The holy herb Santolina belongs to the daisy family. These species are mostly upright, branched, sometimes overhanging to deciduous perennial subshrubs that usually reach heights of 10-60 cm. Most of the plants, which are often hairy, exude a very aromatic scent. The basket-like, white to yellow flower heads can reach diameters of 3-12 mm. The holy herb is an ideal border plant, which is very well suited for Mediterranean perennial plants, for so-called ornamental plantings, for example in baroque gardens, but also for scented and rock gardens. It is now being planted more and more often in cottage gardens.


  • Holy herb belongs to the daisy family.
  • Evergreen dwarf shrubs.
  • Filigree, aromatically scented foliage.
  • Flower heads sulfur yellow and long-stalked.
  • Flowering time from June-August/September.
  • Growth height between 10 and 60 cm depending on the variety.
  • Growth width between 40 and 60 cm.
  • Light winter protection required.
  • Group and individual planting possible.


Santolina chamaecyparissus – Gray or Silver-leaved Holywort/Cypresswort Gray or silver-leaved Holywort
is also known as Cypresswort. The name cypress herb probably refers to its silvery, shimmering, filigree, needle-like foliage that exudes an aromatic, resinous scent. The leaves are elongated and finely toothed. It is very tolerant of pruning and drought and grows up to 40 cm high. It can be used both fresh and dried, for example as a herb. Santolina chamaecyparissus can also be cultivated as a houseplant and, with a little patience, even as a bonsai.

Santolina rosmarinifolia ssp. Canescens – grey-green or rosemary-leaved saint’s herb
The winter-green, very distinctive grey-green saint’s-wort is often also referred to as rosemary heather. It grows upright and bushy and is between 30 and 50 cm high. The bright yellow flowers, about 1 cm in size, appear from July to August. Its leaves are grey-green, narrow and needle-shaped. The scent of this plant is light and sweet. In order to maintain its stability and compact growth, an annual pruning is required.

Santolina rosmarinifolia ssp. Rosmarinifolia – Green Holy Herb/Olive Herb
Santolina rosmarinifolia ssp. Like the other two species, Rosmarinifolia is also perennial and evergreen. This variety also grows between 20 and 40 cm high. The leaves are narrow, linear and toothed. The yellow flowers appear from early July to late August. It is also conditionally hardy and needs light winter protection. In addition, this plant should be protected from frost in winter.


For sowing, you can buy seeds commercially or harvest them from existing plants after flowering. The seeds are dried in a warm place for a few days, then stored in an airtight container until early spring. The seeds of the holy herb belong to the cold germs and must be subjected to a cold treatment before sowing. To aid germination, soak the seeds in lukewarm water for about a day.

Then the cold treatment takes place. Depending on the prevailing temperatures, they can be sown outdoors, provided that temperatures below zero are no longer to be expected. Otherwise you can put the seeds in a plastic bag with some sand and seal it. The whole thing is now kept for about 4 weeks in the refrigerator at temperatures between 5 and 7 degrees.

After these 4 weeks, the seeds are placed in a seed pot with a mineral substrate that should only contain a small amount of potting soil. Since they belong to the light germs, they must not be covered with soil and only be pressed lightly. The first seedlings appear within a few weeks. As soon as these have a few leaves, they can be separated. The young seedlings should not be planted outdoors before mid-May due to their limited winter hardiness.

Older specimens of the holy herb can be planted out from March to October with a planting distance of about 30 cm, provided the soil is frost-free. When planting in the balcony box, distances of about 15 cm are recommended.

Tip: Suitable companion plants for planting in the balcony box are daffodils, tulips, cultivated daisies (Bellis), small grasses but also smaller ornamental leaf plants. In the garden, alongside purple bells, blue cushioned bells, wild tulips, but also alongside lavender or roses, it sets particularly beautiful accents.

location and soil

  • The Santolina species of the holy herb love full sun, warm and dry locations.
  • Above all, the soil should be permeable, dry to fresh, lean and low in humus.
  • Stony, sandy-loamy and neutral to strongly alkaline soils are suitable.
  • This plant is very sensitive to waterlogging.
  • Therefore, the soil must be well drained.
  • This can be achieved by mixing chippings or gravel under the soil when planting.
  • Good water drainage is also important when planting in tubs or flower boxes.
  • Don’t forget the drainage layer in the pot.

watering and fertilizing

Both water and nutrient requirements are very low. As a rule, no additional watering is required, occasional rain is sufficient. Only water should be poured immediately after planting. This plant does not need to be fertilized either, and a regular supply of nutrients can be dispensed with.

To cut

The holy herb Santolina is one of the subshrubs that should be cut back regularly. Thanks to its good cut tolerance, a stronger pruning is no problem. This allows it to retain its compact, hemispherical shape and support the formation of new shoots. A pruning can be done in late spring, at the beginning of sprouting or immediately after flowering. It is best to form the plants after flowering and cut them back heavily in late spring.
Cut back in late spring

In late spring, when the first buds sprout, you should cut back harder, if possible in the year of planting. To do this, shorten the holy herb to about a third and cut it into a hemispherical shape. Since the growth phase has already begun, it will quickly sprout again after cutting and form new shoots. This minimizes the risk of the shoots drying out. This cut usually leads to a bushy growth and protects the plant from bareness, which the holy herb tends to do.

Note: It should only ever be cut in the leafy area. If you cut down to the leafless parts, the holy herb will not sprout again.

Cut after flowering

  • After flowering is the best time to give the plant a topiary.
  • To do this, cut the plant into a spherical or hemispherical shape.
  • A stronger pruning is not recommended now.
  • The foliage serves as winter protection for the plant.
  • This is recommended due to the partially limited frost hardiness.
  • In some cases, pruning directly above the ground in early spring is also recommended.
  • This pruning is said to increase the winter hardiness of these plants.
  • However, cutting too early can cause the shoots to dry up.

Propagation by cuttings

For propagation by cuttings, 15-20 cm long shoot tips are cut from the mother plant. These should not bloom and only be slightly woody. The leaves are removed in the lower area. Then you put them with the leafless part in groups of 2 or 3 in small pots with a nutrient-poor substrate. Care should be taken to ensure good water drainage. If necessary, the substrate can be made more permeable with a little sand.

The cuttings now need higher humidity. Accordingly, they are covered with translucent foil, which is removed from time to time for a short time and the whole thing is ventilated to prevent mold or rot. Now the pots should be placed in a bright and warm place with temperatures around 25 degrees for the next few weeks.

When the first sprout appears, this is a sign that the cuttings have formed roots. Then you can plant them individually in pots and put them back in a warm place until spring. Even if this plant is quite drought-loving, the substrate should now be kept slightly moist so that the young plants can develop a strong root ball. This will prepare them for planting in the garden. As soon as the ground is frost-free in spring and no more night frosts are to be expected, they can move into the garden.

Tip: Working a little compost into the soil when planting out in the garden will help the plant grow and give it a good start.

multiply by division

A division and transplanting of the Santolina species is only recommended every 10-15 years. The best time for this is spring. Carefully lift the affected plant out of the ground with a spade or digging fork and shake off any loose soil. Then you separate the root ball with the spade. After division, each section should have sufficient roots and at least one shoot.
Before replanting them in their new location, remove damaged and diseased root parts and disinfect the cuts with wood ash. Now you can plant the plants at a distance of 30-40 cm and water them a little.

Increase by lowering

Since these plants grow both upright and prostrate, propagation by layering is also possible. To do this, select an elastic shoot and bend it to the ground without separating it from the mother plant. There you dig out a long channel into which you put the branch. Then you fill the channel with soil so that the tip of the shoot looks out of the ground and press it down. To ensure that the sinker stays in the ground, you can fix it to the ground with wire or stones. Once the sinker has formed roots, it can be separated from the mother plant and planted.

Tip: To speed up rooting of the sinker, it can be helpful to score its bark very lightly in two or three places with a sharp knife or razor blade and only then cover it with soil. Roots should soon form in the scratched areas.


Especially in particularly cold locations, the saint’s herb is not one hundred percent hardy. Then a light winter protection is recommended. The best way to protect the root area is to cover it with a thick layer of dry leaves, bark mulch, or brushwood. In milder locations, this plant usually gets through the winter well without protection.

Holy herb is very sensitive to winter wetness. If necessary, it must also be protected from frost. By frost is meant frost near the ground, which, due to a lack of snow cover, has a direct effect on the top layer of soil and thus on the plants.

Note: Specimens that have been planted in balcony boxes or tubs should hibernate as frost-free and bright as possible.

diseases and pests

Diseases and pests are usually not a problem for the Santolina species. The only risk can be wetness or persistent minus temperatures well below -10 degrees as well as frost. With the right location and sufficient winter protection, this can be counteracted.

frequently asked Questions

What should you pay attention to when buying holy herb?
When buying, you should make sure that the plant is not too wet. If moss has settled on the substrate, it is not advisable to buy it, because the roots may already have been damaged.

Is there anything to consider when planting?
When planting, it is important to ensure a sunny location and well-drained soil. This applies to specimens planted in the garden as well as to potted or tub plants. Stagnant moisture should be avoided at all costs, because it doesn’t do the holy herb at all.

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