Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Patchouli



The first time I ever heard of patchouli was back in the late 80s when Madonna released her "Like A Prayer" cd with a patchouli scented insert. I still didn't know back then that patchouli was an herb from the mint family (Pogostemom cablin).

I was surprised when I saw this herb at a nursery back in the spring and knew that I had to try growing it. Like I usually do, I bought the plant first and then researched it afterward. I googled it and read that it wasn't the easiest plant to grow and was finicky about growing conditions. I stuck it in the vegetable garden without much fanfare and figured that it would probably croak within the week. Like other plants that flourish with neglect, the patchouli proved me wrong when it started growing like wildfire and quickly developed into a nice clump about two feet high and wide. I read that it develops flower spikes of very tiny pink flowers but so far, I've only seen foliage.

Patchouli has a powerful fragrance - spicy and musky - and is used in perfumes and is said to combat depression, stimulate the nervous system and help balance hormones. It is also used externally for the effect it has on skin infections, eczema, acne, chapped skin, hemorrhoids, as well as varicose veins. It hails from the Orient and likes hot tropical conditions and prefers semi-shade. It is only hardy to zone 9 which means I will have to try and overwinter it if I want to keep it. I may try it as a houseplant through the winter.

I've really enjoyed this plant. I had a banana pepper plant growing next to it and as I picked peppers, my arms would brush up against it and the heavy patchouli aroma would be released into the air.

14 comments:

  1. Lovely story of your Patchouli Phillip ... I have enjoyed the incense over the years but it must be a delight to brush up against your very own plant! Good luck with the overwintering inside... more opportunities for contact and spills of its lovely fragrance. Carol

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  2. Patchouli incense from the 70s! That's what I remember! LOL

    I had no idea that it could be grown here. I thought it was an exotic Asian plant used to mask the smell of other exotic Asian plants.

    Cameron

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  3. What a very cool plant! It's not a scent I've ever been able to learn to enjoy, but what an awesome conversation piece! Since lots of people think it's odd that I've underplanted roses with creeping rosemary, I can fully relate to your experience of brushing against a very fragrant plant and getting that burst of scent! Looking forward to seeing how it overwinters...

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  4. I didn't even realize that patchouli is a plant. Thanks for all that info. Too bad I dont like the smell.

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  5. I hadn't heard of Patchouli before, sounds very interesting!

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  6. I always think of Patchouli as the oil that the "granola" types used as perfume or incense. I never even thought about where it came from.

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  7. So this is where that scent comes from.

    You really should go for it, see if you can get it through winter and bring it into flower next year.

    I learnt something new today as they say.

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  8. I had never heard of patchouli. It sounds interesting. I have never seen it for sale around here I would imagine because we are out of its growing range.

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  9. I love the essential oil of patchouli, being a closet hippie. Thank you for this informative post on the plant!

    Thank you also for identifying the camellia on my blog!

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  10. Mmmmm I love Patchouli and used to buy it from the Indian stalls in markets for 50p a little bottle of oil and wear it as a perfume. I've moved on from my hippy days now and wear expensive perfume, but funny enough I am often seduced by fragrances that have an undertone of Patchouli without even realising it. I would love to grow some but have never seen it here in the UK as a plant.

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  11. Patchouli is the scent of the late sixties and seventies to me Phillip! Every third person wore it! I preferred flowery scents. Who knew it was an herb and could be grown in the garden!
    gail

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  12. I have known 3 people who wore this fragrance all the time, and whenever I smell it their images pop into my head. One used it so much (I think she bathed in it) that I began calling her Patch-Julie.

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  13. How cool, Phillip. Like others, I remember that this was the secret scent of the hippie era! I didn't even realize it was a plant, thought it was more of a mixture of things. Hope you can over winter it. I will be on the look out for it, I love that smell, brings back pleasant memories that we won't go into here. :-)
    Frances

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  14. I can remember that scent from college dorms, Phillip... not my dorms, but kids'. We thought the scent it was trying to mask was unwashed laundry...they'd save it up for months to bring home to mom & the free machine.

    So patchouli is just one plant? Guess I assumed it was a blend!
    Hope yours winters well!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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