My Freaking Awesome Plant – Patchouli

Guest Post by Amy Urquhart


The first time I saw a patchouli plant was at my friend Sarah/s house. She had one growing in a large, enamel pot alongside an eggplant, and I admired it right away. The leaves were a beautiful shade of jade green and it smelled heavenly. I plucked a fading one off and left it in my bag for a few days.

The smell of patchouli reminds some people of the sixties, but since I wasn’t alive during the sixties, well, that’s not the case for me. I just love how fresh and green and musky it smells.

I bought my first patchouli plant at Canada Blooms in 2006. I put it outside my kitchen door so I could rub it and smell it as I went in and out of the house, a location which proved to provide less than ideal growing conditions, however. I brought it inside through the winter, and it survived, but as the number of hours of sunlight increased, it got quite leggy. The stems root in water very easily, so in the spring after I had cut the plant back, I found myself with not one, but two leggy patchouli plants. I could have had more.

The good thing about patchouli is that if you cut it right back, it responds with lots of lush growth. So when I put them outside earlier this summer, I cut them right back. Soon small, new leaves appeared on the woody stems and now they are doing very well. They seem to like mostly sun, but will tolerate partial shade. They do well in the heat on my south-facing back deck.

This is one plant I will surely not be without. Even if it means I’ll be called a dirty hippie.

Patchouli photo by Amy Urquhart

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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28 thoughts on “My Freaking Awesome Plant – Patchouli

  1. This is one of my favorite plants too. I missed the 60s by a few years, but I still love the smell.

  2. I grew patchouli last year too… and ALSO because of Sarah’s plant. AND I also learned the hard way that patchouli plants like shade because I didn’t even bother to do any research and just made a wrong assumption that a plant like that had to love sun. It became pretty clear that I was wrong when the leaves started to scorch and dry up.

    I didn’t try rooting my cuttings (I just hung to dry) but good to know they root easily. Thanks Amy!

  3. The musk scent of this plant is quite interesting. I wonder if it has any other purpose other than fragrance? Hmmmm… I hope so :)

  4. It does have other uses but according to everything I have ever read about it, it is not meant to be ingested. It’s good for relieving tension and anxiety. It’s got anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties so is used topically for skin-related issues. You can use the dried leaves as an insect repellent like you would use cedar or lavender… little pillows or sachets, etc.

  5. I got my first patchouli plant this year and i love it! I didn’t know you could take cuttings so easily :)

  6. Luverly! I have wanted one for awhile, but I don’t want to have to order from the net. I am one of those darn patchouli-wearin’ hippies *winks*

  7. I’ve grown patchouli plants before. I’ve also worn it for many years. I’m also a hippie, but I’m not dirty. :)

  8. Sari, I just checked, and the place I bought my plant used to sell the seeds, but right now their online catalogue says that seeds are discontinued. A quick Google search revealed a few suppliers you could order from online. I’ve never grown it from seed, though.

  9. i love the smell of patchouli. my brother told me that it is worn to attract the opposite sex. something tells me hes right because i melt when i smell a man wearing it. mmm mmm

  10. i love the smell of patchouli. my brother told me that it is worn to attract the opposite sex. something tells me hes right because i melt when i smell a man wearing it. mmm mmm

  11. I planted a patchouli in my garden last year. Loved the smell, but for some reason, it did not come back up this year. It is dead! Is it because i live in Michigan. Did it die over the winter? i guess i should’ve read about it. Im bummmed.

  12. Andrea: Patchouli is a tender plant that can’t withstand cold winters. You can keep it long-term but it has to be brought indoors in the fall.

  13. Fascinating how smell affects people differently. Musky scents make me nauseous. I wouldn’t touch a patchouli plant unless I had to. However, I love the scent of boxwood which is regularly described as “cat urine” by many people (I don’t perceive it that way).

  14. I love patchouli.
    Patchouli is one of the only essential oils that smells better with time.
    The fragrance is derived from the leaves of the patchouli plant, which is native in India.
    It’s fragrance I refer to moist earth cause that’s what it reminds me of.
    It’s a fragrance people either love or hate, no in between.
    It’s our families favorite soap to pick from the soap room.
    Jill 00

  15. You inspired me to have to purchase a plant for my very own! I bought one off ebay today! Can’t wait until it arrives!


  16. I love the scent of patchouli. It’s too bad that it is too cold here for me to grow it! How sad:( When we move again (military) I am definitely going to buy it – whether it is cold there or not! It WILL sit in a warm window with some shade!

    I also just want to say – I love this site. That’s it. :)

  17. Audrey: You can definitely get away with growing this plant indoors.

    Kathy: You’ll love it. And you’ll have loads of dried leaves. I have a bowl in the kitchen and a bunch still tied up from hanging.

  18. I found my patchouli plant at Lowe’s last year. I live in Virginia and it survived our winter and is thriving this year. Love the 60′s smell!!

  19. I just bought my plant yesterday from a lady farmer and I love it. But I’ve never taken care of a plant like this before. How, exactly, do I take cuttings without harming the plant? And what do I do with the leaves I pick off? Would I put fresh or dried leaves in oil? What kind of oil? Obviously I have a lot of questions.

  20. I also just purchased a patchouli plant. I love the smell. Does any one know how to make a perfume from the leaves or if it’s even possible? I need to wear this on me all the time. It would make me so happy! Thanks~

  21. I am definitely an old hippie, an artist. I’ve heard some say that patchouli smells like bug spray but to me,there is not another fragrance on earth that can compare to it. Nothing. When I pass someone wearing patchouli I have to comment because they’ve made my day. It’s a heavenly odor.

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