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Care of a Patchouli Plant

You love growing aromatic plants in your home and adore making personal fragrances from them. You can’t wait to harvest leaves and stems to dry for creating sachets and potpourris. And you take a great deal of pride in presenting fragrant homemade gifts to friends and loved ones. Then you absolutely must grow your own patchouli plant. Some find these foliage perennials a bit fussy and might even say they’re demanding. Not true. Patchouli plants (Pogostemon heyeanus) hate being ignored. Meet this attractive specimen’s basic needs and be rewarded for years with that sweet, heady essence of the 1960s.

Plant a patchouli in a clay pot, which will facilitate the best level of drainage. Use rich, fertile composted potting soil. Mulch with a layer of diatomaceous earth to discourage slugs and snails.

Place the plant in a warm room in bright, filtered light. Do not allow exposure to direct sunlight. Patchouli will do best in sustained temperatures of 74 to 77 degrees F. with plenty of good air circulation.

Water the patchouli plant enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but take care to not overdo it. The medium must never be soggy or wet, because these plants will rot quickly. Daily watering is not unheard of, but 3 to 4 times weekly usually is sufficient.

Mist patchouli often, particularly when conditions are warm and dry. These plants love humidity levels around 75 percent.

Provide the plant with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.2. Feed a good all-purpose, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer as per manufacturer's packaging instructions, beginning in early spring. Supplement with fish emulsion twice during the summer.

Monitor patchouli regularly for the appearance of aphids and spider mites. Treat with insecticidal soap if need be.

Harvest patchouli leaves and stems in about 4 to 5 months, when they turn light green or pale brown. Do this early in the morning to minimize the loss of essential oil. The plant’s aroma will be quite noticeable at this time. The best stems for harvest will be new shoots 10 to 20 inches long with at least three sets of mature leaves. Repeat the harvest in about three to four months. You can safely take up to 1/3 of the plant’s foliage at any one given time.

Remove dead or damaged stems and leaves from the plant as they appear. Patchouli tends to keep a somewhat uniform, compact habit at around 2 feet tall and wide. Nip off any stems that may appear shaggy to you.

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