Heliotropium arborescens
Common Name: heliotrope 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Boraginaceae
Native Range: Bolivia, Colombia, Peru
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Violet
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Tolerate: Deer


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis, grow as a summer bedding annual, in containers or as a houseplant. Best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants appreciate some afternoon shade in hot summer climates however. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Start seeds indoors 10-12 weeks before last frost date. Set out plants after last frost date. Pinch back stems to encourage bushy growth. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Bedding plants can be allowed to die each fall, with new plants purchased or raised from seed each spring. Larger potted or container plants may be overwintered in bright cool (50s) locations. Cuttings can be taken from garden plants in late summer for overwintering if desired.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Heliotropium arborescens, commonly called heliotrope, is native to Peru. It is a tender perennial shrub that grows 2-6’ tall in its native habitat. In St. Louis, it is usually grown as a summer annual bedding plant or container plant where it will typically grow 12-18” tall in a growing season. Overwintered container plants may grow taller. This plant is an old garden favorite. Features sweetly fragrant, tiny violet flowers in large showy clusters which bloom summer to fall. Rough, oval, dark green leaves (to 3” long) are prominently veined.

Genus name comes from the Greek word heliotropion from helios meaning the sun and trope meaning a turning an allusion to an old disproved idea that the flower heads turned with the sun.

Specific epithet means tending to be woody or with a tree-like form.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for whiteflies, spider mites, aphids and mealybugs, particularly on overwintering plants or houseplants.


Grow as bedding plants or edging plants. In containers as rounded shrubs or trained as a standard. Hanging baskets. Window boxes. Summer houseplant.