Cotton Lavender 

Santolina chamaecyparissus 

An easy and undemanding plant that does not require a rich soil, though it strongly dislikes wet conditions around the roots. Prefers a light sandy fairly poor soil on a sunny slope. Prefers a chalky soil. Established plants are drought tolerant. They succeed in a hot dry position. Hardy to about -15°c when in a well-drained soil. A very wind hardy plant, it succeeds on the top of Cornish dry-stone walls. A very ornamental plant, there are several named varieties. Cotton lavender tolerates shearing so long as this is not done at times of low resistance (winter?). Plants can be cut back hard in spring to maintain their form, though this will prevent them flowering. A good companion plant for roses. Flowers are produced on two year old wood. The leaves are very aromatic. The bruised leaves are pleasantly pungent, though the flowers have an unpleasant smell. The form S. chamaecyparissus nana has a more pungent aroma than the type. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Soil Information

Cotton Lavender will grow in light (sandy),medium (loamy), soil. It is / is important for the soil to be well drained.

The soil prefers the following PH / acid levels :

- pH of less than 6, Acidic soils

- pH between 6 and 8, Neutral soils

- pH greater than 8, Basic soils

Cotton Lavender prefers either dry or moist soils

Ideal Planting Locations

Cotton Lavender should not be planted in shady areas.

Dry ground, stony banks and rocks, usually on calcareous soils.

Planting places suited to this plant described below.

Grows within a woodland garden

Grows on a sunny edge

Can be planted in Cultivated Beds

Can spread to cover ground and will out compete weeds

Can be used as a hedge

In an East Wall

Edible Uses* 

The aromatic leaves are used as a flavouring for broths, sauces, grain dishes etc.

Condiment - the various plants that are used as flavourings, either as herbs, spices or condiments.

Medicinal Uses* 

The leaves and flowering tops are antispasmodic, disinfectant, emmenagogue, stimulant and vermifuge. Cotton lavender is rarely used medicinally, though it is sometimes used internally as a vermifuge for children and to treat poor digestion and menstrual problems. When finely ground and applied to insect stings or bites, the plant will immediately ease the pain. Applied to surface wounds, it will hasten the healing process by encouraging the formation of scar tissue. The leaves and flowering stems are harvested in the summer and dried for later use.

Antispasmodic - Relaxes muscular spasms and cramps, calming nervous irritation.

Disinfectant - Used for cleaning wounds.

Emmenagogue - Promotes or increases the menstrual flow. In early stages of pregnancy it can induce an abortion.

Stings - Used in the treatment of stings and insect bites.

Vermifuge - Expels and kills internal parasites.


Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Does not require pre-treatment. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe side shoots, 5 - 8 cm long with a heel, July/August in a frame. Roots within 2 weeks. High percentage[78]. The heeled cuttings can also be placed direct into the open garden in early July and should be well-rooted by the winter. Division in spring or autumn. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Layering.

Scented parts of the plants

Flowers : Fresh Leaves : Crushed

Known Hazards

The bruised leaves have been known to cause a severe rash on sensitive skins.

Other Uses

Plants can be grown as a low formal hedge and used as an edging plant. The plant is very tolerant of shearing. In less exposed areas the plants can be trimmed in the autumn, otherwise they need to be cut by early April if they are to be allowed to flower. Plants can also be grown for ground cover. They are best spaced about 60cm apart each way. The leaves are strewn amongst clothes to repel moths etc. The growing plant repels various insect pests, especially cabbage moths. The dried leaves are used in pot-pourri. An essential oil from the leaves is used in perfumery, the oil is also obtained from the flowers.

Dye - Plants that provide dyes.

Essential - Essential oils that are used in perfumery, medicines, paint solvents, insect repellents etc.

Ground cover - Usually low growing plants that can be grown with other plants, especially shrubs and trees, to prevent the growth of weeds.

Hedge - Plants that can be grown as hedges.

Pot-pourri - Aromatic plants used to impart a pleasant smell to an area. Can this be grouped with incense or essential oil?

Repellent - Plants that are said to deter but not necessarily kill various mammals, birds, insects etc.


'Weston' - A dwarf form, to about 30cm tall and 40cm wide, the foliage is more ornamental than the species and has a strong pungent scent.