Friday, April 18, 2014

My Weird Little Patchouli Plant (Pogostemon heyneanus)

I had been looking around to buy some patchouli plants for a couple of years, but they are exceptionally hard to come by. Imagine my delight when I found 3 at a local botany festival!
Me, happy at the Botany Fest!
But two were rather moldy, and the last was clearly a sprig that had been stuck into the pot only a day or two before the festival. It also had a large frog nesting next to it in the pot. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

All the other nursery seller's herbs were in great shape, and they were selling out quickly, so I had a feeling that patch may not be the easiest plant to grow...I was right!  (The frog hopped out of the pot while I was lunching at the festival and made itself comfortable in a kumquat tree.)

My Delicate Little Patchouli Plant, Minus Frog....
Patchouli has an amazing history in India. The intensely green, muskily aromatic leaves are used to repel insects, and scent thousands of perfumes and varieties of incense. The Brits brought it to Europe in a big way during the Raj, and it had a renaissance of popularity during the 1960s and 70s. Some now think of its distinct scent as the quintessential whiff of headshop.

Patchouli grows in Zones 9-11 outdoors, and is perennial in zone 11 (aka: Miami, not here). Lots of people grow it indoors or bring it inside for the winter, though. It's supposed to bloom in the fall but mine is blooming now. It's easiest to grow from stem cuttings, like mine was. But I have to say it's a twitchy little thing. All my other herbs are growing like kudzu, even my dahlias are growing bouquets worth of blooms; but my patch plant has only grown several centimeters in diameter in 2 months, and it's still very delicate and prone to all sorts of leaf problems. Not really much of an insect repeller....

Also the leaves are not very strongly scented. Maybe it just came from weak stock? Maybe it just doesn't like me? I'm a little disappointed, but I'll keep trying.

PostNote: I've been researching this little guy, and I think I may actually have Java Patchouli (Pogostemon heyneanus), not Pogostemon cablin. Both can be grown here, but the P. cablin is much more aromatic and rarely flowers. Mine is flowering like crazy!

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