A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m – 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flowerheads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer (December and January).
Helichrysum petiolare occurs in the drier inland parts, sheltered slopes and forest margins of the Western Cape (Cederburg and Jonkershoek Mountains), Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
The name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek (h)elios for sun and chrysos for gold, although not all species have golden flowers; petiolare refers to long leaf stalks. Common names are Imphepho, Kooigoed, Everlastings, a reference to the persistent flower heads
Uses and cultural aspects
Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems and high blood pressure. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.
The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding; campers still do the same today. Burning a mixture of Helichrysum and Artemisia afra leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
The essential oil has been investigated for its anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It forms a component of traditional African medicine. The leaves and twigs are boiled and prepared as a sort of tea to soothe coughs and fever. The leaves are also applied to wounds to prevent infection, and are ceremonially burnt to produce a traditional incense.[
This plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed sown in autumn (March). It should be planted in full sun in well-drained soil. This decorative plant spreads rapidly and should be cut back occasionally.
Helichrysum petiolare is a a silver-hued foliage plant ideal for edging, beddingand containers. Licorice plant provides a cool backdrop for pastels and contrasts well with jeweltoned blooms and foliage. It is also drought tolerant and very easy to grow. The plant is grown as a perennial where hardy and an annual bedding plant where tender. It prefers full sun and tolerates partial shade
The cultivar Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ has luminescent yellow-green foliage in place of the usual grey. It does well in semi-shade and looks good inter-planted with dark coloured foliage plants to create interesting contrasts. It is short lived and need replacing every 2 years.