Flower bed and balcony plants

Vanilla flower: Properly care for a scented plant with picturesque growth

The vanilla flower, which originates from South America, belongs to the borage or borage family ( Boraginaceae ). The slightly hairy leaves are typical of this group. With an intoxicating scent, picturesque growth and mostly dark violet flowers, heliotropes are popular flowers for balconies and gardens. From mid- May until well into autumn, the popular balcony plants can be outdoors. A place protected from rain and in full sun is ideal . Care is easy and vanilla flowers reliably delight with tireless blooms well into autumn. It is possible to hibernate your vanilla flower, but you need a little finesse to do this.

Things to know LocationPlanting Care/Pruning Watering FertilizingPests & Diseases FAQ

Matching Products — Buy ​​Vanilla Flower

Interesting facts about vanilla flowers

Botanical name: Heliotropium arborecens
Other names: vanilla flower, heliotrope, solstice
Use: balcony and bed plant, for planting in cemeteries, for bowls, rarely as a stem, aromatic plant, attracts butterflies and insects
Origin: South America
Flowering period: April to October
Color of flower: dark violet, rare white
Special features:The unique scent of the plant gives it its name. When touched lightly, heliotrope exudes a fine vanilla scent. Vanilla flowers always turn their leaves and flowers towards the sun and follow the natural course of the sun. The plant faces east in the morning and turns west during the day. Note that all parts of the vanilla flower are poisonous.

In which location does the vanilla flower feel most comfortable?

Vanilla flowers like a warm spot in full sun. A semi-shady place is possible, but the abundance of flowers is lower here. If possible, the site should be sheltered from rain and wind. When there is a lack of light, the summer flower drives long horny shoots and only small flowers. In order to be able to really enjoy the scent of the special plants, a location near seating is recommended. This is how you experience the scent of the vanilla flower plants in the best possible way.

How do I plant my vanilla flower?

For a rich abundance of flowers, repotting the plants or planting them out in the garden after purchase is recommended. The volume of soil in the culture pot is too small to supply the vanilla flower over the summer months. It is therefore important that the balcony plant has a larger volume of soil with high-quality potting soil. A pH of 5.5 to 6 and well-drained soil is optimal.

Our gardening tip: At least 2 to 3 liters of soil are required for each vanilla flower. With less soil volume, the maintenance effort increases significantly and the aromatic plants cannot develop optimally.

How do I properly care for and prune my vanilla flower?

Heliotrope care essentially consists of regular water supply, fertilization and the removal of faded flowers. The plants branch very well on their own and grow bushy. A cut is not necessary, but you should remove faded flowers in good time. This prevents seed formation and the planting looks well-groomed and appealing. Be aware that heliotrope are not hardy. Planting is therefore only recommended after the last late frosts, and in autumn it is important to move the popular summer flowers to their winter quarters in good timeto deliver. With the right knowledge, you can overwinter vanilla flowers. However, it takes some effort and newly purchased specimens are often more vigorous and floriferous.

Pro tip: If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when brushing the vanilla flower. In some cases, the sap can cause skin irritation.

How do I water my vanilla flower properly?

Vanilla flowers need a steady water supply for good development. When it is dry, the summer flowers quickly let their leaves droop. It is important that it never gets too dry, because heliotrope does not tolerate drought. Immediately after planting, the water requirement is still low. Once the flower is established and temperatures are rising, daily watering may be necessary. How often you have to water depends largely on the temperatures, the precipitation, and the storage capacityof the soil and the volume of soil in the vessel. Vanilla flowers planted in the ground require a little less attention than specimens in pots. Water storage boxes help minimize the labor involved in watering. It is important that the substrate dries a little before watering again.

Our professional tip: Vanilla flowers are sensitive to waterlogging. Make sure that vessels have a water drainage hole and that there is never standing water.

How do I properly fertilize my vanilla flower?

With optimal nutrition, vanilla flowers grow and bloom from May to October. When planting the balcony plants, use high-quality potting soil and a long-term balcony flower fertilizer. This gives the flowers a good start and the balcony plants are well supplied with nutrients for the first 4 to 6 weeks. From mid-June, we recommend weekly fertilizing with Kölle’s Beste Flower Fertilizer with Guano or Kölle’s Beste Bedding and Balcony Plant Fertilizer with humate. Both are liquid fertilizers that you add to the irrigation water according to the instructions on the package. Long-term fertilizer sticks are also suitable for individual pots, which supply the vanilla flowers with the nutrients they need for 3 months.

What pests and diseases can the vanilla flower get?

With the right site conditions and optimal care, Heliotrope are robust bedding and balcony plants. If vanilla flowers have brown leaves, it is usually a result of too high a dose of fertilizer or damage due to drought. The following pests can occur:


Vanilla flowers are more susceptible to aphid infestation, especially in phases with less light and less growth. Rinse the plants thoroughly with water at the first infestation. This first measure usually helps. In addition, strengthening with Kölle’s organic plant treatment helps. The biological agent with garlic strengthens the plant ‘s own immune system and helps in a natural way to reduce pest infestation.

white flies

The small white pests are a problem, especially in wind-protected, warm locations and in winter quarters. The whitefly can be found on the underside of the leaf and yellow spots form on the foliage due to its sucking activity. The yellow leaves dry up and fall off. At the first infestation, remove the affected leaves and dispose of them with household waste. If the infestation is low, you can fight the whitefly on the balcony plants with yellow panels. Targeted use of beneficial insects is very effective in closed rooms.

Are you looking for more information about pests and diseases or do you have questions about a plant problem? Our plant doctors will be happy to help you – in person and online!

FAQ — Frequently asked questions about vanilla flower

Which plants are suitable for the combination?

All balcony plants that prefer sun and have similar water requirements are ideal. Good heliotrope plant partners are: Surfinia petunias, geraniums (Pelargonium), bidens, verbena, carnations, magic snow, lantana, sweet potatoes, hussar’s heads, blue daisies, faithful to men, purslane and many more. Vanilla flowers are well suited as grave plants. With a long flowering period, the bedding plants are decorative and appealing all summer long.

Are vanilla flowers hardy?

Vanilla flowers are not hardy, but can be overwintered. Another option is to take cuttings in the fall. So you can start with young plants next spring.

How can I overwinter vanilla flowers?

Be sure to bring the vanilla flowers indoors before the first frost. You cannot overwinter heliotrope outside. An ideal location for wintering is bright and has a maximum of 10 °C. Cut back the balcony plants by half when putting them away and make sure the soil is evenly moist. Caring for the vanilla flowers in winter is limited to occasional watering. From February you can keep Heliotrope a little warmer. In the second year, the plants usually no longer develop as luxuriantly and buying a new one is a good idea more sensible.

How are vanilla flowers propagated?

The popular balcony plants can be easily propagated by cuttings. The best time for this is late summer. Use sharp scissors to cut off the shoot tips of vital plants (preferably without blossoming) and place them in seed trays or in a seed tray with a transparent cover. After 3 to 4 weeks the first roots have formed and the young plants can be repotted in pots with potting soil. Propagation by sowing is also possible. If you want to propagate vanilla flowers by seed, you should start growing in February.

What colors are vanilla flowers in?

In addition to the classic color purple, there are rarely varieties with white flowers. Vanilla flowers can range in color from purple to dark blue to medium blue depending on location and sun exposure.

Are there high-stem vanilla flowers?

Heliotrope high stems are available in well-stocked specialist shops. These have grown through special cultivation methods in special farms. With a bit of luck, you can grow a standard tree yourself from cuttings. The cutting is fixed to a stick with a ribbon in order to obtain a shoot that is as straight as possible. At a height of 15 to 20 cm you can start to carefully remove the lower leaves and shoots with scissors. Once the desired height is reached, remove the top of the main stem. This stimulates the formation of side shoots. For a bushy crown, it is important that you also regularly take care of theRemove the tips of the side shoots (= pinching).

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