Plant Collector – Helichrysum Silver Cushion

A delightful mound of silver foliage and white daisies

A delightful mound of silver foliage and white daisies

When helichrysum are mentioned, most people think of the everlasting straw flowers, usually orange and yellow, which are fun for children to grow and may have a place decorating a sunhat (preferably somebody else’s) or gathering dust as part of permanent flower displays. However the helichrysum family is much larger than that. Silver Cushion looks like a mounded silver cushion with dense tiny leaves (they are about 4mm across) and a mass of dainty white straw flowers. The flowers are daisies but tiny – under a centimetre across. It is attractive without the flowers but lovely when in full summer bloom.

This is a woody sub-shrub which will gently layer where it touches the ground. The tiny grey foliage and strawflowers give a clue that it will take hot, dry conditions. It thrives in our rockery and can make a good container plant but it did not thrive when I tried it in bone dry conditions with root competition. The plants survived there for a few years but in the end I pulled them out because they were looking pretty hard done by. Silver Cushion has been around for many years, decades even, and is still being produced commercially in NZ. My attempts to unravel its background failed and it may be that a reader can tell me more. As far as we understand, it is a native but what we don’t know is whether it is a species selection or a hybrid. My best guess is that it has at least some H. bellidiodes in its background. To make matters worse, that helichrysum now appears to have been renamed as Anaphalioides bellidioides . While I can live a happy life blissfully ignorant of the finer points of most helichrysum species, it would be interesting to know a little more about the background of Silver Cushion in particular.