Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Heliotrope flowers
Credit: Helen Norman
Heliotrope flowers

An old-fashioned plant that has seen a resurgence in popularity, heliotrope is often first found by scent rather than by sight. Clusters of small purple or blue blooms top off darker green foliage. Those flowers have a sweet scent likened to pleasant aromas of vanilla, baby powder, grapes, or cherry pie. Pollinators love these flowers, too.

genus name
  • Heliotropium
  • Sun
plant type
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • From 1 to 2 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
special features
  • 11

Colorful Combinations

The abundant flower clusters add a splash of color in a container garden or a flower bed. The most common hue is a deep, rich purple. But when you look closely at the blooms, they have several shades of purple with tiny yellow centers. Many of the most common varieties claim to have blue flowers, however they are usually a fairly solid purple, and not quite a true blue. There are also some white variations of these blooms, as well as some pale lavenders to go along with the deeper purple shades.

Long, deeply veined leaves provide texture that acts as a lush backdrop for the fragrant blooms. Overall, the plant has an almost shrubby appearance. In a tropical setting, plants can reach up to 3-4 feet tall and wide. These shrubs can be almost completely covered in blooms during summer, and create quite a "scent-sation."

Heliotrope Care Must-Knows

A heliotrope is easy to grow. Plants are generally happy with full sun and moderate moisture but can tolerate a bit of shade. In a shadier spot, it may not bloom quite as much, though. One of the best ways to use heliotrope is in containers. This way, the plants can be moved around so their sweet fragrance can be enjoyed soften. A heliotrope is also great to plant in groups to maximize their fragrance as it can be fairly subtle at times.

Because the flowers bloom in large clusters, they may need some periodic deadheading of old blossoms to make way for more. You can also prune back the plant by about half its size to encourage bushy new growth and flower buds to form.

As a whole, heliotrope is fairly problem-free, however in a very humid summer, if planted in some shade, it can be susceptible to powdery mildew. This appears on the foliage of the plants as a powdery white substance. This generally will not kill the plant, but it can slow the plant's growth. To help prevent this, plant heliotrope in as much sun as possible, and make sure there is good airflow around the plants. Also, avoid getting the foliage wet when watering, especially in the evening.

More Varieties of Heliotrope

Heliotropium Fragrant Delight
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

'Fragrant Delight' helitrope

Heliotropium 'Fragrant Delight' bears soft purple, highly fragrant flowers on 3-foot-tall plants.

Heliotrope Companion Plants

Angelonia Serena White
Credit: David Speer


Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.

Duranta erecta
Credit: Peter Krumhardt


This unusual annual has beautiful blue-and-white flowers almost orchidlike in their beauty. A tropical shrub in the warmest parts of the country, Zones 8-11, duranta is grown in the rest of the country as an annual. It delights gardeners with its airy clusters of blue, violet, or white flowers followed by golden fruits. Plant it in a container and come fall, it will make a good indoor plant in a large, sunny, south-facing window. Watch for selections with variegated foliage; they add even more interest. As tropical shrubs, they can reach 15 feet or more, but when grown as annuals in cool regions, they seldom top 5 feet. Plant in spring in rich, well-drained soil after all danger of frost has passed. Fertilize moderately. Keep moist but do not overwater.

Limelight licorice plant Helichrysum petiolare
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

Licorice Plant

Elegant, silvery licorice plant is so useful to set off flowers in blue, white, purple, and other colors and to add contrast to plantings where you want more than just a mass of green. It's especially good in containers, where you can admire it up close and show off its spreading habit to best effect. Technically a tropical shrub, licorice plant is usually grown as an annual in the United States. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Garden Plans for Heliotrope

flower garden bench
Credit: Janet Mesic Mackie

Garden Plan for Partial Shade

This garden plan combines easy, adaptable plants to add color to spots that don't see full sun.

Click here to download this plan!

Comments (3)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
April 21, 2021
Please keep these plants away from pets. Serious liver damage, then death.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
November 4, 2020
These plants seem to be perennial. Our two from two years ago came up in the same roots this year. And did they come up! Easily 4’x4’x4’. I’m going to move one root so that if it comes up again then it won’t block the water and I will comment again in 2021.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
November 4, 2020
These plants seem to be perennial. Our two from two years ago came up in the same roots this year. And did they come up! Easily 4’x4’x4’. I’m going to move one root so that if it comes up again then it won’t block the water and I will comment again in 2021.