Patchouli is a popular herb, known for its strong scent and beneficial essential oils.
The botanical name for the plant is Pogostemon cablin, pronounced [po-go-STEE-mon] [CAB-lin].
It’s part of the Lamiaceae (mint) family.
Patchouli is native to tropical regions throughout Asia, including parts of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
People have cultivated patchouli for centuries for use in perfumes and alternative medicines.
It’s relatively easy to grow but requires a little more space compared to common kitchen herbs.
Patchouli Plant Care
Size and Growth
- Patchouli produces a shrubby mound of leaves from thin stems, measuring up to several feet.
- The leaves are rounded and toothed.
- The foliage is green and measures 2″ to 3″ inches.
- The leaves contain an aroma and beneficial essential oils.
NOTE: The oils found in the leaves are often used in perfumes, cosmetics, air fresheners, and insect repellents.
Patchouli is a short-lived plant, typically lasting two to three years.
Flowering and Fragrance
Flowers appear in late fall.
As with the rest of the plant, the flowers are very fragrant.
They also produce tiny seeds used for propagation.
Light and Temperature
Grow in full sun or partial shade.
Patchouli grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11 for outdoor cultivation.
It can’t tolerate freezing temperatures.
For indoor cultivation, grow year-round in containers or pots near a window with indirect sunlight throughout most of the day.
Watering and Feeding
Patchouli prefers moist soil. Provide enough water to saturate the top 8″ inches of soil during each watering.
Adding too much water may waterlog the soil.
If the soil remains too soggy, the plant becomes more susceptible to blight and root rot.
Patchouli planted in containers may need more frequent watering as the soil dries quicker.
Check the container each day, especially during the summer.
Water thoroughly when the top half-inch of soil is dry.
Use fertilizer in moderation. Too much fertilizer may damage the plant.
Once every 6 weeks for Patchouli growing in the ground, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer.
For potted plants add fertilizer every three weeks instead of every six weeks.
Soil and Transplanting
- Plant patchouli in normal potting mix with good drainage.
- Adding organic material may improve poor soil and weak drainage.
- When growing patchouli outdoors, place a 2″ to 4″ inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant at the start of spring.
- The mulch layer protects the roots of the plant during extremely hot days and limits weed growth.
- It also provides a barrier, protecting the plant from snails and slugs.
- Transplanting isn’t necessary as the plant only lives a few years.
Pinch the tips of the plant throughout the warmer months to produce bushier plants.
Trim the stems back several inches.
Along with pruning the plant, many people harvest the leaves and use them for potpourri or culinary purposes.
Patchouli can be harvested about six months after planting and then every four to six months.
How To Propagate Pogostemon Cablin
Sow seeds or take cuttings to propagate Pogostemon cablin.
- Harvest the seeds from the small flowers, using caution to avoid crushing the delicate seeds.
- Scatter the seeds in starter trays filled with regular potting mix.
- Place the trays in a sunny spot and keep the soil moist.
- After the seedlings appear, transplant to permanent homes, move the plants outdoors, or into containers.
Propagating from Stem Cuttings
- Select a section of the plant containing several sets of leaves.
- The cuttings should measure at least 5″ to 6″ inches long.
- Remove the lower sets of leaves from the cuttings.
- Cuttings may be planted directly in the ground or containers.
- When planting outdoors, keep the cuttings spaced at least 12″ inches apart.
- This provides optimal room for the roots to spread.
- The cuttings should take root within several weeks.
- The young plants shouldn’t need transplanting.
Pest or Disease Problems On Patchouli Plants
- The plant isn’t invasive or toxic but may suffer from a few pest or disease problems.
- Outdoor plants may attract a variety of insects.
- Most insects are easily removed with a damp cloth.
- Don’t use a chemical-based insecticide if planning on harvesting the leaves.
- Indoor and outdoor plants may also suffer from root wilt due to a variety of issues.
- Common causes of wilt include fungal and bacterial infections.
- If the leaves start to drop and the roots wilt, try to save the plant through propagation.
- Remove several healthy cuttings to produce new growth.
Suggested Patchouli Plant Uses
Use patchouli as a kitchen herb, adding a pleasant aroma to the room.
The leaves may be used for herbal teas, incense, potpourri, and an all-purpose insect repellent.
The plant isn’t particularly showy but can help fill in bare spots in a garden.
It may even repel insects from nearby plants.