3 Types of Helichrysum for your dry garden

If you are looking for hardy and drought-tolerant shrubs to plant in your low-maintenance dry garden, we have a selection of 3 Helichrysums (commonly called everlastingimmortelle, or strawflower) that look lovely in any dry garden. Read on to learn about them and which is best for your garden.

3 lovely Helichrysums

I will describe each Helichrysum with lots of images so that you can easily see what they look like and also compare them in terms of size, hardiness, drought tolerance and blooming times. 

Let’s walk through each plant and then compare them so that you will be able to select the best Helichrysum for your garden.

Varieties of Helichrysum

Helichrysum plants, commonly known as everlasting, are mostly native to the Mediterranean basin and South Africa, where they are adapted to grow in full sun and poor, well-drained soils. This makes them an ideal choice for a Mediterranean garden style.

They are drought-tolerant, hardy and can tolerate most types of soils, from acid to mildly alkaline.

Our selection has 2 very similar Helichrysums native to the Mediterranean basin with a cushion form and a quite different Helichrysum native to South Africa with a spreading habit.

Helichrysum stoechas (Curry Plant)

Helichrysum stoechas commonly called Curry Plant, Common Shrubby Everlasting, or Eternal Flower, is a compact cushion-shaped evergreen shrub. It has thin grey-green leaves and orange-yellow button-like flower heads arranged in dense corymbs at the end of the stems.

During the summer, its flower stalks rise above the foliage carrying many orange-yellow button-like flowers that create a spectacular effect.

Since it’s quite small, it makes a great choice for the front of borders and beds, but also looks lovely as a solitary plant and planted in pots.

It is ideal for seaside gardens because of its resistance to salty water sprays.

I love to see them in rock and gravel gardens, where they seem to belong.

Helichrysum stoechas (curry plant)
  • Size: 30 cm (1 ft) height and 30 – 40 cm (1-1.3 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Southwest Europe to Northern Morocco)

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Curry plant.

Helichrysum italicum (Italian Strawflower)

Helichrysum italicum, commonly called Curry Plant, Italian Strawflower, or Everlasting, is a small, aromatic, compact cushion-shaped evergreen shrub. It has thin grey-green leaves and orange-yellow button-like flower heads arranged in dense corymbs at the end of the stems.

During the summer, its flower stalks rise above the foliage carrying many orange-yellow button-like flowers that create a spectacular effect.

Since it’s quite small, it makes a great choice for the front of borders and beds, but also looks lovely as a solitary plant and planted in pots.

Coastal areas are its natural habitat, so it can also be used in seaside gardens because of its resistance to salty water sprays.

Helichrysum italicum (Italian strawflower)
  • Size: 40 cm (1.3 ft) height and 50 cm (1.6) width
  • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (South Europe)

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of the Italian strawflower.

Helichrysum petiolare (Liquorice Plant)

Helichrysum petiolare, commonly called Liquorice Plant or Silver-bush Everlasting Flower. Is a compact, aromatic, evergreen shrub with a spreading form. It has heart-shaped, silvery-grey, felty leaves and creamy-white flowerheads arranged in dense corymbs on long stalks.

This shrub is very much appreciated for its compact silvery-grey woolly foliage and spreading habit. During the summer, its flower stalks rise above the foliage carrying many small dull creamy-white flower heads with little ornamental value and are often removed by the gardener.

It can be used as a ground cover or intermingled with other plants in rock and gravel gardens. Its cascading growth habit makes it very interesting for containers, hanging baskets and spilling over walls.

Helichrysum petiolare (Liquorice plant)
  • Size: 40 to 50 cm (1.3 to 1.6 ft) height and 1 to 1.5 m (3.2 to 4.9 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -5º C (23 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun / Partial Shade
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 3 months
  • Origin: South Africa

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Liquorice plant

What do Helichrysums look like?

3 types of Helichrysum compared (chart)

Helichrysum plants are small aromatic shrubs, with simple, alternate leaves and flowers borne in dense clusters with papery bracts.

The habit can vary from a cushion shape to spreading. In our selection, we have 2 very similar cushion-shaped Helichrysums: Helichrysum stoechas and Helichrysum italicum. The main distinguishing feature is the shape of the involucre of the flower head, which is narrowly bell-shaped on the H.Italicm, and roughly spherical on the H. stoechas.

We also selected a spreading Helichrysum native to South Africa, which is quite different from the other two.

The leaves can be narrow linear with downturned margins or oval to heart-shaped. The colour can vary from green to grey.

The inflorescence is a dense corymb of several button-like flower heads enclosed in a bell-shaped or ball-shaped involucre. 

The flower colour is usually yellow but can also be reddish pink such as Helichrysum roseo-niveum which is not in our selection.

These plants can smell like:

  • Curry (H. stoechas , H. italicum) hence the name curry plant
  • Liquorice (H. petiolare) hence the name liquorice plant.

In the chart, you may see how the different parts of the selected Helichrysum compare to each other.

Height and Width of Helichrysum plants

Helichrysum height and width chart

The height of Helichrysum plants is usually small, but the width can vary depending on the habit. The cushion-shaped curry plants are more compact, while the prostrate liquorice plants can spread widely.

Which Helichrysum is good for ground cover?

Short and prostrate helichrysums make pretty groundcovers that can replace the lawn. Helichrysum petiolare (liquorice plant) makes an excellent ground cover.

Helichrysum bloom times

Bloom times of Helichrysym plants (chart)

Helichrysum plants will bloom around spring and summer. Some types start a little earlier than others, and the duration of the bloom time also varies a little.

Many factors affect flowering, such as temperature, sunlight availability, and soil fertility, so slight variations may be depending on your garden´s environment. But usually, the bloom times for the 3 selected species in this article are shown on the chart.

Which is the hardiest Helichrysum?

Helichrysum cold hardiness chart

If you give your Helichrysum the right growing conditions, such as well-drained soil and no fertilization, most Helichrysums will be quite hardy. They will only suffer in very wet and cold winters.

In this article, I have selected some quite cold-hardy types because I always try to choose the plants better adapted to weather extremes that we face with climate change.

Nevertheless, some Helichrysums are naturally tougher than others. Depending on your climate, you may choose the best ones for your garden based on the hardiness chart shown here.

Which is the most drought-tolerant Helichrysum?

Helichrysum drought tolerance chart

Helichrysums can be very tough plants that can survive hot and dry weather for long periods and remain evergreen with showy blooms.

Although all Helichrysums are drought-tolerant, some are extremely resistant to drought, such as Curry plant and Italian strawflower, while others are not as tolerant like the Liquorice plant.

The chart uses the drought-tolerance code defined by Olivier Filippi (https://jardin-sec.com/), which I find very useful and have found to be correct based on my own experience.

Which is the best Helichrysum for your garden?

This is the question that I hope to answer with all the information provided in this article. The best helichrysum will be different for different people and different environments.

While you cannot change some conditions, such as the aspect and hardiness of the plant, others you can adjust, like soil and watering.

Steps to choose the best Helichrysum for you

  • Check if it is hardy enough for your climate. If not, then you need to select a different one.
  • Check if you have poor, well-drained soil. If not, see if you can adjust it.
  • Check if the size and shape are appropriate for the spot you want to plant in your garden.
  • Check if your climate can support the water needs for the Helichrysum. If not, plan to water in extreme drought and heat.

If you follow these steps, you will find the right plant for your garden.

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