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Grow Heliotrope for Its Most Fragrant Annual Flowers

Virtues: Heliotrope, or cherry pie plant, has very fragrant summer flowers and clean, textural green foliage. Heliotrope is a fine annual plant for butterfly gardens, window boxes, pots, the fragrant garden and more.


Common name: Heliotrope, cherry pie, turnsole

Botanical name:Heliotrope arborescens

Flowers: Large clusters of small purple, white or lavender flowers cover heliotrope throughout the summer. These fragrant flowers smell like cherry and vanilla, which has earned heliotrope the common name of cherry pie plant.

Foliage: Attractive clean, dark green, pleated leaves cover the stems of heliotrope.

Habit: Bushy tender perennial or annual one to two feet tall and wide. Heliotrope tends to turn toward the sun throughout the day, giving it the common name of turnsole. Its botanical name, Heliotrope, means "move with the sun." It turns back to the east overnight to prepare for sunrise.

Season: Summer, for its fragrant flowers.

Origin: The species hails from Peru. Various named cultivars exist.

Cultivation: Grow heliotrope in full sun to part shade. Provide afternoon shade in hot climates. It likes rich, fertile soil and regular watering. Pinch back heliotrope stems while the plant is young, early in the season, to promote bushy growth. Deadhead spent flowers to prolong the overall bloom time of this fragrant annual. Heliotrope can grow as a perennial in USDA Zones 10 and 11, but even there it is best grown as an annual because with time it begins to straggle. At the end of summer, you can take cuttings of heliotrope to grow in a sunny window for the winter and transplant back to the garden in spring. Although heliotrope has the common name cherry pie, that name refers only to its scent. All parts of heliotrope are poisonous if ingested. USDA Zones 10–11, or grown as an annual.

Image credit: Cody Hough


Enjoy the fragrances of Heliotrope and several other pungent annuals with Old Fashion Fragrance Collection.

Create a fragrant, nectar-filled haven for butterflies with Seeds for a Butterfly Garden.

Proudly display your cultivated flowers in this Rustic Window Box.

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