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Products > Heliotropium arborescens
Heliotropium arborescens - Common Heliotrope
Image of Heliotropium arborescens
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Boraginaceae (Borages)
Origin: Peru (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Light Lavender
Bloomtime: Spring/Fall
Fragrant Flowers: Yes
Synonyms: [H. peruvianum]
Height: 4-5 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Heliotropium arborescens (Heliotrope) - This shrub grows to 4-5 feet tall by 6-8 feet wide with strongly fragrant (most describe as a vanilla scent) flowers that are in abundance in spring and again in fall on coiled flower stems, creating a dense ball of flowers. The flower buds are a deep lilac color and lighten with age to almost white. It grows well in coastal sun or part shade with regular to occasional watering. This shrub is tender to frost and temperatures below 28 F but damaged tips recover quickly. This strongly perfumed "old fashion" plant has been a favorite of southern California garden designers for many years - it is much larger and has proven far more durable than the darker foliaged purple flowering cultivars that are often treated as annuals or short lived perennial. This plant imparts a wonderful scent over a large area of the garden and is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. There is certainly some confusion surrounding this taxa, likely due to its introduction, even before it was described by the Scottish botanist and chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1757. It apparently was in cultivation in Europe from plants returned by early travelers to Peru and from these plants subsequent selections were made and it is also possible that hybrids with a second Peruvian species, Heliotropium corymbosum, were created. The name for the genus comes the Greek words 'helios' meaing "sun" and 'tropein' meaning "to turn" with idea being that the rows of curled inflorescences of flowers are turned toward the sun. The specific epithet means tree like in reference to the larger stature of this species. Other common names include Cherry Pie Flower, Peruvian Heliotrope and Peruvian Turnsole (turnsole is a middle English term also meaning turning toward the sun). While smaller plants with darker purplish foliage and dark flowers became more popular, this particular "old fashion" large shrubby species form with paler flowers was noted in the 1970s as underused by the famed Los Angeles garden designer Phillip Chandler, who recognized it as a great addition to a woodland setting in the garden. We thank Landscape Architect Sydney Baumgartner for encouraging us to grow this plant that she used so effectively in her design at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden in Santa Barbara. We have grown this beautiful and incredibly fragrant plant since 1993. 

This information about Heliotropium arborescens displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.