How to grow the heliotrope and its characteristic

The heliotrope ( Heliotropium peruvianum) is a medicinal plant of the Boraginaceae family, (250 and 300 species) to which healing properties are attributed and it is a characteristic species due to its vanilla aroma.



The heliotrope or garden vanilla is a perennial shrub that can reach 2 meters in height. After 1 or 2 years the plant will have a height of 50 cm. It has a highly branched stem from its base and is woody in appearance.

The most characteristic feature of this plant are its purple-mauve flowers and the deep aroma of vanilla that both the flower and its leaves give off. These are biannual and their flowering time ranges from early summer to early fall. It is ideal to place in a pot or garden.

Within the heliotropes we can find the following varieties:

  • Heliotropium amplexicaule
  • Heliotropium arborescens
  • Helianthus curassavicum
  • Heliotropium europaeum
  • Heliotropium pannifolium
  • Heliotropium angiospermum
  • Heliotropium peruvianum
  • etc.

The species that occupies our attention is Heliotropium peruvianum.


When it comes to growing it, either in a pot or on land in the garden, the following considerations must be taken.


the heliotrope has to be in a protected environment, covered by plant covers from other crops. It is sensitive to frost, so the ambient temperature should not drop below 7º C, the ideal temperature of the crop being 21º C. As prevention for cold nights, the crop should be covered with plastic or covered the stems with tied straw. to the trunk. If the leaves are burned by frost, while the stem has not been affected, it can sprout again.


This plant is not used to receiving full sun during the day, so it is best to have it in a shady or semi-shady area.


the heliotrope accepts any type of soil. Clay or loam soils are best. With regard to pH, this plant requires neutral or slightly acidic soils. It will require manured floors. Use compost to fertilize the soil.


 the earth must be humid, but without puddles. A soil with good drainage capacity is necessary.


 by cuttings or seeds. For cuttings the multiplication time is in summer and the sowing time in winter. Germination occurs at a temperature between 15-20ºC in a period of 15-20 days.


Heliotrope is credited with the following healing properties:

  • Antiphlogistic (to reduce inflammation)
  • Healing
  • Diurético (purifying)
  • Wound washing
  • Treatment against ulcers

In addition, an essential oil is extracted from   Heliotropium peruvianum  that is used in medicine (as a replacement for quinine) and cosmetics as a base for perfumes.

But you have to be careful because some parts of the plant are irritating to sensitive skin and toxic when ingested.

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