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Heliotrope Care: Tips For Growing A Heliotrope Plant

By Jackie Rhoades

Heliotrope flowers were a favorite in grandmother's garden and heliotrope care a regular part of her summer routine. You can also enjoy these old-time favorites with growing info from this article.

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Heliotropium Species, Cherry Pie Flower, Common Heliotrope, Garden Heliotrope

Family: Heliotropiaceae
Genus: Heliotropium (hee-lee-oh-TROH-pee-um) (Info)
Species: arborescens (ar-bo-RES-senz) (Info)
Synonym:Heliotropium arborescens var. grisellum
Synonym:Heliotropium odoratissimum
Synonym:Heliotropium odoratum
Synonym:Heliotropium peruvianum


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow seedheads to dry on plants remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Huntington Beach, California

Manhattan Beach, California

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On Nov 30, 2015, DavidLMo from St Joseph, MO wrote:

I have the Alba variety and here in Zone 5B it over winters for me near a South window.

On Mar 20, 2013, khabbab from lahore,
Pakistan (Zone 10b) wrote:

I sowed the seeds in October 2012 and it flowered in March 2013. Fragrance is very good. I am not sure how does it survive my hot summers and monsoon. I assume it should be a perennial in my hot climate.

On Jun 24, 2010, jeanniemarie55 from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I bought my Heliotrope 4 years ago in January. It was very small in a 3 inch pot. It has come back every year, more full and more beautiful each spring. It has bloomed profusely and I love it.

I have potted it up twice and it got bushier each time. I am currently rooting some cuttings and they seem to be doing well. I hope they take hold as I would like to increase the number that I have without having to purchase any more.

On Nov 17, 2009, mrs_colla from Marin, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

The scent of this plant is so special, so uncommon! It's not vanilla, not cherry, it's . itself! I love the scent so much, I buy new plants every year.
So far, in the ground they have not come back in spring, but now I have it in a pot in the sunniest location in my yard, so I hope it will come back.
It also exists in white. ( Alba)

On May 28, 2009, donnab38 from Fair Oaks, CA wrote:

I planted Heliotrope Marine in my brick planter up against the house, which is an east exposure about 6 years ago. It has been blooming every spring, summer and fall. The smell is very aromatic, I don't smell Cherry Pie or Vanilla, more as an
Annise smell, like licorice. I have read about it and what I found is it is an old and rare plant. I have checked out many nurseries and they don't have it. So if you have one, cherish it. Enjoy yours

On Jun 27, 2005, Mari2238 from Bothell, WA wrote:

I just planted this Heliotrope this Spring. Luckly I planted it in a large pot. Since I read your reviews I find that I can winter it indoors. It is not in full sun, but as much as I can give it, as I live under alot of fir trees. Always shady. But it is growing quiet tall and has clusters of blossoms. I just hope it is the variety with the great fragrance that I remember from long ago. Thank you so much for your info. Mari. Bothell WA.

On Apr 15, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

I manage to kill heliotrope with appalling frequency. Maybe eventually I'll get it right.

On Apr 15, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I've had my heliotrope for less than a year. It bloomed beautifully last year and has returned this Spring, having survived temperatures as low as 28 F on a few nights this past Winter. It died back to the ground from freezing, but is now returning vigorously.

Last season, I first planted it in a somewhat shady location, hoping to add it to my purple/yellow flowered garden. It didn't do well until I moved it to full sun. I should have guessed from the "helio" (sun) part of its name that it would be a sun lover -- Another lesson learned in putting the plants where they want to be for optimum health and growth and not where I want them for landscaping effects.

On Apr 14, 2005, Dogzilla from Tallahassee, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is one of my favorites. It may be treated as an annual north of zone 8, and is pretty tender in zone 8. Always dies to the ground for me, but will come right back in spring. The fragrance is similar to a gardenia, only with more vanilla. My understanding is this is a very old-fashioned plant.

On Aug 7, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant is an annual in most zones, but can be grown as a perennial in zones 9 and 10. Partial shade is best if grown in hot climates.

Heliotropium arborescens is a really nice plant that can be grown outdoors in summer as well as indoors the whole year. In fact it is NOT an annual plant, but a tropical shrub. At present narrow varieties are often grown annual from seeds, but they mostly lack the sweet intensive scent of vanilla and cinnamon that made the plant famous.
The best varieties are grown from cuttings and grow up to 4 -5 ft. Kept in a warm and bright place Heliotropium will also flower in winter, filling the whole room with its sweet vanilla scent. Heliotropium needs quite a lot of water and does not like the soil to dry out completely.

On Mar 16, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Tender perennial commonly grown as an annual. Old-fashioned varieties have very fragrant flowers in purple, violet or white colors newer varieties may have less or no fragrance.

Can be grown in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, or in as a container-grown plant, and wintered over. Will become shrub-like with age.

Hellebore Care

Hellebores are usually planted from potted nursery specimens, even when purchased from online retailers. Hellebore seeds are available, but they are sold in seed packets that include a mix of colors. If you want a particular variety, you will need to purchase potted nursery starts because they have either been selected or hybridized for specific colors.

Bloom time depends on both the species and your climate. The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) can bloom in December in zone 7 or warmer but rarely blooms until spring in colder climates. Most species can be counted on to bloom somewhere between December and April and stay in bloom for a month or longer.

Hellebores are very easy to grow in shady conditions where most plants struggle, provided they have some shelter from harsh winter winds. The only real maintenance the plants require is a little clean up of their fading leaves. If foliage is winter-worn, it can be cut back to basal growth in the spring, before flowering.

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Hellebores prefer partial to full shade. They can handle spring sun, but plant them in a spot that will become shadier as trees and other plants flush out.

Hellebores grow best in soil that is rich with organic matter and well-draining. If your soil is acidic, consider adding lime, as hellebores prefer neutral or even alkaline conditions.


Although they like some moisture, hellebores should not be allowed sit in wet soil for prolonged periods of time or they will rot. Once established, they can handle drier soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Hardiness will vary with species, but you can find a hellebore suitable for USDA zones 3 to 9—most are hardy as far north as zone 4 or 5. In colder climates, protect hellebores from harsh winter winds. Hellebores tolerate a wide range of humidity.


Add an organic-rich fertilizer—compost or well-decayed manure—into the soil when planting, then continue to fertilize in spring and early fall. Applications of chemical fertilizer are rarely needed if the soil is rich enough.

3. Focus on form.

Above: A tall terracotta pot with Buddleja ‘Dreaming Lavender’, Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’, and Heliotropium arborescens ‘Midnight Sky’.

The shape of plants is as important as their colors. Some of the most stunning pots owe much of their impact to their contrasting and complementary forms. Sarah defines this with a mantra: Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers. If you are planning a pot recipe, then think about plants that can fulfill each of these three roles.

The thriller is often something vertical and dramatic. A spiller, as the name suggests, is a plant that will fall over the edges of your pot and trail around it, and the filler is the binding plant that pulls everything together. A perfect illustration of this is a pot with a “thriller” Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ with its heavenly heady scent and pretty pale pink flowers the trailing ‘spiller’ Buddleia Dreaming Purple, and Heliotrope Midnight Sky (another incredible rich scent) as the deep violet filler.

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