Verbena

Verbena are one of the showiest and floriferous perennials. It is amazing that Verbena, both annual and perennial, are not more widely grown. They are as near to perfect a bloomer available. The biggest problem with verbena is simply identifying the varieties. Many gardeners in Northern regions may not even realize that some Verbena are perennial. They are frequently sold simply as annuals in the coldest zones because of the variety of habit and color. If you are looking for hardy perennial Verbena, just be aware that there are over 250 species of annual and perennial Verbena. Depend on a local reliable nursery to correctly identify hardy perennial Verbena varieties.

Moss verbena, Glandularia pulchella, are perennials that are only hardy in zones 8 to 10 and are quite short lived. Purpletop vervain Verbena bonarienses, is hardy in zones 7 to 11. One of the hardiest of verbena are the Trailing Verbena Glandularia canadensis and there are several popular varieties. Blue vervain Verbena hastate is hardy all the way to zone 3. Perennial Vervain Verbena are typically tough and easy to grow and love heat and well drained soil. Very wet conditions in spring and fall can be fatal to perennial Verbena. Well drained soil and neglect will encourage good health for the plant.

Verbena flowers are showy clusters of small five petaled tubular blooms. Fabulously colored, verbena create a vivid bright spot in the garden or container plantings. The plants grow quickly to form a trailing mat, excellent as a ground cover or trailing over the edges of a garden wall or container. There are also cultivars that grow more upright, perfect in a cottage garden.

Blooming nonstop from early summer to fall frost, Verbena put on a nonstop show with very little effort, but do not be shy about pruning to keep it in full bloom. Verbena love hot sunny growing conditions, are not picky about soil and are drought tolerant.

Verbena 'Apple Blossom' by Carl Lewis.jpg

Verbena canadensis ‘Apple Blossom’

  • Common Name: Vervain Verbena

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

  • Height: 14”

  • Spread: 20”

  • Sun/Shade Requirements: Full Sun. At least 8 hours of direct sunlight is critical for profuse blooming.

  • Water Requirements: Low, drought tolerant

  • Soil Requirements: Average soil, well drained

  • Growth Habit: Low growing spreading groundcover

  • Bloom Time: Late Early Summer to Late Fall

  • Bloom Color: Bright Purple

  • Bloom Form: Clusters of small five petaled tubular flowers

  • Foliage: Dense mat of dark green with dissected leaves

  • Fragrance: None

  • Pest and Disease Resistance: May be bothered by aphids, slugs, snails, powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust.

  • Fertilize: Apply a fertilizer monthly, ideally a slow release 19-5-9 formula

  • Maintenance: Very low maintenance. Shear about one fourth of the plant as the blooms wane to encourage a new showier flush. Best to prune just before feeding.

  • Other: Attracts Butterflies, pollinators and hummingbirds. Deer resistant.

  • Hardiness: Zone 6-10

‘Apple Blossom’ forms a sprawling mat of rich green that is covered with bright blooms all season. Only extended heat can slow down the blooming. This vigorous variety is an heirloom cultivar of the species plant. Although pests and disease are not typically a problem allowing good spacing and air circulation will reduce incidence. Water early in the day to allow good drying.

The flowers will fade to white as they mature. Cut back spent blooms to encourage continued blooming. In a long growing season shear back the top fourth of the plant periodically to force new growth and buds. ‘Apple Blossom’ creates a gorgeous everblooming groundcover, cut the plant back for a more compact plant. Divide in spring or root cuttings to propagate.

Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’

Verbena 'Homestead Purple' by RJ Cox.jpg
  • Common Name: Vervain Verbena

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

  • Height: 10-12”

  • Spread: 24-36”

  • Sun/Shade Requirements: Full Sun. At least 8 hours of direct sunlight is critical for profuse blooming.

  • Water Requirements: Low, drought tolerant

  • Soil Requirements: Average soil, must be well drained

  • Growth Habit: Low growing spreading groundcover

  • Bloom Time: Spring to Frost

  • Bloom Color: Light pink with dark pink centers

  • Bloom Form: Clusters of small five petaled tubular flowers

  • Foliage: Dense mat of dark green with dissected leaves

  • Fragrance: None

  • Pest and Disease Resistance: May be bothered by aphids, slugs, snails, powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust.

  • Fertilize: Apply a fertilizer monthly, ideally a slow release 19-5-9 formula

  • Maintenance: Very low maintenance. Shear about one fourth of the plant as the blooms wane to encourage a new showier flush. Best to prune just before feeding. Will self seed in ideal conditions.

  • Other: Attracts Butterflies, pollinators and hummingbirds. Deer resistant. Slight tolerance to salt.

  • Hardiness: Zone 7-10. Heavily mulched will typically survive in zone 6.

‘Homestead Purple’ was introduced in the early 1990s, kicking off a tremendous interest in Verbena, and leading to many new hardy introductions. This is an exciting groundcover with masses of blooms. The long stems ramble across the ground and turn up at the tips. The stems creep across the ground and root into the soil. The vibrant flower clusters grow to 3 inches across and are held above the foliage.

Likely a chance hybrid with a different verbena species, the characteristics of the plant a somewhat unique. ‘Homestead Purple’ has been known to grow as far north as zone 5 but can be very fussy about exposure and drainage. It does not like wet conditions through winters and must have well drained soil. This fast growing, constantly blooming perennial does need feeding every several weeks.

Verbena canadensis

Verbena 'Canadensis' by Cataya.jpg
  • Common Name: Rosa verbena, Clump verbena, Rose Vervain

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

  • Height: 8-12”

  • Spread: 20-24”

  • Sun/Shade Requirements: Full Sun. At least 8 hours of direct sunlight is critical for profuse blooming.

  • Water Requirements:

  • Soil Requirements: Average soil, well drained

  • Growth Habit: Low growing spreading groundcover

  • Bloom Time: May to frost

  • Bloom Color: Bright rose lilac

  • Bloom Form: Dense clusters of small five petaled tubular flowers

  • Foliage: Dense mat of dark green with deeply scalloped leaves

  • Fragrance: None

  • Pest and Disease Resistance: May be bothered by aphids, slugs, snails, powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust.

  • Fertilize: Apply a fertilizer monthly, ideally a slow release 19-5-9 formula

  • Maintenance: Very low maintenance. Shear about one fourth of the plant as the blooms wane to encourage a new showier flush. Best to prune just before feeding.

  • Other: Attracts Butterflies, pollinators and hummingbirds. Deer resistant. Slight tolerance to salt.

  • Hardiness: Zone 6-10, reports of hardiness to zone 5 with winter protection.

Although the cultivar ‘Homestead Purple’ has become extremely popular, the species Vervain plant is just as stunning. Long stems that spill beautifully over container edges walls and ledges are covered with blooms all season long. The sprawling habit can be contained with regular pruning. Extreme heat will only temporarily halt the blooming. You will hardly notice as recovery is quick. Continuous blooming does require shearing periodically to force new buds. Don’t wait for the last bloom to fade as this will result in less blooming. Shear back about one fourth when half the blooms are spent.

Verbena are drought tolerant, however during periods of extended drought be sure to water to prevent leaf loss. And mulch heavily in winter to ensure winter survival.