Heliotrope (Heliotropium) is directly related to the borage family. This genus includes about 300 species of different plants. It is represented by perennial herbaceous plants as well as shrubs. In nature they can be found in the subtropics, the tropics, and even in the temperate zone of America and the Mediterranean. The flower's name is derived from two Greek words, which translate as "sun" and "turn, rotation".
This is due to the fact that the flowers turn following the sun.
Heliotrope has gained popularity as a garden plant since the 18th century because of its very pleasant vanilla aroma. It is popularly known as "lacmus dye" and "lichen grass", in England as "cherry pie", in France as "love herb", and in Germany as "God's herb". This plant has found use not only as a garden plant, but it is widely used in perfumery, and also in medicine. But in order to have a spectacular, fragrant bush in your garden, you must learn how to properly care for such a plant.
Any of the species of this plant has dark green downy leaves that are alternate, obovate in shape. The short-petioled leaves may be wrinkled or wavy. The small aromatic flowers are dark blue or violet in color and clustered in fluffy cloaks. These flowers contain a valuable essential oil and it is still widely used in the perfume industry. However, note that there are some species whose shoots contain a poisonous alkaloid called cynoglossin, while the seeds contain - lasiocarpine.
These substances have a paralyzing effect on the central nervous system of the human body and animals as well. However, as a rule, such species do not grow as garden crops.
The flowering of each flower stalk lasts about 4 weeks. After flowering, fruits (cenobiums) form, which, after ripening, are divided into 4 parts (erems). Each of the parts contains small seeds of the plant.
In favorable climatic conditions, heliotrope grows as a perennial but in middle latitudes with frosty winters it is cultivated as an annual.
Growing from seeds in an open field
Everyone who decided to grow this flower from seeds should remember that the choice of planting material should be taken very seriously. Buy seeds only in a good specialized store, with preference should be given to such proven brands as: Prestige, Search, Johnsons or Unwins Seeds, because they can guarantee high quality and good seed variety. If the planting material is of good quality, flowering from the moment the seedling appears will come in 3-4 months. If you decide to sow your own seeds you should be prepared for their rather poor germination, they will flower only at the end of summer, the bushes may vary in height and the inflorescences may be smaller than usual.
Sow the seeds for seedlings in the late winter beginning of spring. The soil mixture consisting of peat and sand (4:1) should always be thoroughly steamed in order to prevent the seeds from getting infected by various fungal infections. In a container should be poured prepared earth mixture and compact it with a board. After that, you can proceed to sowing, for this you need to spread the seeds evenly on the surface of the substrate, and then cover them with the same mixture, the layer should be 0.1-0.
2 centimeters, but no more. The container from above should be covered with glass or film, and then it must be placed in the heat (18 to 20 degrees). After the seedlings appear, about 5-20 days after sowing the container should be removed from the glass and put it on a window sill. The temperature should be slightly increased to 20-22 degrees. The seedlings do not need bright light as they grow and develop well without it.
When the seedlings grow 2 true leaves, they should be pickled. They will be transplanted into separate pots of nine centimeters in diameter and filled with the same soil mixture. After the transplanting, the seedlings should be watered. Half a month after picking, it is necessary to fertilize the young plants. To do this, use fertilizer for seedlings.
Transplant this flower into the open ground in early summer when the threat of night frosts has passed. A suitable place for heliotrope should be sunny and the soil should be loose, well water permeable, enriched with nutrients, and high in humus.
Fill a prepared hole with leaf and manure humus. After that, the flower should be carefully poured into it and covered with ordinary garden soil. The soil is crimped near the plant and then watered.
Heliotrope growing through seedlings and care
A proper watering regime is needed for the plant to grow and develop properly. Water it only when necessary, in dry weather watering will be more frequent. When the plant is watered, you need to gently loosen the soil between the bushes, removing all the weeds. When the soil is mulched, the frequency of weeding, watering and loosening is drastically reduced. Heliotrope will need to be fertilized 2 times a month, and continue to do so until the beginning of intensive flowering.
A full complex fertilizer is used for this.
Diseases and pests
Aphids, spider mites and whiteflies can settle on the plant. To get rid of these pests, you should treat the plant with Actellic. If you can't get rid of all the insects at once, the heliotrope can be treated again in seven days. This fungal disease can only be eliminated in its initial stages.
Once the signs of the disease are detected, a treatment with a fungicide is necessary.
The properties of the plant
This plant not only has a wonderful fragrance. Thus, it has been very popular in folk medicine for a long time. It is used to treat kidney stones and as an anthelmintic. It is also used for skin conditions such as warts and herpes.
In Germany, however, this plant has been withdrawn from use because it contains a life-threatening alkaloid. You should therefore be very careful when using heliotrope as a remedy and it is best to consult a health care professional before using it.
Heliotrope after the flowering period
How and when to collect seeds
How to plant and take care of this plant even a florist with no experience. But not everyone will be able to cope with generative propagation, especially if the seeds have been collected from their own garden. Such a multiplication process is quite complicated and a positive result happens only rarely, because the seeds in the middle belt simply do not have time to mature properly.
It is worth considering whether it is necessary to waste effort and time on collecting seeds, from which, at best, not very beautiful plants will grow. It is much easier to sow purchased seeds, from which you are guaranteed to grow beautiful flowers. But in case you really want to try growing heliotropes from seeds you collected by yourself, you will have to wait until the inflorescence withers, dries out and turns black. Then it is gently plucked, and the small seeds are extracted from it. The extracted seeds should be sorted, dried and poured into a cardboard box for later storage.
Heliotrope in winter
Since it is grown as an annual, the bushes are simply destroyed in autumn because the land will need to be fertilized and recultivated. However, if there is a desire to grow such a plant in the wintertime at home, it is necessary to dig up the mother part of the flower before the first frosts, plant it in a flower pot and bring it home. Heliotrope will need extra light and a cool environment (15-18 degrees), in which case it will bloom for a very long time, filling the room with a unique fragrance. In the spring time, if necessary, cut cuttings can be cut from such a flower and rooted.
Main species and varieties
There are many species of this plant in nature, but only 3 are grown in room conditions.
Heliotropus peruvianum or arborescens is the most common shrub species. Also Heliotropus stem-shaped (Heliotropium amplexicaulis) and Heliotropus shield-shaped (Heliotropium corymbosum). The Shielded Heliotrope has rather large flowers and not as broad leaves as the Peruvian one, while the Stalked Heliotrope is a stunted species.
Heliotrope Peruvian or Tree Heliotrope - can reach a height of 60 centimeters. Its short-petioled, wrinkled, obovate-shaped leaves are pubescent.
The flowers are colored dark purple or dark blue and are combined in inflorescences that may reach 10-15 centimeters in diameter. Flowering is abundant and lasts until frost. The most popular variety is "Marin", which has dark green leaves with a violet cast and dark purple flowers. There are many varieties of this variety, such as Mini Marin, Dwarf Marin, Princess Marin, Marin Blue and others. Other popular varieties include Regal Dwarf, which is compact, and White Lady.
- which has pink buds, but when they open, the florets turn out to be pure white.