From seed to helichrysum italicum oil

We will try to explain process of growing helichrysum italicum from seed to plant and essential oil.

First of all we needed to harvest helichrysum seeds from wild plants in our area.
( preferably from the area where we will place plantation )

That happend to be more difficult than we thought, because for best seed it is desirable to harvest flowers from well developed plant. It was a common image in the last 15 years, but since then the villagers in Herzegovina ceased to hold cattle especially in large numbers as was the case before. Therefore, many plants such as juniper could grow undisturbed and slowly displace immortelle.
Also a great demand for this plant in last years led to its uncontrolled and improper collection in nature.
Because of all this, it took us a couple of hours more to collect than we planned.

Herzegovina terrain where helichrysum growth for year
Long time ago these terrains were full of helichrysum. When people stopped to breed cattle helichrysum began to lose the battle with spruce. It is well known fact that no cattle will eat helichrysum probably becouse of its strong smell and taste

After we harvest flowers we place them in bags and leave them on sun for couple days. Then we sieve seeds from other part of flowers. There are different methods of separating seeds. One of them is shown on picture below. Another method is with water separating. In nature helichrysum spread seed by wind. Seeds are very small, so the wind blows them away easily. Usually seeds fall between the stones where with very little soil germinate and grow.

Separating seeds from other flower parts. On right side seed are visible ( black – brownish color )

Helichrysum can be grown from seeds and from cuttings of plants. One gram of seeds contains around 5 thousand individual seeds. That is why we mix seeds with tiny sand so we can better distribute it to pots. In these SHORT VIDEO you can see how we sow helichrysum seeds. These technic can be used with any tiny seed. When you get the feeling you can do it with fingers.

Immortelle seeds and sand
Seeds need to be mixed with sand which leave white marks on soil so we know where seeds drops and then it is easier to evenly distribute them in pot.

For first few days pots need to be in almost dark place with wet soil. If you’r pots are in greenhouses you need to cover them with protection from the sun. Young plants at this stage are most sensitive.

When young plants get to a certain size in pots (usually when the plants have 4 leaves ) they need to be moved in another pots suitable for further development of roots and leaves. It is quite time-consuming job because each plant has to be individually moved into another container. It takes weeks to replant 200 000 seedlings that we first were preparing for our farm.

On picture below is shown diferent stages of seedlings. From group pots they are moved to individual holes so they have more space for growing and they can be easy planted after.

Diferent stages of seedling
DIferent stages of helichrysum seedlings. Right one is ready for new home on farm.

When we have prepared seedlings it is time to plant them on farm. Land cultivation for immortelle is long time-consuming and expensive process. First you need to find a location that is suitable for planting. In our opinion, this has to be the location where Immortelle growing years ago and from where we take seeds. Thus we obtain a plant that is resistant to diseases of the region and is adapted to the climatic conditions of the region.
Then we can approach the preparation of the country. First, dig the entire area with excavators and bulldozers and then finely grind stone with a special stone crushing machine to a depth of 30 cm. In this way we get a mixture of soil and stone ideal for growth of helichrysum.

The mistake is to believe that the “good land” is needed for these plant. Immortelle in such soil is growing much faster, but the yield in the amount of oil per kilogram and the quality is much lower.

Helichrysum land preparation
These kind of preparation is slow and expensive – almost 1 euro for 1 square meter – press on picture for bigger size

When soil is ready we can finaly start with planting. There is lots of version on how to plant immortelle. 1 row, 2row , 3 row, space between from 25 – 70 cm. Usually space between is calculated considering the machines that will be used later for hoeing, watering and harvesting. Since we did not plan to use any of machines becouse we choose not to water , fertilize nor hoe soil our seedlings are planted closer than usual in 3 row formation, with larger spacing between each 3 rows.
Also there was lots of ways that people use to plant more seedlings for less time. Someone even use machines for planting. We choose planting by hands because machines need almost perfect flat land and even then there are larger losses in the successful reception of the plant roots.

Helichrysum italicum planting on farm
Helichrysum italicum planting on farm

When planting is done we do not cultivate our helichrysum anymore. We do not fertilize land, water plants or anything else. Also when comes harvest season on our farm all is done by hand. This does not cause unnecessary pollution of plants due to machine exhaust.
Plant crops on our farm is smaller but we did get a very good quality helichrysum oil as confirmed by GC analysis.
Helichrysum harvest is depending on weather conditions in June or July. Plants are harvested at the time of full maturity.( when the average maximum of flowers are in full bloom ) Very important is that plants are distilled same day.

Helichrysum italicum before harvest
Plants are harvested at the time of full maturity.( when the average maximum of flowers are in full bloom )

Another part in the production of essential oils in which at least in our environment we have difference opinions is distillation We’re will not deal here with the details of the distillation but in short our opinion is that distillation should not take longer than an hour.
After distillation samples are taken and sent to GC analysis. We take more samples from different locations and different ages of plants in order to monitor the ideal time for harvesting.

Helichrysum essential oil distillation
Helichrysum italicum essential oil just after steam distillation process

After GC reports all essential oil goes to the one place where waiting for sealing and delivery. This is a brief description of the process for obtaining helichrysum essential oil from seed collecting, planting, growing, harvesting to the distillation.

The use of immortelle essential oils is almost unlimited. From making various creams, cosmetics, perfume, surgery, pharmacy, plastic surgery, aromatherapy, etc. Some of healing properties you can check on our site.

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