(Verbena x hybrida)
Verbena is one of those garden essentials that bloom from spring to fall with very little fuss. In frost-free climates it is grown as a perennial, but most of us will have to grow it as an annual. Plants grow in clumps that reach a height of six to ten inches. Flowers can be mauve, purple, white, pink, apricot or red. Verbena is a popular hanging basket plant, and it also looks good in rock gardens or as an edging, and in window boxes. You'll find them in your local garden center in little pots and big hanging baskets, but you don't need to spend a lot of money on verbena because they are easy to grow from seeds.
These charming little plants are relatively carefree. In fact, the main cause of problems with verbena is over-pampering, especially overfeeding and overwatering. There are just three things you will need to do to keep your plants healthy and blooming all season.
Deadheading is picking off the faded blooms. If you dont deadhead your verbena, it will quit blooming. This doesnt have to be a tedious task. Just clip off the top 1/4 of the stems that hold the faded flowers once the blooms are spent. If you forget, clipping out the tops of the stems will encourage your plant to rebloom in 15-20 days.
This is easy! Verbena needs to be fertilized only once a year in spring when the plants are about 4 tall. Use a complete fertilizer, and dont fertilize verbena plants when you first set them out in the garden. Wait until they are established and growing.
When you first plant verbena, you should water regularly until the plants are happy and well established. Thereafter, water them only when very dry.
Starting from seeds
Verbena is easy to start from seeds, but the seeds might take as long as a month to germinate, so dont give up on them too soon. Start the seeds indoors in late winter or early spring in individual peat or fiber pots. Place two seeds in each pot, and barely cover them with potting soil. Once they have 3-4 leaves per plant, clip out the weakest plant from each pot.
Harden off your plants by moving them outdoors for a few hours each day before planting them in the flowerbed. For more information about hardening off your transplants, see Bracing Up: Hardening Off Transplants. Once your seedlings are planted out and growing well, pinch out the center shoot in each plant for bushier growth.
Plant verbena in the sunniest, best drained part of your garden. The plants will need 8-10 hours of sun each day, and should never sit long in soggy soil. Space plants 10-12 inches apart.
Verbena needs 8-10 hours of direct sunlight every day and a well-drained soil. Plants that are kept too moist and dont get enough sun are susceptible to powdery mildew and other diseases. Plant verbena in the sunniest location in your garden to prevent this problem.
Spider mites and thrips might become a problem if your plants arent kept healthy. Use Soap-Shield to control these insects.
Saving plants for next year
You can save your favorite verbena plants by digging them up and bringing them inside before cold weather sets in. Grow your plants in hanging baskets or pots over winter, and in spring you can take cuttings for the garden.
shades of red, pink and purple
spring through early autumn
edging, rock gardens, pots, hanging baskets