Aromatic plants

Helichrysum – Helichrysum italicum

Helichrysum plant

The helichrysum, also called everlasting or perpetual of Italy, belongs to the Composite family, to the genus Helichrysum and to the italicum species. It is a perennial plant characterized by a compact habit, up to 50 cm high, with woody, tortuous, basically erect and hairy stems; the roots are fusiform. The leaves are very fine, linear, hairy, up to 5 cm long and green in color tending to silver. The flowers are gathered in small inflorescences called flower heads, which have an outer shell made up of dark yellow petals and a conical receptacle, which constitutes the central part of the inflorescence in which the single tubular and light yellow flowers are found; the flower heads are located at the apex of the stems and are arranged like an umbrella.

Flowering occurs from late spring to early autumn, pollination is entomophilous, operated by bees and other pollinating insects. The fruits are globose achenes provided with pappus. The plant is characterized by a very intense aroma, given by the down that completely covers it; the flower heads are the predominantly used part of the plant.

Climate and terrain


The helichrysum is a thermophilic plant, for which it prefers the warm temperate climates of the Mediterranean basin, it is however able to adapt also to temperate environments, as long as they are well sheltered from the cold. The best exposures are the environments in full sun, remembering however what has already been mentioned above. The perpetuin of Italy prefers arid, sandy, stony, calcareous soils, rather poor and well drained, while it avoids compact ones because it is sensitive to water stagnation. The houseleek is native to the Mediterranean basin, in Italy it is widespread everywhere, especially in Liguria, and grows spontaneously near the sea, in the stony ground, in the uncultivated and in the arid environments of the coastal hills up to 700-800 m of altitude. The species is considered an excellent flower arrangement for rock gardens.

Propagation


The helichrysum is multiplied by seed and vegetatively by taking cuttings, the latter method is mostly used because direct sowing is characterized by a strong heterogeneity of the seedlings, which can germinate at different times. The cuttings are rooted in late summer in a substrate, characterized by a sub-alkaline pH and good drainage, consisting of sand, peat and cultivated soil. In this way, in early spring the seedlings are ready to be transplanted in the open field.

Cultivation techniques


The planting distances vary according to the destination of the product: for the flower heads the sixths are 70 cm between the rows and 30 cm on the row, with a density of 4-5 plants / m2, while for the production of essential oil the plant is more dense, with distances of 50 cm between the rows and 20 cm on the row, with an investment of 10 plants / sqm. The control of weeds is carried out by carrying out weeding between one row and the other. The cultivation cycle of the helichrysum has an economic duration of 5-6 years. Fertilization consists in distributing phosphorus and potassium during the preparation of the seedbed and nitrogen at the vegetative restart and after each mowing. The houseleek does not require irrigation as it develops in arid environments, however, in the case of open field cultivation it is important to irrigate in the early stages following transplantation in case of drought conditions. With pruning, the dry, withered and decayed parts of the plant are removed, this operation is carried out in the case of the cultivation of a few specimens in family gardens.

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