Licorice vine is a native of South Africa. It is drought tolerant and can be grown as a ground cover or trailing plant. The foliage is the attraction as it is silvery-gray and covered in fine hairs. The plant has a strong herb smell and produces small white-gold flowers. It has been used as an insect repellent but it also attracts hummingbirds and repels deer.
More than 250 species are in the genus, most of them from the Cape of South Africa. Also known as Helichrysum petiolare, licorice vine is a short-lived plant, only living around two years. It is considered a tender evergreen perennial that is hardy in zones 9 and 10. Featuring rounded leaves, licorice plant is not picky when it comes to soil. It is very tolerant of poor, dry and rocky conditions. It can grow 1 to 2 inches tall with an average spread of 3 to 4 inches.
Although a perennial in many areas, licorice plant is often grown as an annual and as such shows up in hanging baskets, rockeries, and annual border displays. Due to its tolerance for poor soil, licorice vine is an easy to care for plant, needing very little water and able to grow even in part shade.
While Helichrysum petiolare can be propagated from cuttings, a truer plant will result from seed. Sow seed in March in full sun and well-drained soil. Cut back flowers if they emerge as the plant has been shown to become invasive in many areas.
The pungent smell emitted by the plant when bruised or cut is the probable reason for hummingbird's interest in licorice vine. The scent is reminiscent of licorice when the plant is exposed to heat. The flowers are insignificant and white, so it is unlikely they have any attraction effect. The plant is referred to as curry plant in the UK, which is indicative of the high scent base.
In addition to its beauty and attractive qualities, licorice vine has many natural curative claims. Coughs, colds and infections respond to treatments with this plant and it is used as an infusion by Rastafarians to treat asthma, chest problems and high blood pressure. The smoke can be inhaled as a pain reliever and the leaves can be used on wounds to prevent infections.