Heliotrope – Heliotropium peruvianum

A fragrant plant is always a welcome addition to a summer plant collection, especially when, like Heliotrope, its flowers also look attractive. Heliotrope is very suitable for growing in pots or tubs.

The flowerheads consist of numerous small flowers. They are normally produced from May until September, but the plant can be made to bloom earlier if grown in a greenhouse during the winter at a temperature of 16°C (61°F).

Grown as a pot-plant, Heliotrope will reach a height of 30-45cm (12— 18in).

Colours and varieties

The variety Heliotropium peruvionum has been crossed with H. corymbosum to produce the popular hybrid H. x hybridum. The flowers of the hybrid can be dark violet, white or lavender. Good seed strains include ‘Regal Hybrids’, which will grow up to 60cm (24in) producing lovely mauve and lavender flowers.

Growing from seedHeliotrope - Heliotropium peruvianum

Heliotrope can be raised from seed sown indoors in February, ready for planting out in late spring.

1. Sow seeds in trays of seed compost and germinate at a temperature of 16-18°C (61-65°F).

2. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into trays of soil-based compost. When the plants are about 8cm (3in) tall, pinch out the growing tips to encourage a bushy growth.

3. Transfer plants singly into 10cm (4in) pots before hardening them off — put them outside during the day and bring them in again in the evening. Place in their final position when the danger of frost has passed.

Taking cuttings

You can increase your plants from cuttings taken in September or February.

1. Take tip-shoot cuttings 8-10cm (3-4in) long and insert in equal parts peat and sand. Use a propagating tray or a seed tray and a piece of glass to cover it.

2. Keep at a temperature of 16-18°C (62— 65°F). When the roots are well established, pot up individually into 8cm (3in) pots. Overwinter cuttings taken in September at a temperature of 10°C (50°F).

Plant Problems

Weak growth and sticky leaves and stems are caused by aphids or whiteflies.

Whiteflies attack the undersides of the leaves, and fly up into the air when the plant is moved or touched. Aphids will attack both the leaves and stems.

Treatment: Aphids can often be removed by spraying the plant with soapy water at regular intervals. Otherwise, spray with an insecticide containing malathion. For whitefly, spray under the leaves with an insecticide that contains pyrethrum.


This plant is easy to look after if grown as an annual, but thought must be taken to providing the right conditions for overwintering. Pruning is usually unnecessary, but remove flowers after they have faded.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting compost and pot in 10-12cm (4-6in) pots. Repot or pot on overwintered plants during March.
  • Water the plant generously throughout the growing period and mist spray frequently in hot weather. Keep the compost just moist during the winter.
  • Feeding: Feed every 10 days from May to September with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer.


  • Light: The plant likes good but filtered light, so grow in partial shade in the summer. In winter, it will appreciate a brighter position indoors.
  • Temperature: It should be grown in a warm position in summer, shaded from hot midday sun. In winter, keep at 7°-10°C (45°-50°F).

Although often grown as an annual, the fragrant-flowering Heliotrope is a perennial that can be grown outdoors in summer and overwintered in a cool position indoors.

When to buy

  • Heliotrope is best bought in the spring from garden centres and nurseries, but it is sometimes difficult to find. Alternatively, raise from seed sown indoors during February.
  • Choose a plant with good bushy growth.
  • Heliotrope is a summer-flowering perennial that is often grown as an annual. Plants grown as perennials are best renewed from cuttings every 2-3 years.

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