Pogostemon cablin, the patchouli plant, is grown for the intoxicating fragrance of its leaves. The spicy, musky scent comes from the plant's essential oils. These oils are extracted and used to scent soaps, incense, and a variety of other consumer products.
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Pogostemon cablin is a tender perennial that can be grown as an annual in cold climates. It grows to a height of 3 feet with a bushy shape. The leaves are a little fuzzy. The stems they are borne on are square like those of other plants in the mint family.
Patchouli does not flower readily but, when it blooms, it bears tiny whitish flowers on terminal spikes. The problem with flowering is that it is photo-periodic like a Christmas cactus. It needs to be kept in total darkness after sunset in the fall or it won't bloom.
The flowers are not showy but they are more fragrant than the leaves so it might be worth the trouble to provide your plant with the conditions it needs to bloom.
This plant prefers rich moist soil in sun or part shade. Humid weather suits it best.
Patchouli is a fast, easy grower which can be started from seed or cuttings. It makes a wonderful addition to the aromatic garden. You can dry the leaves and use them in potpourri or scent the air in your home by simmering a few leaves in a saucepan of water for a few minutes.
The main thing to remember is that it will not tolerate freezing weather. If it gets cold where you live, you'll either need to start new plants each year or keep your plant in a pot and bring it inside before the first frost.
The next most important aspect of patchouli plant care is watering. Dry soil is a death sentence for this plant.
If you are growing your plant in the shade and it becomes lanky, don't be afraid to cut it back hard. This will not hurt it but it will cause it to branch out and grow back thicker.
Feed it 2 or 3 times per season with the same organic fertilizers you give your other herbs.