We thought we had talked at Gardenprue about all the aromatic plants for our garden or orchard, but we had forgotten about santolina !
A species with a very characteristic bearing and color and with an even more intense chamomile aroma. We are going to see how to plant it, what conditions it requires and what we can do with it.
If you did not know it, you will want to have one.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SANTOLINA CHAMAECYPARISSUS
Of all the aromatic plants that we can plant in an orchard or aromatic garden, santolina is a really easy plant to grow.
Originally from Mediterranean areas, it is an aromatic shrub whose rusticity is served. Very similar to thyme for example in terms of conditions.
From a decorative point of view, it has a low shrubby habit (it rarely grows more than 50 cm) in a «ball» format, widely used for small low hedges.
It is an evergreen with a very characteristic whitish grayish green that makes it practically unmistakable.
In summer, characteristic and abundant yellow flower buds bloom , which are used for their medicinal properties thanks to their content in various phenolic acids (antioxidants), terpenes, resins, various alkaloids, etc.
Of its chemical composition, the essence of santolina contains approximately 25% camphor in addition to other known compounds such as eucalyptol and many others not so well known in minor quantities.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL USE OF SANTOLINA
It is attributed practically the same properties as chamomile and can be used as a substitute.
The flowering season is the one that contains the highest concentration of essence and that is why it is the flower buds that are collected for use in infusions.
Its essence has digestive properties, such as a stomach tonic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and even vermifuge (as a treatment for certain intestinal worms).
Normally the infusion of flower buds is the most common form of consumption. Between 5 and 10 flowers per cup.
If the essence is used commercially, one must be careful with the doses and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, precisely because of its high content of camphor and other compounds that in excessive doses can be counterproductive.
Remember that the important thing in the medicinal uses of certain chemical compounds (natural or not) is the dose.
LET THE SANTOLINA BLOOM?
This is a curious question. I do not think that it happens to us in any other aromatic or garden or orchard plant. In the end we almost always want to see them flourish.
In santolina, when it blooms, the shrub opens and is left with a very open and hollow “sloppy” appearance, losing its compact appearance when in vegetative mode.
For this reason, there are those who like to keep the appearance compact and do not let it bloom (or limit flowering a lot), putting the aesthetic before the medicinal, remember that what is used from this plant are mainly the flowers.
Here we leave you a couple of images to see the difference.
Difference between vegetative and flowering santolina. Photos from: lambley.com.au
NEEDS FOR A CORRECT CULTIVATION OF SANTOLINA
It is a simple crop, thanks to its rusticity. The most important thing is the drainage of the soil and pruning but let’s take a closer look at the most common aspects of its cultivation.
CLIMATE AND HABITAT
As we have already mentioned before, the santolina comes from Mediterranean areas although its rusticity gives it a very wide variety of environments.
We can find santolina in coastal areas and it has even been seen at more than 2,000 meters of altitude.
And due to its original habitat we could suspect that it is a heat plant (which it is) but it also supports frosts and quite strong, being able to survive down to -15ºC.
SOIL AND IRRIGATION
Like thyme, it grows in stony calcareous areas with a basic pH, withstanding drought quite well. It can grow in soils not too rich in organic matter even but it needs a very good drainage .
Perhaps it is the most important aspect to take into account when growing Santolina in addition to pruning. As long as the soil drains enough, we can do moderate watering without it suffering from root suffocation.
In drought areas it supports the lack of water well. This feature makes it an easy crop that we don’t have to worry about excessively.
IS SANTOLINA PRUNED? AND CAN IT BE MULTIPLIED?
Yes, pruning it is very necessary and convenient if we want to maintain its compact appearance.
As mentioned before, flowering causes the bush to spread out a lot and there are hollows, for them, if it is allowed to flower, it is necessary to prune after flowering to favor adequate branching towards the interior of the bush and maintain its density. and its ornamental appeal.
Its multiplication is simple by cuttings in spring or autumn. Finally, we must mention that Santolina does not usually suffer from pests and diseases.