Latin name Heliotropium arborescens is a temperate perennial that is grown as an annual as it cannot handle frost. Flowers are beloved for their intoxicating, vanilla-like fragrance. Attractive to butterflies. Popular bedding or container plant.



Native to the mountainous tropical regions of Peru. This once-popular cottage garden flower fell out of favor and is slowly coming back into the landscape as a sweetly scented pop of purple color.


  • Ornamental.
  • Beds, borders, containers, window boxes, cottage garden, fragrant/sensory gardens.
  • NOTE: All parts of the plant are poisonous.




  • Seeds germinate in 28-42 days.
  • Start indoors 10-12 weeks before last frost date, then transplant out after all danger of frost has passed and soil has reliably warmed to 60 F.
  • Ideal germination temperature is 70-75 F.


  • Plants grow best in full sun to part shade, especially when they are protected from the hot afternoon sun.
  • Plants require rich, loamy, well-drained soil and consistent moisture, as they are not drought tolerant.
  • Space plants 12 inches apart.
  • Keep flowers deadheaded.


  • When grown indoors, heliotrope can have issues with spider mites, which can be treated with insecticidal soap.
  • If grown in excessively hot, humid conditions, heliotrope may suffer from fungal disease.
  • Where winters are mild, therefore, it should be grown as a winter flower.
  • NOTE: They cannot tolerate frost.



  • Most gardeners will root cuttings and grow over winter to get a jump start on spring. You can save seeds.
  • Allow the flowerhead containing the seeds to mature completely and dry on the plant, then clip it off and place it in a container.
  • Working over the top of another clean, opened container, rub the flowerheads between the palms, breaking them apart.
  • The seeds can be separated from the chaff by first screening and then winnowing.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark place over winter.