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Santolina chamaecyparissus is a small evergreen shrub native to Mediterranean Europe; the plants of some years can reach the 50-60 cm of height, expanding for 80-90 cm in width. It has an erect or semi-prostrate habit, and forms dense roundish shrubs, consisting of thin woody stems covered with very divided leaves, composed of small linear lobes, of gray-green color, with a woolly appearance, intensely perfumed. In summer it produces small, rounded yellow flowers, gathered in apical inflorescences. Ideal as a border plant, due to the very decorative foliage, it is also used in the beds of aromatic plants, even if the fragrant leaves are not commonly found in the recipes of our peninsula. Generally we tend to trim the floral stems, to keep the appearance of the most compact shrub. There are about ten species of santoline, generally the most cultivated are S. chamaecyparissus and S. rosmarinifolia.
For optimal growth of the santoline it is necessary to place the plants in a very bright and sunny place, where the sun's rays can directly strike our santolina; in general they can also withstand temperatures well below zero, but sometimes they need coverage if the winter months are particularly harsh; in general it is sufficient to mulch the soil around the base of the stem with straw or leaves to ensure good growth of the plant and prevent it from suffering due to particularly cold temperatures.
As for watering, in the summer months they may need sporadic irrigation, about every 10-15 days, for the rest of the year they are generally satisfied with the rains; if they are repaired in winter it is good to remember to wet the plants at least once a month. It is advisable to water the plants starting from the bottom, avoiding instead to wet the leaves that could be ruined by a contact with too long water, for the same reason it is good to avoid making the branches fall too much towards the ground.
Santolina chamaecyparissus species prefer loose, well-drained, sandy and possibly calcareous soils; however, they usually develop without problems in any terrain, as they have very few crop needs.
Let's see together how to proceed if you want to reproduce the Santolina chamaecyparissus. At the end of winter it is possible to sow the santoline, in a seedbed kept in a temperate place, otherwise it is possible to sow them outdoors in the months of April-May. In late summer it is possible to practice cuttings, ie use plant fragments to root in a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts to allow the plant to regenerate a new species.
Santolina chamaecyparissus: Pests and diseases
In general, santolina plants are not attacked by pests or diseases, although it is possible that aphids attack inflorescences. These are parasites also known as "plant lice" which feed on the sap present in the leaves of the various tree species and which cause the plant to weaken. The leaves shrink and dry bringing the plant to death. To combat the problem it is useful to use specific pesticides for aphids.