In 1786, while serving as Minister to France, Jefferson sent a collection of seeds and plants home to friends, including the lovely blue-flowering heliotrope: "To be sowed in spring. A delicious flower, but I suspect it must be planted in boxes & kept in the house in winter. The smell rewards the care." This flower was first discovered in Peru and brought to France sometime between 1735 and 1757 where it was a novelty much appreciated for its pleasant fragrance. It was likely not widely cultivated in America before 1800. This is the species, or wild form, of heliotrope and is likely identical to the one Jefferson knew in the eighteenth century.
The heliotrope is a garden annual with clusters of delicate, fragrant purple flowers fading to pale lavender in late spring through summer.
Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Heliotrope.
Typical Blooming Dates: June - November
Growth Type: Annual
Color(s): Blue, Pink
Location at Monticello: East and West Lawn
Planting Conditions: Full Sun and Partial Shade