year it is important to administer a little organic fertilizer such as manure.
Harvesting and use of the plant
Helichrysum is a plant rich in precious essential oils.
For these purposes, in the cultivation of officinalis for professional purposes, on large surfaces it is collected, then dried and finally distilled.
In a home cultivation we can, for example, collect helichrysum flowers and dry them for the preparation of herbal teas.
Properties of the helichrysum
Helichrysum is a medicinal plant with many beneficial properties, which is why it is used in cosmetics and also in the pharmaceutical field.
Its composition of essential oils, triterpenes, flavonoids, and other important elements at the officinal level make it a precious resource for phytotherapy.
The following have been attributed to the helichrysum:
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
- Antibacterial properties.
- Antihistamine properties.
- Analgesic properties.
- Healing properties for dermatitis, eczema, spots and psoriasis.
This is why it is used to relieve respiratory system problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, for allergies and as a remedy for skin lesions and irritations.
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