To this genus belong about forty species of perennial evergreen plants, widespread in Asia; as aromatic plant mainly patchouly cablin and patchouly heyanus are cultivated, originating in China and Indonesia. The plants develop small erect shrubs, consisting of woody or semi-woody stems, which bear numerous large dark green, shiny, oval leaves, with a serrated margin, slightly waxy, sometimes trilobed; if crumpled these leaves give off an intense spicy scent, much appreciated by the cosmetic industry, the dried leaves are also used in herbal medicine as they are rich in essential oils with renowned properties. The name Patchouli probably comes from the Persian empire, where it appears already in the early nineteenth century. It is claimed to be a word derived from the word Tamil composed of the terms "patch" (green) and "ilai" (leaf).
In the places of origin it is an undergrowth plant and loves the semi-shady exposures. In our country, especially in the Center-North, it tolerates full sun well, as long as the soil is always fresh. We also deal with gradually acclimatizing the plants at the beginning of the vegetative season so as not to cause leaf burns.
In the southern regions it is instead preferable to insert it in an area reached by the sun only in the morning (especially in the summer months). Even better is the positioning under a pergola or a broad-leaved tree.
Pogostemon cablin can withstand temperatures of a few degrees below zero, but prefers milder climates with minimum temperatures close to 5-8 ° C; in nature they are cultivated at the foot of other tall trees, therefore in rather shaded areas, or with filtered light thanks to the fronds of other shrubs. If desired, it is possible to grow pogostemons as house plants, decorative for large dark leaves and for small tubular flowers, of a light lilac color, produced in summer. Even if grown in the apartment, during the summer season it is better to keep the plant outdoors, always in shady areas where the sun's rays do not reach the plant directly.
THE PATCHOULI IN BRIEF
|Family, genus, species||Lamiaceae, pogostemon cablin|
|Common name||Patchouli or pasciulm|
|Area of origin||China, India, Thailand, Indonesia|
|Type of plant||Herbaceous with bushy habit|
|Height at maturity||Up to 70 cm|
|Culture||From medium to difficult|
|Exposure||Half shade, sun|
|Ground||Rich, fresh, drained|
|Soil humidity||Always fresh|
|soil pH||Neutral to sub-alkaline|
|Growth||From medium to fast|
|Minimum temperature||Minimum temperature|
|Ideal temperature||> 10 ° C|
|Propagation||Sowing, apical cutting|
|use||Vase, full ground (aromatic corner)|
The pogostemon cablin It is a herbaceous plant very similar to mint, from which it differs for the warm and sensual scent that its leaves give off, especially when they are dried and fermented.
This essence is rarely found on the market at nurseries because it is rather delicate and the exploitation of its aromatic components is not immediate.
To engage in its cultivation, you will certainly have to start from sowing, obtaining the grains from specialized retailers or, better, buying them on the internet. Alternatively, we look for adult specimens at nurseries specializing in tropical essences.
The soil of our Patchouly plants must be fertile, rich, soft and deep, very well drained. The specimens grown in pots should be repotted every 2-3 years, to allow a balanced development of the root system.
Pogostemon cablin plants should be watered regularly, avoiding to soak the soil too much; during the cold months, obviously, it is advisable to reduce the waterings that will occur sporadically. From March to October, provide fertilizer for green plants every 10-15 days, dissolved in the water used to provide the plant with an excellent sustenance and growth.
The reproduction of Patchouly occurs by seed or by semi-woody cutting.
Pests and diseases
These plants, being rather resistant, are not generally affected by pests or diseases.
Patchouly plants are famous for their multiple properties. In Asia, the dried leaves of the plant are frequently used for treating rheumatism, for nausea, headache and abdominal pain. In Japan, the leaves are used as an antidote for snake venom, while according to Ayurvedic medicine, the Patchouli plant has important aphrodisiac, energizing, regenerating properties that would allow stress to move away from the body and thus find well-being and psychophysical balance. Another quality of patchouli is its healing power. Always from the leaves it is in fact possible to obtain an essential oil that can improve the appearance of the skin thanks to its active ingredients.
THE PATCHOULI CALENDAR
|Withdrawal in a hot greenhouse (potted plants)||Late October|
|Mulching (plants in the garden)||November|
|Topping and collection||From May to September|
|Apical cutting||April May|
Patchouli is quite sensitive to low temperatures: the ideal is to always keep above 10 ° C, even if the first problems (redness of the leaves) are found around 5 ° C. With temperatures below freezing the damage will certainly be irreversible.
It is therefore clear that cultivation in the Center-North can only be done in pots, so as to be able to repair the specimens in a heated greenhouse or at home during the winter months. In the southern regions, instead, especially along the coasts, it is possible to try to insert the plants in the open ground, in a position sheltered from the winds. A help will come to us, in the most rigid months, from a thick mulch based on plant material or special sheets.
To have a vigorous growth and avoid desiccation it is good to provide a fairly rich substrate, but with good drainage. The ideal, both for pot and for the garden, is to mix equal parts of soil with clayey soil to which we will add a little sand. We always create a draining layer on the bottom with gravel or expanded clay.
Patchouli roots always require a cool and slightly damp environment. Dry earth and heat can seriously damage the plant in just one afternoon. So let's stir with a certain frequency, especially in summer, without ever letting the soil dry completely, but avoiding that it is always soaked.
Container plants should be monitored even more carefully.
A help, even in this case, can come from a thick vegetable mulch.
To have a luxuriant growth the substratum must be rather rich. In addition to an organic soil improver, it is good to distribute a balanced liquid product every 15 days during the growing season. We suspend during the winter.
To obtain a compact and very branched specimen it is good, especially from spring to summer, to carry out frequent topping. However, the plant tolerates pruning very well.
It is a fairly strong vegetable, but some enemies can attack it, especially when grown in greenhouses. We pay particular attention to the red spider and the attacks of phytophagous caterpillars.
Patchouli collection and storage
Patchouli leaves can be harvested throughout the warm season, from May to September. The characteristic perfume, however, will be very light and perceptible only by rubbing them vigorously. We will be able to appreciate it more after having dried them in a shady, dry and ventilated area. This treatment can multiply the aromaticity up to ten times, without however reaching the levels that are obtained in herbal medicine (after having fermented them and having extracted essential oils by steam).
The dried leaves will in any case be very useful and appreciated for the production of pot-pourri or bags to be inserted in the cabinets, perhaps in combination with other delicate essences, such as lavender or sage.
Patchouly - Pogostemon cablin: Medicinal uses patchouli
Currently, patchouli is not indicated for food use, but over time it has been used, especially in the East, to give particular aromas to some types of tea. Its leaves were also smoked, mixed with those of other plants, particularly tobacco.
It was believed that its scent was a powerful antidepressant: the leaves were burned for aromatherapy and the essential oils were used for relaxing massages.
In addition to this, these oils were given antiseptic and anti-inflammatory virtues: they were considered precious for dry, irritated skin or where there was inflammation, eczema or insect and snake bites.
Chinese medicine also considers it an excellent remedy for headaches, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal problems.