Helichrysum petiolare, commonly known as the Licorice plant, Trailing Dusty Miller, or Silver-bush, Everlasting flower, is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. This adorable bush originates from South Africa, where native people usually call it Imphepho.
Licorice plants are one of those popular ornamentals that can add personality to any dull spot from your garden or home. Many gardeners worldwide grow these shrubs for their attractive foliage, but also due to their irresistible low-demanding nature. Like most tropical species, they can thrive with lots of light, warm weather, and a bit of water every now and then.
Keep reading to get more familiar with growing and caring for Licorice plants!
About Licorice Plant
- Licorice plants come with plenty of cultivars to choose from. The H. petiolare species with the ‘Goring Silver’, ‘Limelight’, and ‘Variegatum’ varieties are stunning recipients of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
- Their foliage has a slight liquorice fragrance and contains essential oil. However, these shrubs are not closely related to Glycyrrhiza glabra, the true and well-known Liquorice plant.
- The essential oil that can be obtained from Helichrysum Petiolare has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties.
- Licorice plants play a big part in traditional African medicine. Many folks use them as a treatment for infections, headaches, fever, cough, colds, wounds, chest problems, asthma, insomnia, allergies, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- The papery flowers of Licorice plants are popular components in various flower arrangements. Some people also use them in many dried mixes of naturally fragrant flowers known as potpourri.
- In ceremonies and rituals, traditional Africans burn dried Imphepho plants to invoke their ancestors and drive away evil spirits guilty of causing illness. The smoke has psychoactive properties, causing ecstasy, euphoria, mild hallucinations, or uncontrolled giggling to those who breathe it.
- Prized for their beauty and versatility, Licorice plants make for perfect additions in rock gardens, edging planting, roses/shrubs underplanting, and also as groundcovers. Likewise, they will look great in containers or hanging baskets.
- Licorice plants will look at their best if you plant them near other cute species of plants. The most common companions for them include Canna Lily, Coleus, English Lavender, Geranium, Gerbera Daisy, Heliotropium, Marigold, Marjoram, Ornamental Pepper, Petunia, Roses, Rosemary, Stonecrop, Summer Snapdragon, Begonia, and Zinnia.
- All parts of Licorice plants are toxic to both humans and animals if ingested. For safety purposes, make sure you are growing these shrubby friends where your kids or pets cannot reach them.
Licorice Plant Features: An Overview
- They belong to the Helichrysum genus that contains about 600 species of flowering plants. Licorice plants share this genus with eye-catching species, such as Cape Gold, Curry plant, Golden everlasting, Red everlasting, or Tree everlasting.
- Licorice plants are evergreen annual or perennial subshrubs. They can reach from 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) in height and 24 to 59 inches (60-150 cm) in width.
- Their soft, dense foliage consists of small, round, furry, velvet-like, and green to silvery-green leaves that grow on long, woody, trailing stems. On some cultivars, the leaves can appear in chartreuse shades or variegated with hypnotic patterns.
- While perennial Licorice plants may bloom occasionally, annuals will not produce flowers at all. But when these shrubs bloom, they exhibit abundant clusters of tiny, insignificant, white blossoms with yellowish centres.
- Once their flowering period has ended, usually after September, Licorice plants bear fruits where the bloomings were. The fruits are achenes that split open and release seeds. Because of this, the species can become pretty invasive.
Growing Licorice Plant
Without a doubt, Licorice plants will grow at their best under full sunlight exposure all year round. However, since these shrubs produce flowers pretty rarely, they can also do just fine in a partially shaded location. In fact, they will appreciate some shade in those regions with excessive heat, especially during the harsh summer afternoons.
Like most tropical species, Licorice plants are hardy only in the USDA areas 9 to 11. In general, these plants cannot tolerate very cold winters or frost. They do well in slightly warmer temperatures that range from 60 to 80 °F (15-30 °C). If you live in a zone with cooler weather, we recommend you grow your shrubbies in containers and bring them inside in autumn. Keep in mind that you can move them back outdoors only when the last danger of frost has passed.
Licorice plants are one of those companions that do not encounter too many problems with pests or fungal diseases. Still, when these shrubs have their feet constantly wet, root rot may occur with time. Make sure you allow their soil to dry out in-between drinks to avoid this issue. Likewise, the foliage can become scorched if you are growing your Licorice plants in hot direct sunlight and you do not provide them with enough water.
Planting Licorice Plant
Although Licorice plants grow perfectly in moist soil, they are susceptible to root rot if they experience soggy conditions or waterlogging. Because of this, you should plant your shrubs using a substrate that comes with sharp drainage. As long as the soil is well-draining, you can plant them in absolutely any type of growing medium with all soil pH values.
If you are growing your Licorice plants in poor soil, make sure you mix in some compost or other organic materials when first planting them. Organic materials will typically provide your shrubs with nutrients and also improve drainage.
Licorice plants usually thrive with little to no fertilizers overall. However, in case your shrubs look somewhat unhealthy and do not grow anymore, fertilizers will bring them back in shape in a short period. Perennial Licorice plants may perform best with feedings of balanced fertilizer once or twice every year. For annuals, a single application with the same product in mid-spring will be more than enough.
As they grow older, Licorice plants will start to show up with some old, brownish stems. If you want to keep your shrubs in their splendour, you can safely prune those stems whenever you notice them. This process will also promote new growth. Likewise, pinching back the younger, healthy stems will help you maintain your plants smaller and full-looking.
Watering Licorice Plant
One of the greatest features of Licorice plants is their ability to tolerate prolonged periods of drought. You can basically skip watering your shrubs for weeks and you will find them as fresh and healthy as ever. If you are a beginner or forgetful gardener, the forgiving Licorice plants are surely the ideal start-ups for you.
But! Being species that grow in tropical areas, Licorice plants will appreciate some moisture once in a while. In case you live in a region with regular rainfalls, they will get all the needed moisture from rainwater. If not, you will have to intervene, especially during the hot and dry summer months.
The most common mistake among growers is over-watering. Luckily, you can prevent this from happening by allowing the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of soil to dry out in-between waterings. When the soil feels dry to the touch, this is the best time to provide your shrubs with a nice drink.
Propagating Licorice Plant
If you have fallen in love with Licorice plants and want more of them to fill your indoor or outdoor settings, we are here to help you out! These shrubs respond well to propagation, but only if you are using stem cuttings taken in spring. Don’t get discouraged, gardener! This method is a piece of cake, so you will manage to make more Licorice plants with minimal effort.
As a general rule, the cuttings must have woody bases and new, soft tips. Look for this kind of stem and cut about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) off them just below a leaf node. Remove all the lower leaves from each cutting, then pinch the softest part of its tip. After this process, dip the cut end in rooting hormone deep enough so at least two leaf nodes meet the powder.
Fill a container with equal parts of good-quality potting soil and coarse sand. Plant the Licorice cuttings in the substrate until the hormone-covered leaf nodes are in it. Place the pot in a location with bright, indirect light and make sure you provide the cuttings with water regularly to maintain the soil barely moist. With proper care, the Licorice cuttings will develop roots in three to four weeks after planting.
Propagating Licorice plants using stem cuttings is usually most effective on cultivars. If you are the owner of the Helichrysum petiolare species, you can also propagate them through seeds. First things first, you have to collect the seeds and soak them in room temperature water for a day. Once this period has passed, you can sow the Licorice seeds in a soilless potting mix. The seeds will typically germinate within two weeks or so if you provide them with lots of light, bottom heat of 68-70 °F (20-21 °C), and regular moisture.
Helichrysum petiolare a.k.a. Licorice plant is all you need if you want an attractive and easy-going companion in your plant family! As long as you can simulate the environmental conditions from its natural habitat, you will encounter no problems along the way.
Are you growing Helichrysum Petiolare? Share your experience in the comment section!
Thank you Miruna for the excellent information regarding the licorice plant. I was considering overwintering one and after reading your article I will now attempt it.