Heliotrope (lat. Heliotropium ) is an extensive genus of the Borage family, which includes about 300 species growing in different parts of the globe. Most often, this culture can be found in the Mediterranean countries, in South and Central America. The genus is represented by perennial or annual herbaceous plants, shrubs or shrubs.
The inflorescences are dense, cluster-shaped, consist of small five-petalled flowers of blue, violet, purple, white, blue or lilac. Flowering lasts from the last month of spring to the beginning of autumn.
The open buds of heliotrope exude a sweet fragrance reminiscent of vanilla. The fruit of this culture is round, wrinkled, consists of four parts, which break up when ripe. Each of them contains seeds.
Species and varieties
European heliotrope ( Heliotropium europaeum ). Bush 40 – 55 cm high, the splendor of which is given by numerous branched stems. The leaves are oval, pointed at the end, with deep veins, dark green pigment. Inflorescence corymbose, with white flowers. Flowering begins in May, lasts throughout the summer period.
Corymbose heliotrope ( Heliotropium corymbosum ). Tall variety of this culture. The bush is able to grow up to 130 cm. The leaves are oval, pointed at the top, wrinkled, bright green. Inflorescences with a diameter of 10 – 12 cm, consist of blue and blue flowers. This species blooms in early summer until frost.
Peruvian heliotrope ( Heliotropium peruvianum ). Spreading bush 50 – 60 cm high. Consists of straight, rigid branching stems. Leaf blades are obovate, short-petiolate, with a wrinkled surface, rich green. Inflorescences are umbellate, reach 15 cm in diameter. Made up of many purple flowers.
Peruvian heliotrope varieties:
“Odysseus” is a low plant with straight stems 25 – 30 cm long. It has cluster-shaped purple inflorescences with a strong aroma.
“Marine” is a compact plant that can be used as a pot culture. Differs in pale blue wide-open flowers.
“Sea Breeze” is a low-growing variety, the height of which does not exceed 20 cm. The flowers are a rich purple color scheme.
“White Lady” is a very beautiful elegant variety with white flowers with a soft pink tint.
“Alba” – a lush bush 100 – 110 cm high. During flowering, it is covered with cluster-shaped inflorescences with numerous snow-white flowers. This variety looks truly luxurious, rightfully always takes pride of place in the flower garden.
“Vanillesauber” – the variety is valued for bright purple inflorescences with a strong vanilla aroma that fills the garden for a month.
“Schlos Ahrensburg” is a plant with strong stem branching. It is highly decorative. It has pale blue flowers.
“Sally Reet” is a tall variety with stems 90 – 110 cm long. Flowers are dark purple in color.
“Aurea” – decorativeness of this variety is given not only by lush racemose inflorescences, but also by variegated foliage.
Heliotrope varieties of this species are shown in the photo:
Reproduction by seeds
You need to plant heliotrope seeds for seedlings when the calendar spring comes. Shallow wooden or plastic boxes are suitable for growing. The substrate must be nutritious and loose. It is recommended to mix garden soil with sand or peat.
When sowing, heliotrope seeds should be evenly distributed over the soil surface and slightly pressed in, sprayed with a spray bottle. To create the desired humidity, the crops will need to be covered with a film.
The mini-greenhouse must be opened every day to ventilate the crops, otherwise they will rot. It is also important to regularly moisten the soil, without waiting for it to dry out. The containers are stored in a bright room with a temperature of 20 – 24 degrees. Shoots of heliotrope appear after 1 – 1.5 months. After their appearance, the shelter must be removed.
When the sprouts reach 2 – 3 cm, a dive is carried out into a separate bowl. When the plants grow another 1 – 2 cm, they are pinched for more branching.
Before transplanting seedlings to the site, they are gradually accustomed to fresh air. To do this, containers with plants are exposed daily to the street for several hours. When the soil warms up well, the seedlings are transplanted into open ground.
Reproduction by cuttings
Propagation of heliotrope by cuttings is a quick and efficient way to get a new plant. Cuttings should be cut from the tops of adult specimens in early spring. You need to choose stems with buds and leaves. The buds and lower leaves are cut off, leaving a couple of upper leaf plates.
Rooting is placed in a moist substrate consisting of sand and perlite. Top with a film or a jar. Keep the “greenhouse” at room temperature. After a couple of weeks, the cuttings will form a root system. After the plant has roots, it is transplanted into a mixture of peat and sand. Planted in the ground in the second half of May – early June.
When growing heliotrope, flowers need proper care.
- Watering. The soil should always be kept moist, but not allowed to stagnate. It is necessary to irrigate the bushes moderately, watering only after the top layer of the earth dries out. With a lack of moisture, the leaves of the plant will droop. In order to retain moisture in the soil longer, you need to mulch the area around the bush.
- Topdressing. Since the heliotrope blooms for several months, it is necessary to feed it with minerals. Fertilizer should be applied once a month, using balanced formulations. Fertilizers with a high content of phosphorus and potassium are ideal for this flower. Organics are also suitable as top dressing. In this case, rotted manure is optimal.
- Pruning. For the density of the bush, the tops of young specimens are removed. Continuous flowering provokes timely pruning of wilted buds.
- Wintering. Heliotropes are thermophilic, do not withstand temperatures below -2 degrees. For this reason, if the gardener plans to breed this plant as a perennial, after flowering, you will need to dig up a bush, place it in a large pot and keep it in a room with a temperature of 6 degrees until spring. During this period, infrequent watering is recommended. Fertilizer is not required.
- Fight against diseases and pests. The flower is affected by diseases as a result of improper care for it. Excess moisture in the substrate in the absence of a drainage layer will lead to decay of the root system, damage by fungal diseases. With a lack of light, the plant is affected by spider mites and powdery mildew. Insect pests that attack the bush include aphids, scale insects, whitefly butterflies.
Use in landscape design
The plant has beautiful expressive inflorescences and bright large foliage. It decorates flower beds, empty garden areas, loggias, and places of rest. Due to the strong pleasant aroma, heliotrope bushes are planted near the terrace or right on it.
In addition, this culture serves to decorate borders, create discounts. With its help, you can advantageously decorate any area in the garden. It is enough to plant 2 – 3 bright varieties, you get a lush colorful carpet.
Compositions with the participation of heliotropes and flowers such as beetroot, dahlias, pelargoniums, ragworts, nasturtiums, rudbeckias, marigolds, agapanthus and others look very impressive.
It is not uncommon to see Peruvian heliotrope as a pot culture that is used to decorate a balcony or room. The flower looks harmonious next to violets, geraniums, lobelia.
If you want to keep the heliotrope until the next season, it is planted on a plot in a container, which is buried in the ground, and when cold weather sets in, they dig it out and bring it into the room.
When growing heliotrope, it is important to consider that it is poisonous, so you need to work with it very carefully and with gloves.