Care for Heliotropes


The most interesting thing about heliotrope is the plant's habit of following the sun. Overnight, their leaves turn to greet the rising sun, and they follow it across the sky throughout the day. In Latin, the name means "follow the sun." The original, old-fashioned heliotropes have dark, wrinkly green leaves and purple flowers, but hybrid varieties are also available with flowers that may be pink, white or purple. Nicknamed the "cherry pie plant" because of its fruity, vanilla, floral scent, heliotropes are perennial, except in cooler climates where they're annual.

Growing Heliotropes

Step 1

Plant heliotrope starts in rich soil, 12-15 inches apart in the spring. Choose a sunny location -- they especially like morning sun and should get at least six hours of sunshine each day. Afternoon shade is acceptable.

Step 2

Fertilize monthly, if desired, with a fertilizer that encourages blooms, like a 10-60-10. Otherwise, just leave it alone -- it's an old-fashioned plant that can thrive without a lot of attention. If you've planted a heliotrope hybrid, follow the grower's instructions because they can vary quite a bit.

Step 3

Prune the tops by pinching off the tip of each stalk every few weeks. This will encourage the plant to spread out, growing more stalks that will end in blooms as the summer wears on. Another method of pruning is to cut off all of the side stalks to create a topiary.

Step 4

Water frequently. The soil must stay moist and fairly neutral, with a pH level from 6.1 to 7.8.

Step 5

Trim the dead flower heads to encourage new blooms. A continuously blooming heliotrope plant from mid-spring to late summer isn't uncommon in much of the United States.

Step 6

Cut the flowers to enjoy. They last between three to five days in a vase.

Step 7

Prepare for winter by bringing your potted heliotrope inside if you live in an area where the ground freezes. Otherwise, for plants younger than three years, cover the root base with straw or rotting leaves. Mature heliotropes can survive temperatures as cold as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Caring for heliotropes
  • Information on heliotropes
  • "Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening," multiple authors, Rodale Press, 2009
Keywords: care for heliotrope, growing heliotrope, heliotrope care

About this Author

Lisa Russell has been a freelance writer since 1998. She's been published in "Rethinking Everything Magazine," "Playdate" and "Home Educator's Family Times." She has a professional background in education, cosmetology and the restaurant industry. Russell studied early childhood education at Antelope Valley College, and is pursuing a degree in law.