How to grow Verbena

Verbena rigida

Verbena is a varied genus of plants, mostly native to South America. They tend to be short-lived, but the abundance of nectar-rich flowers more than makes up for this. Hardy species include the popular Verbena bonariensis and its shorter-growing cultivar ‘Lollipop‘, along with architectural Verbena hastata and Verbena rigida, which works well in pots. Tender verbenas are best grown as annuals and are perfect for bedding schemes and hanging baskets.

How to grow Verbena 

Most verbenas do well in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny, sheltered position. Leave flowers of hardier types to develop seedheads for the birds and, in mild regions, cut them back before growth starts again in spring. In colder regions, take cuttings to propagate new plants in case they don’t survive winter. Dig up and compost bedding verbenas in autumn – you’ll need to replace them with new plants the following spring.

More on growing Verbena:


Where to plant Verbena

Verbena bonariensis and ipomoea lobata
Verbena bonariensis and ipomoea lobata

Grow Verbena in moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Low-growing and bedding varieties work well in bedding schemes and pots, while taller varieties, including Verbena bonariensis and Verbena hastata, work well at the back of the border or in prairie-style planting schemes.


How to plant Verbena

Sowing Verbena bonariensis seeds in pots
Sowing Verbena seeds in a pot

Sow Verbena seeds from late winter to spring, using modules or small pots filled with peat-free seed compost. Keep these in a propagator or under glass. Pot on into individual pots when the seedlings are large enough to handle, and then plant them out where they are to flower, after the danger of frost has passed.


How to care for Verbena 

Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora
Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora

Tall varieties of Verbena doesn’t need staking, despite their height, as their stems are stiff and wiry. Deadheading some species will increase the flowering season, although most perennial varieties will flower until the first frosts anyway.

Take cuttings of some of the more tender varieties as an insurance against winter loss. Hardier varieties may self seed in milder regions.

Some of the hardier, perennial verbenas, including Verbena bonariensis, look good left standing after the flowering period has ended, and their seedheads provide food for birds. In colder regions, protecting the roots with a generous mulch of straw or well-rotted manure will protect them from frost.

Cut back the old stems of perennial verbenas in spring, as new shoots start to show at the base of the plant.


Growing Verbena: problem solving

Most verbenas grow well with few problems, although powdery mildew can be an issue with the more tender, bedding varieties. This is visible as a white powdery growth on the surface of the leaves – remove these to stop the infection spreading. Keep plants well watered to avoid this problem altogether, and ensure plenty of ventilation around the plants, particularly if growing them indoors.

Hardier verbenas are generally trouble free, although in hot and dry conditions, they can self-seed too successfully and may become invasive.

Advice on buying verbena

  • There are several varieties to choose from – check height and spread before investing, so you have the right plant for the right spot
  • Verbenas are available from garden centres but you’ll find a wider range at specialist nurseries or online
  • Always check over plants for signs of damage or disease before planting

Where to buy verbenas


Verbena varieties to try

Verbena macdougalii 'Lavender Spires'
Verbena macdougalii ‘Lavender Spires’

Verbena hastata – long-flowering perennial with slender, branched spires of pink flowers. Height x Spread: 1.5m x 60cm

Verbena bonariensis – flat purple heads of nectar-rich flowers bloom on wiry stems until the first frosts. H x S: 2. x 45cm

Verbena rigida – a low-growing verbena perfect for growing in pots and hanging baskets. Purple or magenta flowers are born in clusters from June to September. H x S: 60cm x 40cm

Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora – small pink flowers are borne on purple-flushed stems. Perfect for naturalising in borders. H x S: 1m x 75cm

 

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