Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Smelly Plant of the Month: Helichrysum angustifolium

Also known as Everlasting or Immortelle. Aka "Scaredy-Cat Plant" and "Curry Plant". It does not scare cats away, and rabbits love the smell. It would taste awful in a curry, though it's not poisonous. It IS used in perfumery, and it does smell heavenly. Like celestial maple syrup.
It can be grown in Zones 8b to 11, and it's from the Mediterranean. It's a bushy, tough perennial, and very nearly succulent. On warm days, the perfume from the leaves, and particularly the yellow, fluffyball flowers is very strong and some say, can make you sleepy! You can dry the flowers, or distill them.

I was delighted to find one at our local nursery, I've never seen them sold before. Now I'm huffing its beautiful scent constantly. A famous perfume that features immortelle is Sables by Annick Goutal. It pairs well with spices like cinnamon and mace, and woods such as sandalwood. What a find for a smelly garden!


  1. Thank you for the great information. My region of the Pacific Northwest is truly zone 8 and I probably wouldn't be successful with Immortelle unless I could find a warmer spot on property. There are areas of zone 8b scattered around nearby that tempt me to give this plant a try. Do you have any suggestions? Gail

  2. I would try growing it in a pot so you could bring it in during hard freezes. If not, a sheltered spot, then you could cover it with insulating wrap during a freeze, that's worked for me with some of my outdoor tropicals. I've read comments from other people that the plant is surprisingly cold-hardy, so you could probably grow it where you live.

  3. There are hundreds of different Helichrysum species, and the names are confusing. Apparently angustifolium is synonymous with italicum, the species used to make the "maple-syrup" absolute, but there are several subspecies.

    I think I've seen it in local (PNW) nurseries and growing in gardens and seem to recall growing something called "curry plant" that looked like that photo when I lived in NC, where the winters are colder than here. Next time I'm in a place that sells garden plants I'll look for it. I think it's worth a try, especially in the "Mediterranean microclimate" section of my property.

  4. Yes, it's confusing, isn't it?? This one is supposed to be identical with italicum, but mine has stubbier leaves, so go figure. Same scent, though. I think it would do very well in your climate. I should have bought every pot they had, because I've already committed to giving multiple stem cuttings to everyone who has smelled it so far!