Heliotrope, A Favorite of Mine

This is the first in a series of highlights of certain plants that have found a place in my heart. The first, heliotrope, is a tender perennial which exudes the most pleasant and restful fragrance. Some call it “Cherry Pie”, maybe because the smell is one of those that gives the same homey, satisfied feeling to the soul. It always cheers me! Perhaps, the old ideas of aromatherapy, a lady with her nosegay, hold some secrets of healing. There certainly is something appealing about a garden filled with lovely scents that soothes the senses, and this flower is one of the supreme examples of a rich and fresh sweetness.

The Look

Heliotrope The fragrant Heliotrope is also a visually beautiful flower. It has deep green corrugated leaves with large sprays of tiny purple flowers, varying slightly with the different named varieties.
It grows in a bushy form, and looks good throughout the summer, but at the first touch of frost its life is gone.

The Needs

Sunshine, rich soil, and moisture are necessary for best results, although like many plants it will survive on less. But since this is a one season plant, with some difficulty in starting from seed, it would be prudent to give it the requirements and then enjoy the beautiful show in return. My best results were from last year: planted in newly dug ground in the east bed with a mulch. The heliotropes in this position produced huge heads of deep purple, lovely with companions of hydrangea behind and a small rose, Seafoam, beside.

There have been years when this plant did very well with me, and others when it did not.

I think the two most important factors, sunshine and moisture, must be very carefully attended to. Don’t let your plants die out from lack of regular watering. They must have consistently moist conditions to look their best.

Helio in the name stands for sun, and sunshine for much of the day will allow this plant to thrive and bloom. I grow it in containers now, and often move them. If I put them into a partly sunny spot, the heliotropes will sulk.

One more thing: not all varieties are equal when it comes to perfume. The fragrant heliotrope is not so very strong unless you pay attention to the name. Like many old fashioned, sweet smelling flowers, this one has sometimes been bred more for looks than for fragrance.

Most fragrant heliotrope varieties:

  • ‘Alba’
  • ‘Fragrant Delight’
  • ‘Iowa’
  • ‘Sachet’

Although the old fashioned nameless ones are considered the very best for aroma.

Fun Facts

In the Language of Flowers, the heliotrope means devotion and

Smelling the fragrance of Heliotrope is said to soothe the nerves.

Heliotrope makes a beautiful addition to a tussy mussy bouquet.