Santolina magonica (Minorcan Cotton Lavender)
Santolina magonica commonly called Minorcan Cotton Lavender, is a small, aromatic, compact, evergreen shrub with a flattened cushion form. It is one of the smallest Santolinas, with small silver-grey leaves that look like cotton buds and long wiry stalks bearing orange-yellow button-like flower heads.
It is a drought-tolerant shrub native to the Mediterranean basin, specifically to the Spanish Balearic Islands such as Minorca, which is the origin of its common name derives from.
HEIGHT & WIDTH
- Botanical name: Santolina magonica (san-toh-LEE-nuh ma-GO-ni-kah)
- Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-eye)
- Common name: Minorcan Cotton Lavender
- Synonym: Santolina chamaecyparissus subsp. magonica
|Derives from the Latin words Sanctus Linum meaning holy flax, referring to the “miraculous” healing properties of these plants.
How to identify Santolina magonica
Small, aromatic evergreen shrub with a compact flattened cushion shape. It has small, finely divided silver-grey leaves and solitary orange-yellow flower heads on long stems rising above the foliage.
It has horizontal stems that develop roots when in contact with the ground, gradually forming a ground cover.
The shrub has an average height of 25 to 30 cm (0.8 to 1 ft), with 40cm (1.3 ft) when in flower and a width of 60 to 80 cm (1.9 to 2.6 ft).
The stems are more or less straight, i.e., upright in the middle and horizontal at the edges. They are silvery-white and covered with hair.
The stems have alternate, pinnate leaves, with tufts of smaller leaves at the axils.
The flower stems are long and slightly thickened at the base of the orange-yellow inflorescence.
The leaf is aromatic and densely haired, which gives it a silver-grey or almost white colour. It is sessile or short-stalked.
The form is pinnate, with tiny subspherical segments, usually densely arranged in 4 rows, giving it the appearance of many compact buds.
The overall shape of the leaf is oblong.
Some upper leaves of the flower stems are entire (not pinnate).
The size of the main leaves varies between 4 and 12 mm ( 0.15 and 0.47 in) long and 0.7 to 3 mm (0.03 and 0.11 in) wide. The axillary leaves are smaller.
The inflorescence has a capitulum form (button-shaped) and varies between 0.6 to 1 cm (0.23 to 0.39 in) in diameter. It is composed only of disc florets; there are no ray florets.
The tiny orange-yellow flowers (disc florets) are tubular and have five petals fused at the base. They are held in a tight bundle enclosed by rows of involucral hairy bracts. The stamens and pistil stick out from inside the corolla.
An interesting fact is that the Santolina flowers mature centripetally, i.e. the outer flowers are older and open earlier than the inner ones. That is why the flower button has a darker colour in the centre.
The button-like orange-yellow flowers sit on the tip of long thin stalks and bloom in the summer.
Santolina magonica Usage
This shrub is very pretty with its compact flattened cushion shape. During the summer, its flower stalks rise above the foliage carrying many orange-yellow button-like flowers that create a spectacular effect.
It can be used as a solitary plant or planted in groups. Can be planted in pots, beds or borders. In rock or gravel gardens.
Its compact flattened cushion form that gradually spreads by self-layering makes it a great plant for a ground cover.
It is also very popular for seaside gardens because of its resistance to salty water sprays.
Santolina magonica has been used in folk medicine for its vermifuge (deworming) and antispasmodic (control gut spasms) activities. (I could not find any scientific research done on this species to confirm these properties).
The flowers of this shrub are attractive to multiple beneficial insects, which then attract other wildlife, such as birds, enhancing the biodiversity of your garden.
This santolina has been used as an insect repellent, being placed in In closets and drawers to repel cloth moths.
It is also planted in vegetable and fruit gardens to repel destructive garden insects.
Santolina magonica habitat
This shrub grows in the typical Mediterranean landscape at altitudes up to 1400m (4500 ft).
It is seen in dry, rocky and sandy areas. Scrublands, thickets and forest clearings.
It also grows in coastal areas because of its tolerance to maritime exposure.
How to care for Santolina magonica
This shrub is hardy, tolerating frost and temperatures down to -10ºc (14ºF) as long as the soil is well drained.
However, until it is fully established, it will need winter protection. Add some mulch to protect the roots from low temperatures and the foliage from the wet soil.
It needs full sun (at least 6 hours per day) to maintain its best colour and compact shape. It will not flourish in the shade, becoming more floppy as the stems lose their firmness when deprived of sunlight.
It likes hot, well-drained to dry, stony or sandy soils. It especially dislikes wet soil, which makes it more exposed to fungal diseases.
It prefers poor soils, if they’re fertile, the shrub tends to become leggy and has more difficulty tolerating drought and cold temperatures.
It grows well in most types of soils: mildly acidic, neutral and mildly alkaline.
Once established, Green Santolina is drought tolerant and can go for a long time without water (about 5 months if the temperature is not too hot).
Overwatering will probably kill it. In particular, the combination of heat and humidity can lead to fungal disease.
During the first two years after planting, you will need to water the young Santolina every two to three weeks during the summer. Allow the soil to dry out between watering. In case of a heat wave, water more frequently. Monitor your plants closely and look out for any signs of stress.
To preserve the soil´s moisture, you should add mulch around the root area of the plant (but not too close to the base). Wood chips and gravel are good options for mulching.
Santolina magonica can tolerate strong winds and maritime exposure, so it is adapted to coastal conditions.
The best season to plant is during Autumn, so it will have all winter to develop its roots. In very cold areas, it is best to plant during the spring as long as there is available water throughout the summer to survive while developing its roots.
How to prune Santolina magonica
Minorcan Cotton Lavender needs to be pruned a couple of times during the year to remain vigorous and compact.
Ideally, you should give it a hard prune in early spring, which is essential to maintain its compactness and avoid becoming too woody or splitting apart. Then a light prune in late summer after flowering to encourage bushiness.
Be careful to always prune above the leaf, as the stems will not regrow if it is cut back too hard.
How to propagate Santolina magonica
You can also propagate by sowing seeds in a cold frame in autumn or spring. There is a great article about seed propagation at NC Extension gardener
Other Santolinas you may also like
Sources of information used for this article
Plant information from Le Jardin Sec