Living in the dry climate of the Mediterranean is giving me a great opportunity to grow my own immortelle plants. Immortelle is also known as Dwarf Everlast or Helichrysum italicum (Latin). Sometimes it is also called Curry plant but to be honest, I am not sure if this is exactly the same species as one I am now growing and harvesting.
The plant spreads on the dry and rocky areas around the Mediterranean hills, lower mountains and sea. In the area where I live, there are also some large patches of wild immortelle plants which I regularly harvest every year in late June and early July. Upon harvesting, I dry the flowers during the summer to later hang it and display around the house. The flowers are very pretty and decorative and the lovely smell last for the whole year.
Photo: A bunch of flowers that I harvested this year.
Growing immortelle in my garden
Last year I decided to take some cuttings from the wild plants to try to grow it in my small rock garden. The garden is situated on the hill, facing north, right next to my off-grid cottage.
How to plant immortelle
I took about 30 cuttings from a large, wild plant, removed lower leaves and planted them into small containers in the corner of my patio. It was summertime and the weather was hot and dry so I made sure the cuttings are kept in the shady part of the patio to prevent high heat and direct sunlight dehydrating newly planted cuttings. I also watered the cuttings every day with plenty of water to keep them hydrated during the whole summer. Sometime in the early autumn, I checked if any roots are visible. I found roots on about 2/3 of all cuttings.
Here is a photo of my new baby immortelle plants:
I decided to keep them in the containers for another year to let them grow bigger and ready to be planted in the garden for next autumn. In the meantime, I donated some of the plants to my friends and family and by the next autumn, I was left with about 8 or 9 plants which are in my opinion just fine number of plants for a beginner as I am.
Autumn came and I planted all of them in this rocky patch up on the hill – here is a photo:
The location of the garden is just next to the cottage’s terrace, on the hilly, north facing position:
The above photo is of my small immortelle garden soon after I replanted all the plants. Right now, at the time I am writing this article, it is the first winter they are going through. I hope they will survive. They seem fine at the moment. I will update this report next spring.
Update: Two years on and my plants are in the full bloom – here is a photo:
How to dry immortelle
Drying immortelle is easy. If you have any experience with drying any other herb, the process is similar and simple to follow. (see also how to dry sage)
The Helichrysum Immortelle flower heads are approx. 0.5 cm diameter on the end of about 30 cm long stems. When I cut the stems I make sure it is not cut to the very bottom to give a plant opportunity to regrow during the next growing season.
After cutting and collecting all flowers on stems, I sort them in approximately 10 soft stems per bunch, tight them with some thin rope and hang them somewhere in the house, in the cool, draft and shady area. Usually, I hang them on the door frame that leads from the living room to the corridor (see below photo). From my experience, this is the best place to hand them as it is very drafty and well away from direct sunlight.
Helichrysum immortelle dried flower bunch drys in about 2-3 weeks. It is then perfect for adding to bouquets of dried flower arrangements as a decoration.
See how it looks on my shelf:
The dried flowers on stems are often used for decorative purposes. See how they look after 6 months – when completely dry, they lose some colour vibrancy and smell:
Dwarf Everlast (immortelle) dried flower bunches hanging on large driftwood in the corner of my living room:
What I use this plant for
At present, I use the dried bunches as decoration and for a lovely scent that adds to the room. It looks great and smells very nice. Some kind of spicy smell (curry maybe?) that has a calming and soothing effect on your mind and emotions. I also add some of the dried flowers together with dried lavender to the warm winter bath.
However, as immortelle oil is one of the most sought-after ingredients for a variety of creams and oils for skincare, my plan for the future is finding the way to extract some oil to make homemade skin cream for my own use.
To find more info about this lovely plant here is the youtube immortelle playlist that I compiled for future reference – click here