How to Grow and Harvest Vetiver

How to Grow and Harvest Vetiver

Vetiver is one of our favorite essential oils. (We’ve used it in a number of our Recipes and Blending Guides in the Inner Sanctum Library.) In a blend, it offers a deep, rich, earthy tone. Therapeutically, it also has great anti-inflammatory and grounding properties.  

It’s always an incredible experience to get to know the plants of the oils we love so dear. Being a member of the Grass Family, Vetiver is pretty easy to grow here in Florida, so I have enjoyed growing it, harvesting it, and sharing it with friends!

My first harvest was a couple of years ago, yielding one little ball, which we gave to Timothy Miller when we met him for lunch in January of 2017. We told him it was to help bring him back to Florida soon, and it worked! He ended up teaching a class here that October.

I replanted the stalks from that harvest, and they produced three giant plants, so I began digging up around them. I’ve seen videos of a much larger Vetiver production, where they used a tractor to chain off a 10-foot wide plant and lift it after a six-foot hole had been dug around the roots. My smaller, three-foot plants were difficult enough. Next time, I’m putting the roots in a pipe, so that I can retrieve the roots more easily.

My friend Rehne in LA got me started on growing Vetiver by sending me some of my first stalks. Rehne plants her Vetiver in a 12-inch galvanized pipe that’s been cut and put back together—placing it partially in the ground. With this method, harvest is easy. Pull out the pipe, open it, and voila!

Where are those pipes when I need them? At least I know now and will try that this year.

Now, harvesting is quite the experience. The smell of the Vetiver is instant—as soon as the shovel hits the soil. The sound of breaking roots was inevitable, and as I dug deeper, the roots revealed themselves.

Once the roots are washed, they are white and plump, and they smell of earth. This smell permeated my porch for the next week.

Once trimmed of their leaves, I cut the roots off. Then I began to separate them into stems with a bit of root for replanting. Once the roots were free, they got several soakings, power squirts, and more soaking to clean them of dirt. Drying overnight, they easily dropped the dry sand the more I cleaned the stalks. I separated the rootless and now they’re ready to replant—this time in pipes. It was a messy job separating the stalks; once done, I gave the roots a final trim and collected a few small pieces that I can use for incense!

I made one ball for a friend, a tradition we started with the first harvest last year. Tried to do another, but I may end up weaving these fibers to make a fragrant basket! Perhaps with a bit of Lavender?


Have you ever grown Vetiver? If so, what did you do with it? Leave us a comment below!

If you’d like to grow your own, I have plenty to share! Contact me and I’ll send you one while they last.

Memorial Yarden Walk for Summer Solstice

Memorial Yarden Walk for Summer Solstice

Right after we filmed our Summer Yarden Walk for the Inner Sanctum, we found out about the passing of our good friend and plant-brother, Billy Daniel. We decided to share this Yarden Walk with everyone in memory of his passing.

In Sylla’s Words:

My entire yarden began with a single 20×3-foot bed, put in by my friend Billy, an herb-grower, about 30 years ago. Sweet William Herbs was what he called his business, as he grew and sold plants. Over the years, my garden grew, expanded to raised beds, and eventually became what it is today: fruit trees, herbs, and aromatic and butterfly plants. It even expanded to the Upward Spiral Center. Billy brought us dirt, compost, mulch, and so much joy. He returned yearly to take cuttings from my rosemary and collect lemongrass seed to replant in his greenhouses.

We will dearly miss this funny musician plant-grower. We dedicate this Summer Solstice Yarden Walk to him, my friend Billy.

In celebration of the Summer Solstice, Sylla filmed her own Yarden Walk. And guess what …

It’s Lavender harvest time! At the height of summer, Sylla decided that it was time to harvest her Lavender. In this special video, she also reminisces to about 20 years ago, when she visited France and experienced a Jasmine Harvest.

In this video, you’ll see:

  • Sylla gathering Lavender with her scythe.
  • Rare aromatic footage from 1997.
  • Echinacea going to seed.
  • A plump avocado.
  • What the squirrels are up to.

“Yesterday” …

Sylla is reminded of her trip with Michael Scholes to France in 1997. You can hear his voice in a funny moment with the Italian migrant pickers in Grasse in the Provence Region. Michael hosted this tour of the Perfume district, which he called, The Espirit de France. Read Sylla’s review of this tour here. 

Our group of students got to help harvest and witness a moment of unity with the singalong of a cherished Beatles tune.

We had already filmed this Yarden Walk before we heard about Billy’s passing. It makes the singing so much more sweet. Not just the words of the song but how it so aptly represents Billy’s nature; he was one that was always known to break into song.

Sylla was planning to visit Billy the next week to film his greenhouse and plants. The last time she saw him, he gave her 18 new Rosemary plants and said “I’m getting it cleaned and ready for you.”  Though we won’t get to share Billy’s humor and wisdom in the way we planned, we hope his spirit shines through in all we do.


Introduction to the Grass Family

Introduction to the Grass Family

Let’s talk about grass … No, not the kind you’ll find on your lawn or the smoking kind!

Let’s talk about the aromatic grasses in the family of Poaceae (or formerly Gramineae).

Some interesting facts about this botanical family:

  • They are known as the nutritious grass family.
  • Grasses are one of our most important sources of fiber.
  • They are the most successful of all flowering plants.
  • Wheat, rice, corn, and barley are the most well-known leaves and seeds
  • They’re often used as ground covering and have a large root system.

The Poaceae family (formerly known as Gramineae) has 737 genera and 7,950 species which are distributed throughout the world. However, the plants grown in the tropics are grass-like and produce scent! These are the ones we like.

In fact, so many of the essential oils you may know and love come from this family.  These include plants like: Lemongrass, Palmarosa, Citronella, Gingergrass from the genus Cymbopogon, and Vetiver from the Vetiveria genus. These are the oils most commonly used from the Poaceae (or Gramineae) family. We have several to choose from—each with slightly different scents depending on where they’re grown.

Getting to know the botanical names and families of the oils you’re using really helps to expand your understanding of them.

Here are some examples of the the aromatic plants from the Poaceae family:

Cymbopogon citratus (Andropogon citratus, A. shoenathus): Lemongrass (West Indian)

Cymbopogon flexuosus (Andropogon flexuosus): East Indian Lemongrass

Cymbopogon martinii (Andropogon martinii): Rosha; two eco-chemotypes:

  • var. martinii (var. motia): Palmarosa, motia, East Indian Geranium, Turkish Geranium, Indian rosha
  • var. sofia: gingergrass, sofia

Cymbopogon nardus (Andropogon nardus): Citronella, two varieties exist:

  • var. nardus: Ceylon Citronella, Lenabatu Citronella
  • var. confertiflorus

Cymbopogon pendulus (Andropogon pendulus): Jammu Lemongrass

Cymbopogon winterianus: Java Citronella

Vetiveria zizanoides (Andropogon muricatus): Vetiver, khus khus, vetivert oil

If you’re an essential oil user,  you’re likely to be familiar with at least one of these oils!

What Grasses Do

The Cymbopogon genus comprises over 50 species of tropical grasses, many of which are essential oil bearing; Lemongrass, Citronella, and Palmarosa in particular. These oils are mostly comprised of components from the chemical families of aldehydes and alcohols; they include citral and geranial, and they must always be diluted appropriately. We recommend no more than 15 drops per ounce for a normal adult with healthy skin, but less could easily be used and still produce similar effects.

When we look at their actions, we can summarize a few things about the aromatic oils in this family: they are air-cleansing, calming, sedative, restorative, and refreshing.

Their domain of action on the human body systems are:  

  • respiratory (disinfectant)
  • circulatory and digestive stimulant
  • skin tonic

Indications for use:

  • deodorize air
  • calm digestion
  • cleanse and balance skin (acne, etc.)

Do you have a favorite of the grasses? What do you like to use Lemongrass, Citronella, Palmarosa, and Vetiver for?

Leave us a comment on how you use your grasses! We love reading your comments and seeing how creative and insightful you all are. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

Sylla’s Lemongrass recently went to seed and it ready to start propagating again. Check out this preview of one of her Yarden Walks. (See the full video in the Inner Sanctum)

Get to Know Rose

Get to Know Rose

Rose was one of the first essential oils that Sylla worked with in her aromatherapy practice. It is also one that holds deep emotional resonance for her, as it was a source of comfort during a time of grieving. 

Therapeutically, Rose is an oil that can be good for practically everything. It can be helpful for skin-care blends, balancing hormones, cardiovascular issues, stress, migraines, emotional disorders, and much more.

Rose is just one of the oils featured in the Inner Sanctum Library. Here, we’ve included a sneak peek, so you can get a sense of what it has to offer.

In this video, you will learn:

  • The difference between Rose Otto and Rose absolute.
  • How chemistry affects the oil.
  • How Sylla used Rose to treat emotional issues.
  • Why it’s good to vary oils during difficult times.


Below, we’ve also included an abbreviated profile of Rose (full video and profile available in the Inner Sanctum Library).

Rose Exploration

Common name: Rose
Botanical name: Rosa damascena

Part of the Rosaceae family, there are many variations of Rosa damascena. The biggest areas of production are Bulgaria and Turkey, and other names for it include Summer Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Otto of Rose, and Attar. Rose Otto is the oil, while the absolute is a thicker, richer-smelling extract. When you hear the name Rose Otto, you’ll know it’s the essential oil.

Rosa centifolia is another species that produces a much lighter oil. It comes from many different places. In the video, you’ll see that Sylla’s sample is from Russia.

In the Otto, stearoptene levels are up to 22%. These constituents are the more solid parts of the oil, which can cause the Otto to solidify at about room temperature. There are also monoterpenols in the Otto, along with geraniol and citronellol—up to 45%. The percent of phenylethyl alcohol is not as high in the Otto as it is in the absolute. The phenylethyl alcohol, or PEA, is what produces that very rosy, floral scent. A lot of people prefer the absolute for this reason.

Drawing these samples up in the pipette, you can see the beautiful color of the Damask Rose. It is clear, which is very similar to Rosa centifolia. The absolute is a little thicker, darker, and richer. More color may come through with the absolute because it’s solvent-extracted. Try blending the two together to get the best of both.

Now, we’d love to know:

  • Do you have a preference for steam-distilled Rose or the Rose Absolute? Why?
  • What are your favorite ways to use Rose?

Leave us a comment with your answers and let’s keep this conversation going!

You can enjoy this video and profile in full by joining us in the Inner Sanctum Library. Claim your seat now, and get ready to begin your learning journey with a collection of meditations, lessons, recipes, interviews, and more.

Why Sylla Wants to Be Used

Why Sylla Wants to Be Used

Back when I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998, my dear friend Robbi Zeck gave me a book by Dawna Markova called, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion.

This book, and a particular poem in it, became a pivotal part of my healing. Here is the poem:

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

This was almost 20 years ago. These days, I’m at the point where I’ve almost forgotten that time. I consider myself a thriver, not survivor. I had the best kind of cancer—not enough to kill me but enough to change my life. Now at age 68, I have been, done, seen, and learned so much more since then.

Life is so short, and I’m certainly not finished! I’ve packed a lot into my aromatic journey years, and there’s a lot I feel compelled to share (for historical interest if nothing else).

Use Me

A few years ago, I attended a concert featuring one of my favorite musicians, David Bromberg. After a 14-year break from performing (during which time he repaired violins and never actually stopped playing music because friends would not leave him alone!), he said, “Why not go on the road again?”

He invited all of his friends to write and record songs with him on his album. He wanted to be used! So the title of this album is “Use Me.” (I was lucky to see him again this year at a house concert—less than 10 feet away from this man who I listened to most of my adult life. Check that off the bucket list!)

I told Nyssa that’s what I wanted, to be used—in the best possible way, of course! I do not want to die with an “unused” life.

This idea helped to fuel the growth of our home-study course, which includes a thriving online student forum, the publication of Natural Aromatic Materials: Odors and Origins, Second Edition, and now, our new online membership, the Inner Sanctum.

Some of the students who were lucky enough to come to my office for classes know that I call the back room the Inner Sanctum. Many more stories have come from that room as well.

I want to share those stories, share movies from trips to France and Australia, talk about the Purdue classes I took with my colleagues, share historical tidbits from 40 years of following my bliss—that irresistible calling—into the world of aromatics.

What Do You Want to Know?

In addition, I want to tell you what I use, why I use these things, and how I did things when I was getting started, so I can inspire the next generation. I want to capture special times and moments before I forget, talk about the people on my journey that inspired in me, who they were and still are, and tell my story for the next generation to learn from.

So, with all that being said, I am also asking for your advice. How can what I have to share serve you? What do you want to know? How would you like to use my knowledge? Let us know in the comments.

I’m not going to die an unlived life, but I also don’t want to go out before my life’s knowledge and wisdom is put down on paper (or screen), so that I can share with all of you and feel all used up!

Aromatically Yours,