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How to Grow: Verbena
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Early summer to fall in colors ranging from white, pink, yellow, orange, red, purple, and bicolors
Mature Height x Spread
1 to 5 feet x 6 inches to 3 feet
attracts beneficials, drought tolerant, deer resistant
Verbena is a full sun loving, colorful annual plant that can fool you since some versions self sow readily and seem like a perennial. They seem to pop up everywhere in my garden. The trailing forms of verbena come is a broad range of colors adding brightness to window boxes, hanging baskets, containers and garden beds. Many forms have two or even three colors on the same plant. Taller forms of verbena have less variety of color and a more airy appearance. Butterflies, in particular, love the taller forms. This low maintenance, drought tolerant annual just requires, light and the occasional deadheading to keep blooming from summer until frost. In fact, too much pampering results in less flowering. It’s sometimes best to just leave it alone.
Where, When and How to Plant
Verbena seed can take up to a month to germinate, so many gardeners simply buy transplants from the local garden center. If you do start seed indoors under grow lights, plant 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. Plant in full sun in compost-amended beds after all danger of frost has passed. Space plants about 10 inches apart.
Verbena needs little additional fertilizer other than spring compost. Grow verbena so plants are watered once the soil is dry to encourage flowering during hot periods. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms. If the plants get leggy, consider cutting back verbena’s trailing vines by one-third to stimulate more side branching and flowering.
Regional Advice and Care
Verbena is a workhorse in containers and beds in the garden, but full sun is a must. If planted in part sun or shade, you can get powdery mildew disease, insect attacks, and little flowering. Basically, more work for you. If plants dry up during the heat of mid summer, simply cut them back, fertilize with an organic plant food and water and they should bounce back to flower again in a few weeks.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow verbena in hanging baskets, window boxes, and containers paired with other full sun loving cascading annuals such as lantana and calibrachoa. Consider mixing and matching them with tall annuals, such as salvia, cleome, and heliotrope, in containers as well. Grow verbena containers on a deck or patio or near a window where you can see the butterflies on the flowers. Tall varieties should be planted in the back of annual and perennial flowerbeds to surprise and add color to the mid summer and fall garden.
‘Homestead’ Purple’ is a popular, purple trailing variety that now comes in a pink version. ‘Tuscany Mix’ features colors such as blue, burgundy and peach. ‘Peaches and Cream’ is a popular bi-colored variety. Verbena bonariensis is a common tall variety with purple flowers that’s good for cutting and that butterflies love.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.