Annual verbena is a plant I’ve grown for years (we started them from seed ‘back in the day’) but now the breeders have worked their magic and the variety and colours now available will please any gardener.
Here’s how to successfully grow them.
Vervain, Blue vervain
Verbena is the classical Latin name for the sacred branches of the plant Verbena officinalis. This plant is sacred because it was said to be the only plant growing around the cross when Jesus was crucified. As you might imagine, each herbal has a slightly different account of this story and history. Vervain comes from the Gaelic fer ‘to remove’ and faen or ‘stone’ – referring to its use in treating bladder stones.
- Bloom time: Early to late Fall
- Height: 48” to 60”
- Sun needed: Full
- Bloom color: Purples
- Planting space: 18” apart
- Soil preferred: Evenly moist
- Propagation method: Seed, stem cuttings
Easy from seed. Toss some in the garden where you want to see it bloom. Don’t bother starting in the house although it’s an easy germinator there as well.
If happy, it will self-sow and you’ll have to weed it out.
The hybrid varieties only come true from cuttings.
Verbena bonariensis (self-sowing annual)
This 48” tall flowering stalk has 2” wide purple balls sitting atop each stalk waving in the wind to every passer-by. It is classed as a tender perennial in zone 4 and indeed in most years, it has to self-sow to start itself over again as the mother plant dies out in the cold. Increasing success will be noted in each successively warmer gardening zone.
In my gardens, this plant starts blooming in mid to late summer and continues until a hard frost knocks everything in the garden down.
Verbena Hybrids (tender annuals)
The breeders are going crazy with this plant and producing some amazing colors for our annual gardens. Proven Winners plants such as the one pictured are now available in garden centers and I’ve grown several. All are excellent summer blooming annuals for garden or container garden use.
Verbena hastata (perennial)
Blue Vervain is a North American native and sometimes available in better garden centers.
Growing 4 to 5 feet tall with purple-blue flowers, it is a welcome addition to the normal yellow-oranges of Fall blooms.
It likes a steady supply of water so do not allow it to dry out.
The opposite is equally true – do not swamp it or it will rot on boggy soils
Feed as per any other annual flower – weekly feeding with a good organic liquid fertilizer (yeah, I use fish emulsion on them)
Potions and Poisons
Verbena or the plant more commonly known as Vervain is a very old magical and medicinal plant. All parts are used, the leaves as well as the roots, and are employed as a variety of tonics and wound dressings. The plant is not considered dangerous.
Proven Winners Verbena ‘Sparkling Ruby’
Like all Verbena, you’re going to have to keep this one tip pruned to keep the new growth coming. New growth produces new blossoms. No new growth – no new blossoms. 🙂
All the Verbena are easy to grow but aphids and spider mites (particularly the mites) consider them lettuce so you will have to watch for those.
Verbena ‘Royale Chambray’ Proven Winners
What can I say? I’m a fan of using this plant in a container. It sparkled from early summer until fall (I tip pruned it before planting to thicken it up) and provided a steady stream of blue flowers. A mounded Verbena, 6-8 inches tall, I’m going to garden-grow it next year. I have a few full sun places where I can use some blue accents in the front garden. Like all Verbena, it demands regular feeding if you want to see a good flower show. Good plant and I’ll grow it again.
Worth A Look In Your Garden
Tamari ‘Bright Pink Verbena’ (Suntory Collection) A great show of bright pink verbena flowers in full sun. This wasn’t a pale pink but rather a bright pink and like many trailing Verbena, did very well blooming most of year. Do deadhead these if you want to keep them blooming.
Proven Winners Verbena ‘Sparkling Ruby’ This bicolour Verbena was extremely showy and it was almost as popular with visitors as the Bidens ‘Fireburst’. Grow as any other Verbena and keep deadheaded.