Heliotropium: Heliotrope, cherry pie
Height 35-60cm (14-24in)
Planting distance 30cm (1ft)
Flowers late spring to mid autumn
Fertile well-drained garden
Evergreen shrub treated as half-hardy annual
The evergreen hybrid heliotropes received their common name, cherry pie, because the heavy fragrance of their small forget-me-not likeresembles that of cherry-pie filling. Great favourites in the formal gardens of Victorian times, they are still much used as dot plants in formal bedding schemes in warm sheltered gardens – heliotropes will not tolerate cold exposed sites.
Dwarf types are suitable for pots and containers and for sunny window-boxes.
The flowers range in colour from dark purple through lilac to white. They appear from late spring until mid autumn and are carried above attractive dark green finely wrinkled leaves.
These are the most readily available heliotrope varieties: ‘Marine’ bears large clusters of deep purple flowers, accompanied by dark foliage. It reaches 45cm (18in) high. ‘Mini Marine’ is a dwarf mixture growing 35-40cm (14-16in) tall. The plants are compact but bushy, branching from the base and have large violet-purple flower clusters and dark green, near bronze foliage.
Sow the seeds in late winter in pots or pans of seed compost. Germinate at a temperature of 16-18°C (61-64°F), and prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle into boxes of potting compost. When 7.5cm (3in) high, pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth. Harden off before planting out 30cm (1ft) apart, in late spring, when all danger of frost is past.
Outdoors use heliotrope in bedding schemes and for filling containers. They thrive in fertile well-drained soil, and need full sun, and shelter from winds.
Pests and diseases