Helichrysum populifolium

Water Needs

moderate; high

Helichrysum populifolium
Shrub small; Shrub medium
Poplar Helichrysum

2 - 3 m

Size

Light Conditions

shade; semi-shade; sun

Frost

tender

Flowers

Cream with touches of pale yellow; March - May; autumn

sun; dry shade; light shade; moist sun; rockery; screen

Garden Situation

Habitat

woodland forest; rocky places; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn

Region

subtropical east coast; thicket

Rain Season

Summer

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Description

Unusual in the Helichrysum family, this is a shade loving shrub with a slightly scrambling growth habit and gorgeous large grey leaves. Quite tactile, they have soft felt-like feel and look and are especially lovely after the rain when the rain drops settle on the leaves like little diamonds. Along with the similar but smaller Barleria albostelata, this soft shade of grey brings a much-needed form and contrast to other shade shrubs. It occurs along the east coast in KZN and Transkei where it is found on forest margins frequently in the company of Strelitzia Nicolai, Clivia and Plectranthus species. It also can be seen on cliffs and large rocky outcrops.  The stems are woody, growing to about 2m in height and an equal width. The heart shaped leaves grow up to 130 x 110 mm but a variety of sizes are found on the shrub at any one time. The undersides of the leaves are white and softly furry to the touch with the white extending along the leaf stem.  At times the leaves can look a dark green with a grey felt –like sheen to them. While this shrub is planted more for the leaves than the flowers, they form large, attractive creamy-yellow sprays that blend in rather than stand out from the foliage. These abundant masses hang down in large branching clusters that dry to a pale brown. With a hint of fragrant honey, the flowers last a good while from March to May. In the garden this is a valuable plant in the changeable edge between sun and shade – preferably morning sun and afternoon shade and when the low winter sun doesn’t reach under the canopy. It is a summer rainfall species so does require good summer rains if planted elsewhere, and responds well to well-composted soils. A relatively fast grower, H. populifolium reaches full size within 3 years or so. Although it does tend to scramble if left alone, it forms a very neat shrub if pruned lightly in winter once flowering is over. Propagate from seed and cuttings – tip cuttings from new growth in early summer.

Helichrysum populifolium
Helichrysum populifolium