Names: garden heliotrope, cherry pie heliotrope,
Cherry Pie, Fragrant Heliotrope,
Heliotropo, Marine Heliotrope, Turnsole
Description: Native to the
Peruvian Andes, heliotrope grows 2 to 3 feet high; some
varieties are a compact 10 inches. Tiny, star-shaped flowers
of deep blue, purple, lavender, or white come in tightly
packed spikes that develop into rounded, 2- to
4-inch-diameter clusters. Hairy and veined 1- to 3-inch
leaves have a purplish cast.
heliotrope is a tender perennial. It needs a rich soil, full
sun and lots of water during hot weather. Pinch young plants
two or three times to promote branching. The flower
fragrance is most noticeable at sunrise and sunset and may
be enhanced by giving plants the bare minimum of water. The
plant may be grown as a pot plant. Heliotrope responds to
regular fertilizer applications and is not tolerant of the
Heliotrope is propagated
by seed or cuttings. Take cuttings from especially fragrant
plants between late spring and early summer. Softwood
cuttings root in about two weeks at low temperatures. Seed
takes three to four weeks to germinate at 70 degrees and
germination can be erratic. Do not allow the plants to get
too big before transplanting.
In a pot in a northern
garden, the plant is only hardy to about 40 o F.
With its roots in open soil in a southern garden,
temperatures at or below freezing will kill or damage leaves
but not harm the roots. If you live where winter
temperatures regularly fall (and hold) below 32oF,
such as zone 9b and colder, treat heliotrope as you would an
annual: Plant heliotrope outdoors after frost danger passes
and let it die in the fall. In zones 10 and 11, treat it
like any other perennial: Rejuvenate by cutting back old
growth (but not as far as the woody stems) before growth
begins in late winter or early spring.
An easy way to overwinter
desirable varieties is to root cuttings in the fall. Use a
soilless mix recommended for germinating seeds, and keep
plants indoors in bright, indirect light; roots will develop
within a month. Keep the plant going near a bright window or
under fluorescent lights until spring. Set out when danger
of frost has passed. Overwinter container plants by bringing
them indoors when frost is likely. Give them moist air,
direct sun, and cool nights (50o to 55oF).
Fertilize plants growing
in containers every 2 weeks with a liquid fertilizer
according to the label directions. Feed plants growing in
the ground more sparingly. Use the same liquid fertilizer,
but monthly, or mulch the plant with homemade or commercial
compost once or twice a season. Excessively rich soil
fosters leggy, less attractive growth and leaves plants more
prone to pests.
Plants are rarely
susceptible to insects or diseases, although spider mites
may attack plants growing indoors. Control mites with sprays
of water or insecticidal soap. Soggy soil, whether in the
garden or indoors, will cause the leaves to brown and drop
off. Still, the plant will recover quickly as soon as good
drainage and aeration return.
It was introduced into greenhouse culture in
Europe in 1757 after travelers discovered it in Peru. It's sometimes listed and sold
as H. peruvianum.
By the nineteenth century, heliotrope was used extensively
for bedding plants and as standards. It was nicknamed the
"cherry pie plant" because its fragrance supposedly
resembles the aroma of a freshly baked cherry pie. A few
species are so fragrant that they are grown in
Europe to make perfume.
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, including heliotrine, retronecine
Diuretic, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge
The plant is used to
make a febrifugal tea. It has been used in folk medicine
mainly externally to treat polyps, tumors, ulcers, warts and
other skin ailments.
Very rarely employed
internally as a diuretic.
A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant. It
is used in the treatment of clergyman's sore throat and
Aromatherapy: There is a
cassie, mimosa, osmanthus, violet,
balsam, tolu balsam
Used in perfume industry in Oriental
and powdery bases
The absolute is occasionally
produced in the south of
from the flowering tops of the plant by hot extraction with
a fixed oil. Heliotrope absolute is a semi solid greenish
brown or dark brown mass of strongly herbaceous, but also
intensely sweet odor. Only upon dilution to about 1% or
weaker, the odor seems to resemble that of heliotrope
of the flowers is difficult to extract and is usually
Place 1 lb of benzoated
lard in a pan which is partly immersed in a bowl of boiling
To the melted fat, add a
handful of flowers and let them remain for 24 hours, adding
more hot water every so often.
Then remove the flowers,
reheat the fat and water and add fresh flowers.
Repeat the process for 5
or 6 days.
When cold, the pomade is
chopped up and placed in a large glass jar.
All parts of the plant are highly toxic and dangerous when
Prolonged use of
heliotrope may cause severe liver damage.
Associated Deity: Apollo.
Parts Used: Flowers,
Basic Power: Claitvoyance,
Put under the pillow to
induce prophetic dreams, especially to discover the thief
wwhen you have been robbed.
Also used in exorcism
incenses and healing sachets.
Heliotrope Spell: Wrap a
bloodstone in fresh heliotrope blossoms, and carry it to
Heliotrope Spell 2:
Anoint a bloodstone or
heliotrope crystal gemstone with heliotrope oil and carry it
with you to promote invisibility.
infused oil of heliotrope blossoms by placing the flowers in
a stainless steel bowl and covering with oil (almond,
Gently heat over simmering
water, either in a true double boiler or in an improvised
Stir once in a while.
Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
The oil should not be
allowed to get too hot because if it smokes, bubbles or
burns, an acrid fragrance will develop, spoiling the
Allow the oil to cool.
Then all the botanical material must be strained out through
multiple layers of cheesecloth or a fine non-metal strainer.
Strain twice, if
necessary, or more.
If the plant material is
not removed the oil may turn rancid.
Fried Heliotrope Blossoms
4 cups fresh heliotrope
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp heliotrope water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
blossoms in cold running wat4er, and drain.
Melt butter in skillet,
and gently ease in the blossoms (one or two at a time so as
not to crush them.)
Sprinkle the lemon juice,
parsley, salt, and pepper over the blossoms, and cook over
low heat until blossoms are tender (about 10 minutes).
Drain cooked blossoms on
Arrange blossoms on
serving platter, and sprinkle with heliotrope water.
(A Feast of Flowers)
Cosmetics from the Earth,
Roy Genders, Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1985; ISBN:
The Element Encyclopedia of 5000
Spells, Judika Illes,
HarperElement, 2004: ISBN: 0-00-774987-2
A Feast of Flowers,
Francesca Tillona and Cynthia Strowbridge, Funk & Wagnalls,
Herbal Remedies: Harmful and
Professor S. Talalaj & Dr. A. S. Czechowicz, Hill of
Content, 1989; ISBN: 0-85572-189-8
Scott Cunningham, Llewllyn Publications, 1982, ISBN:
Plants for a Future Database
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