A tender evergreen shrub that is usually grown as an annual in the UK. The plants are compact and bushy, with attractive foliage and richly coloured flowers. Once very popular in Victorian bedding schemes.
Botanical Name: Heliotropium
Common Names: Heliotrope, Cherry pie
Foliage: Evergreen, dark green, finely wrinkled leaves.
Flowers: Large spreading clusters of small, scented flowers. Ranging in colour from dark purple through lilac to white. The flowers smell of cherry-pie filling, hence its common name.
Flowering Period: Late spring to mid autumn.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil (sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Sun or partial shade. Best grow in an east, west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Type: Grown as half-hardy annual in the UK.
Origin: South America
Toxicity: All parts of are toxic if eaten. Wear gloves when handling.
Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.
Grow in a fertile well-drained loam, in a sunny possition. Shelter from wind. Dislikes cold exposed sites.
The cherry scented flowers are particularly attractive to butterflies and other pollinating insects. Popular as dot plants in formal bedding schemes. Dwarf types are ideal for pots and containers. Tall varieties can be trained as a standard.
They can be grown from seed but the easiest way is to purchase spring bedding plants from garden centers and nurseries. They may also be sold as standards or large specimen plants. Do not plant outside until late spring, once all danger of frost has passed in your area.
Water freely until established.
Support tall varieties with twiggy sticks or canes and string.
To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food every few weeks, or use a slow release form.
Standards and specimen plants require special care to overwinter. In cold regions, bring the plants indoors before the first frost and place them in a cool frost free greenhouse or an east or west-facing window in a cool room.
Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.
Generally pest and disease free.
Sow seeds in late winter in trays of seed compost. Germinate at a temperature of 16-18°C (61-64°F). Prick out and pot on once the seedlings are large enough to handle. Once about 3in (7.5cm) high, pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth. Harden off before planting out in late spring, once all danger of frost is past.
Cuttings can also be taken in spring from over-wintered plants.
Heliotropium arborescens (syn. H. peruvianum) produces heads of small scented flowers that range in colour from dark purple to lilac and white. Height and spread from 1-3ft (30-90cm) or more. Popular cultivars include: