Dictionary of Flowers: Heliotropium Arborescens (Garden Heliotrope, Cherry Pie)

Heliotropium Arborescens (Garden Heliotrope, Cherry Pie). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Carl Lewis and Flickr

Heliotropium Arborescens (Garden Heliotrope, Cherry Pie). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Carl Lewis and Flickr

  • Heliotropium Arborescens
  • Common name: heliotrope, garden heliotrope, cherry pie
  • Family: Boragineaceae
  • Category: frost sensitive annual
  • Height: up to 18"
  • Width: 12" to 24"
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: summer
  • Attracts: butterflies, bees, hummingbirds
  • Growth habit: bushy, clumping. Used as filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, neutral, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, houseplant
  • Diseases: leaf spot
  • Pests: whitefly

Popular since Victorian times, heliotrope originates in Peru.

It is a frost tender plant, popular for containers because of the sweet scent of its flowers.

Heliotrope has dark green foliage and either purple or white small flowers that grow in clusters. 

In tropical areas (USDA zone 10 and 11), heliotrope grows into a small bush. 

Heliotrope prefers fertile soil that's never allowed to dry with neutral to slightly acidic pH. It grows in full sun, but during summer, it is best to protect it from hot afternoon sun, as it can scorch the leaves.

Fertilize every other week with a bloom boosting formula to keep the plant blooming during summer.

Deadheading regularly also helps heliotrope blooming until frost. Pinch the growing tips several times before it starts blooming to keep the plant bushy.

Heliotrope dislikes hot, dry weather and it might require twice daily waterings during the hottest part of the summer. Using a water retentive potting mix might help grow heliotrope better in dry summer areas.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Heliotrope is available in nurseries as a starter plant. It can be propagated by cuttings and by seed.

Stem cuttings can be taken during summer and rooted in a mix of moist potting soil and perlite. Dip the end of the three to four inch cuttings in rooting hormone and insert into pots.

Maintain humidity by placing pots inside plastic bags and out of sunlight. Never allow the soil to dry. Heliotrope should root in two to three weeks. Cuttings can be overwintered indoors.

To grow from seed indoors, start twelve weeks before last frost date. Place seeds in moist starting mix, covering them with a thin layer of grit.

When kept at around 70F, they can take several weeks to germinate. Pinch young plants several times to encourage bushy growth. Do not start hardening off or place outside until weather has warmed. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Whiteflies can attack heliotrope plants. It's important to spray them with an insecticidal soap before bringing them indoors for overwintering.

If affected by leaf spot, remove damaged foliage and if the problem continues, discard plant.

Popular varieties:

  • Heliotropium arborescens 'Marine' - a compact plant suitable for containers. Prefers cooler summers. Deep blue-purple blooms
  • Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba' - white flowers on plants that grow one to one and a half feet. Strong scent
  • Heliotropium arborescens 'Scentropia' series - one foot plants, available in white and blue purple. Good branching, strong scent
  • Heliotropium arborescens 'Atlantis' - early bloomer, compact plants. Blooms are dark purple

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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