Every Blooming Thing

Pink verbena spilling over a terraced wall in Red Bluff Garden Club member Judy Paul’s yard.

If you are in need of a long-lasting, hot summer bloomer for your gardens, you may want to consider verbena. Verbena, or vervain, belongs to the family Verbenaceae which includes over 250 perennial and annual varieties. Originally native to the Americas and Asia, there are now many hybrids and cultivars available.

Verbena has many positive characteristics, making it a gardener friendly choice. Its main requirement is 8-10 hours of sun daily, of which Red Bluff certainly offers. It likes well-draining soil and can be somewhat drought tolerant once it is established. Verbena is adaptable for Zones 5-11.

You can plant verbena in cascading baskets, window boxes, trailing over walls, or as part of a cottage style garden. They come in a wide choice of vibrant colors, reds, pinks, blues, purples, peach, white, as well as some bi-colors so you should find one or more you will love.

Individual flowers are small, with 5 petals, which grow together in dense spikes. Leaves are opposite, some lacey, some hairy, some lance shaped. Stems are square and angular.

These blooms are pollinator friendly, another positive factor that I always consider. For those of you with rabbit or deer problems, they are resistant to these critters too.

Verbena can have a few issues with aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, or powdery mildew. However, it you choose a very sunny location and do not overwater, the plants will be more likely to not encounter these problems. Feed them regularly with a slow release type of fertilizer. They can grow quite readily, and you may need to cut them back by  o maintain their shape and size.

Some varieties will appreciate your efforts to deadhead, or remove the spent blooms. Once they are dried, snip off the old blooms to encourage more blooming. Sometimes I just shear back the whole plant, or lift stems and give them a generous “haircut” which is more time efficient and easier on your back!

In our area, verbena works as a perennial plant. Some reseed themselves, or you can fasten the growing tip in the ground until roots establish for a new plant. You can also take cuttings to start, or divide an established plant to get more.

They are lovely planted either alone, or mixed in a garden of other bloomers like million bells, pentas, marigolds, or zinnias. There is a tall variety, purpletop vervain, verbena bonariensis which grows from 3-6 feet tall with 2-3 inch rounded flower clusters. This is a favorite of butterflies, and reseeds readily.

You may also have heard of lemon verbena. This is actually in another genus, aloysis triphylla. It is more of a fragrant foliage plant, being used in aromatherapy, teas, and cooking. I have lemon verbena and the smell is wonderful. 

Some of the other verbena has been used in herbal and alternative medicine. So if you are looking for an easy, very colorful addition to your garden, verbena with its many varieties may be a solution for you.

The accompanying photo is my bed of pink verbena. It is in a terraced planter area, spilling abundantly over the edge. 

I call this area my “wall of pink” as it also has deep pink Zephirine Drouhin climbing roses in the top planter. April is its peak performance time!

Red Bluff Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of the month. Social time at 12:30, meeting and program begin at 1. Persons interested in gardening are welcome to attend. Location is the First United Methodist Church, 525 David Ave in Red Bluff.


The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc. 

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