10 Different Types of Heliotrope Flowers

Purple heliotrope flowers in full bloom

Discover the different types of Heliotrope flowers and watch these sweet-smelling flowers with purple petals turn your garden into a cosmopolitan beauty to behold.

Also known as Heliotropium arborescens, heliotrope is a sweet smelling flower, prized for its cute purple petals. This flower species grows annually or perennially, depending upon time and place. If this is your first time getting to know about this flower variety, you must be wondering what the meaning behind its unique name is.

Basically, heliotropius is a Greek word, with “helios” meaning “sun”, and “tropos”, meaning “turn”. The name is derived from the plant’s characteristic of turning its leaves to face the sun. This is a habit common to all heliotropic plant species which they habitually exhibit. Also known as Garden heliotrope, this clustered blossom holds special meaning/symbolism as well. Heliotrope represents eternal love or is a symbol of someone that is deeply devoted.

Identified as a shrubby perennial, this lovely plant belongs to the borage family of herbs, shrubs, and trees which characteristically are blue and fuzzy-leafed. While many think that it ranges in shades of purple, there are a few varieties of heliotrope flowers in a white color. Each of them features five-lobed petals which are clustered together, resembling ever-so-pretty Scorpion grasses!

Did you know that this cosmopolitan genus has around 325 species? Sounds remarkable, right? It is, indeed, worth learning about its popular kinds and this article discusses them in detail. Read on.

1. Heliotrope MarineBeautiful Heliotrope Marine

Scientifically known as heliotropium arborescens, marine heliotrope is a deeply violet-colored flower with large vibrant clusters. The notable clusters spread up to 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. This delightfully fragrant heliotrope variety blooms in spring, summer, and autumn, delightfully adding vibrancy to your garden or yard. Since it is a tropical plant, it cherishes the summer heat, making it a heat-tolerant plant. However, this floral variety opposes extremely cold temperatures so growing them in winters is a big no-no.

The University of Minnesota lists heliotrope marine a deer-resistant and shade-resistant plant. This upright plant does not require frequent watering and only needs to be fertilized every two weeks. The exquisite scent is an added advantage as it elevates the beauty of hanging baskets, flower containers, patio borders, etc.

Before you plant this type of heliotrope, make sure that your heliotrope marine hardens off in a cool, windy night. For that, you will need to leave it outside in a covered area for a couple of days or else it will wilt away. Pick a sunny area and plant its seeds deep enough to cover the top of the root ball. Water it enough and fertilize once or twice a season.

2. Dwarf MarinePurple Dwarf Marine

Belonging to the Boraginaceae family, heliotropium “dwarf marine” is found in dry, sandy areas like in Mexico and South America. They have a sweet scent to them which is why they are commonly cultivated in a garden and yard. This variety of heliotropes is identified by its miniature so it will look good even if it is planted as a separate plant. Owing to its small-size, this variety of heliotrope can be cultivated in containers as well as the front of decorative borders. The gorgeous blooms are attractive to bees, moths, and butterflies.

Dwarf marines can reach up to the height of 35 cm, richly filled with thyroid inflorescences with bright blue floral. Heliotropium dwarf marine is best grown in moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Make sure to remove spent blooms to increase flowering. The plant also needs regular watering to ensure healthy plant growth.

Some of the plants that look good with heliotropium “dwarf marine” are petunia “purple wave”, solensostemon “chocolate mint”, and fuchsia “rose of castile”.

3. European HeliotropeEuropaeum Heliotropium

Heliotropium Europaeum, also known as European heliotrope, is a native to Asia, Europe, and North Africa. That said, it is widely distributed in areas like Australia and North America. In some places, this annual-growing herb grows as a roadside weed.

This plant species grows from a taproot and reaches up to the heights of 40 cm. It boasts oval-shaped leaves and stem which are covered with light, soft hair. The inflorescences are covered with spiky, white flowers with fuzzy sepals. Each flower is a few mm wide and contains a small nut, making it the most attractive aspect of the plant.

At times called the potato weed, this nomenclature species blooms in summer in an upright position. Unlike some heliotrope species, European heliotrope has a fairly unpleasant smell. It usually has pear-shaped seeds which are about 2mm long and are clustered together, making a flattering circular structure. Unlike the flowers, the seeds are not hairy and are up to 1-2mm in size. Premature seeds tend to fall off to the ground and ripe up on the ground, turning into a black hue from the green.

4. Indian HeliotropeHeliotropium Indicum

Scientifically known as heliotropium indicum, Indian heliotrope is an annual plant which is native to Asia. The erect, branched plant spikes up to a height of 15-50 cm. Like other varieties of heliotrope, Indian heliotrope has a hairy stem with a mix of ovate and oblong-ovate leaves. Generally, it boasts white to light purple flowers with a green calyx.

The plant is not only limited to its astounding beauty; this annual or perennial plant is used as a traditional medicine in the Philippines and Tamil, Nadu, India. The pounded leaves of the plant contain medicinal juice which is used on skin ulcers, furuncles, and skin wounds. The extracted juice is also used as an eye drop for conjunctivitis.

But that’s not it.

Over centuries, the plant has been used widely for treating warts, tumors, and inflammation as well. In many parts of the world, it is used as an analgesic to cure rheumatic pain and conditions like scabies, yaws, impetigo, and eczema. One of the most shocking uses of this Indian flower species is that its fibers are used to make fake hair for women when the tissues of the plant begin to rot away.

5. Salt HeliotropeHeliotropium curassavicum

This heliotrope species spans to a vast geographical range which is why it has different names in different nations. Some common names include seaside heliotrope, quail plant, salt heliotrope, monkey tail, and Chinese parsley. However, in Latin American Spanish, the same flower species is known by cola de gama, cola de mico, or rabo alacran. In the Hawaiian language, it is called kipukai.

The exquisite flowering species is native to a large part of America, from Canada all the way to Argentina, including Hawaii and the West Indies. Sometimes, its species is found in coastal and non-coastal regions of Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe.

Seaside heliotrope is a fleshy, bluish-green plant with leafy stems that are beautifully paired with tiny white flowers tinged with a purple shade. Unlike other heliotrope species, salt heliotrope blooms from March to November. The salt heliotrope thrives best in salty soils including beach sand, salt marshes, and alkali flats. It also needs full sun exposure for healthy growth.

This perennial herb grows to be an erect shrub with an overall height of 1.6 ft. Both the foliage and stem tend to be fleshy with thick, oval or spade-shaped leaves. The inflorescences are curly with tiny, bell-shaped blooms. Each flower is white with five circular lobes and a purple/yellow stem. The fruit that the flower bears are small, brown-colored nutlets.

Heliotropes are primarily used as ornaments in rocky hillsides, rock gardens, and desert landscapes.

6. Blue HeliotropeBlue Heliotrope

This beautiful member of Boraginaceae is native to South America including northern and central Argentina, southern Brazil, southern Bolivia, and Uruguay. In the late 19th century, blue heliotrope was cultivated as a garden ornamental. Since then it has naturalized throughout the eastern and south-eastern parts of Australia. It is largely distributed in the coastal and sub-coastal lands of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

An herbaceous, low-growing plant, blue heliotrope boasts numerous branched steams from a central taproot. Its closely arranged leaves are long, hairy, and have curvy margins. The plant also produces bluish-purple flowers – lilacs – which are 5 to 8mm in length and have a yellow throat. These flowers comprise of five petals that are fused into a corolla tube and are covered by five green hairy sepals. These flowers tend to elongate and become spikier as the fruit matures.

The fruit features two small seeds (mericarps and nutlets) which separate from each other as they mature. These seeds have wrinkled exterior and are rounded in shape. What further distinguishes them is their intense dark brown or black color and hairless surface. Flowering occurs almost the entire year, but most apparently from late spring to early autumn.

Did you know that blue heliotrope is considered an “environmental weed” in New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia? In many parts of these areas, such as south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales, this exotic species is known to be a major weed of crop!

Blue heliotrope has several common names such as clasping heliotrope, summer heliotrope, violet heliotrope, wild heliotrope, creeping heliotrope, purpletop, and wild verbena.

7. Tree HeliotropeTree Heliotrope, Velvetleaf Soldierbush

Best known as Heliotropium foertherianum, tree heliotrope is native to tropical regions of Asia such as southern China, northern Australia, Madagascar, and the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia. As the name suggests, this type of heliotrope is in the shape of a small tree or a shrub. In littoral zones, the species reaches up to 12 ft. in height and 16 ft. in width.

Tree heliotrope has a wide range of wood and medicinal uses. In ancient times, the leaves of this valuable plant were used as a feminine food in the Maldives. The wood is popularly used in the making of tools, handicrafts, sunglasses frames, etc. Owing to its easy accessibility, H. Foertherianum is also used as firewood. Because of its excessive use, the plant has become scarce in many areas.

In several Pacific islands, velvetleaf soldierbush is used for treating ciguatera fish poisoning which is caused by ciguatoxins – a type of life-threatening toxin found in fish. Researchers from the Louis Malarde Institute in French Polynesia and Pasteur Institute in New Caledonia have concluded that the plant consists of therapeutic leaves, as they contain rosmarinic acid – known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The scientists and researchers believe that rosmarinic acid can help eliminate signs and symptoms of ciguatoxins. Scientists at the Institute of Research for Development (IRD) also back this statement.

Some of the most popular names of this common heliotrope variety are velvetleaf soldierbush, octopus bush, and veloutier.

8. Polynesian HeliotropeHeliotropium Anomalum

Botanically named Lithospermum incanum and Pentcarya heliotropioides, Polynesian heliotrope is a small plant which is 6 to 12 inches deep and 30 inches wide across. The leaves are long and narrow, covered with soft, silky hair with a silvery tinge to them. These leaves are grown in rosettes toward the tip of stems. The plant also produces sweetly-scented flowers which are white in color and tubular in shape. These beautiful flowers are produced on stems in the form of clusters, just above the foliage.

Like all heliotrope varieties, Heliotropium anomalum are cultivated from seeds. The seeds of heliotrapium anomalum are super small. They need to be dried on an absorbent paper and kept in the sun before they are planted in the ground. Once the seeds have dried down, sprinkle them on the top of the moist, well-drained pot. Place the pot in shade and keep it moist. Note that germination takes up to 2 to 3 months. Polynesian heliotrope is not only propagated through seeds but from cuttings as well.  However, these cuttings need to be done without the use of rooting hormones.

Where is this type of flower plant found in the world? Heliotropium anomalum is native to sandy coastal areas of Polynesia. It is also widely distributed in regions of Hawaii including Ni’ihau, O’ahu, Moloka’i, and Kaua’i. There was a time when this variety was found in Maui, Lana’i or Kaho’olawe. But they are not found in these areas anymore.

9. Heliotropium Arborescens “Princess Marina”Heliotpium Arborescens

Princess Marina is a cluster of sweet-fragrant, intense violet-blue flowers that stay abloom from June to August. Their wrinkled and dark green leaves complement the purple floral, adding the unique beauty to the overall plant.

Originated in Peruvian Andes, this evergreen shrub comes in a compact size which makes it an ideal option for a patio or window box container in a sunshiny area. This plant also goes by the name cherry pie which is due to its sweet scent that reminds us of freshly-baked cherry pie.

For healthy growth of this variety, it is necessary to feed it regularly with an excellent potash fertilizer such as tomorite.

10. Heliotropium HirsutissimumWhite-Colored Heliotropium Hirsutissimum Grauer

A beautiful species in the genus Heliotropium, heliotropium hirsutissimum grauer is an annual flowering plant. It boasts white-colored flowers that contain homogeneous seeds. These gorgeous blooms blossom in late summers to early autumns (Aug – Sept).

This type of plant is widely distributed in Mediterranean areas including Hula Plain, Mt. Galilee, Judean Mountains, and Acco Plains.

If you are on the lookout for a fragrant, annual plant that will beautify your patio, garden, or any outdoor space while keeping it scented and fresh, heliotrope is the best option. Growing your own heliotrope is easy as long as you follow certain guidelines. Make sure that you keep these lovely plants well-watered. Fertilize them on a monthly basis with an organic plant food.

The flowers tend to move with the sun as they like to face the sun’s direction. Ensure that they are placed where they can freely enjoy this movement. To elevate the scent, plant multiple heliotropes together in a hot, sunny region. That’s because the heat helps increase its fragrance.


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