9 Verbenas to Vamp Up the Summer GardenFor a knockout display of color from spring until frost, it’s hard to beat these long-blooming, sun-loving plants
Superbena® Violet Ice. Photo by: Proven Winners.
Vibrant, vigorous, and versatile, verbena is one of my favorite flowers for adding va-va-voom to the summer garden. It blooms all season long, producing an endless procession of miniature nosegays brimming with brightly colored flowers. Verbena looks just as good weaving through my garden beds as it does spilling from pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets. Verbena also tolerates midsummer drought and baking heat with little complaint, making it the ultimate easy-care flower.
If all those attributes aren’t reason enough to grow verbena in your garden, you won’t be able to resist the newest cultivars, which boast even better flower production and a broader array of color options than ever before. Check out this selection of verbena plants to find your favorite.
Winter hardy in zones 8-11.
May through October.
Sun and soil requirements:
Full sun (at least 8 hours a day) and average well-drained soil.
Garden verbenas (Verbena ×hybrida) are short-lived tender perennials grown as annuals in most climates. Varieties range in height from low-growing and trailing to somewhat upright. The tiny, fragrant verbena flowers form saucer-shaped clusters up to 3 inches across over lance-shaped, sometimes deeply divided, foliage. The most common flower colors include shades of pink, red, purple, coral, and blue-violet, as well as bicolored varieties with contrasting eyes, stripes, and blotches of color. There are also tall verbena varieties (Verbena bonariensis), also called Brazilian vervain, that are 4- to 5-feet-tall and tower well above the more common garden verbena varieties. Also a perennial that is usually grown as an annual, it has smaller, 2-inch clusters of flowers on slender but sturdy stems. Tall verbena can be vigorous self-sowers, but newer cultivars, such as Meteor Shower®, are bred to be less assertive.
The brightly colored, sweetly scented flowers of verbena provide a rich source of nectar for pollinators, attracting hummingbirds, bees, and many types of butterflies.
TYPES TO TRY
These new verbena hybrids, developed by Proven Winners®, are bred to be more robust, more mildew resistant, and more resilient than older varieties. They also produce larger flowers in a broad pallet of hues, including bicolored striped patterns.
A type of trailing verbena characterized by a multibranching growth habit, spreading up to 3 feet to create a dense low-growing carpet of blooms. Tapiens are also highly mildew resistant and thrive under a wide range of weather conditions, ranging from extreme heat to light frost.
A semi-trailing verbena characterized by bold patterns, bright colors, and contrasting eyes. It spreads up to 2 feet and has one of the longest bloom seasons, extending from early spring through fall. Compact versions with mounded habits are also available and are ideal for smaller containers and baskets.
What about lemon verbena?
A popular member of the verbena family, lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) belongs to another genus. Its leaves give off a lemony scent when rubbed and are widely used in aromatherapy products and perfume. Most other verbenas have very little scent, and some even give off an unpleasant smell when the leaves are rubbed or crushed. Lemon verbena plants are also used as a medicinal and culinary herb. Lemon verbena can get quite large when grown in the garden, but can also be grown indoors in a container if trimmed regularly.
What about blue vervain?
Mainly known for its use as a medicinal herb, blue vervain (Verbena hastata) grows 2 to 6 feet tall and blooms July to September. In the wild, it forms colonies with slow-spreading rhizomes and self-seeds.
HOW TO PLANT VERBENA
Photo by: Stephanie Frey / Shutterstock.
When to plant:
Midspring or early summer, after the threat of frost has passed.
Where to plant:
- Hanging baskets
- Landscape borders
Growing from seed:
Verbena transplants are widely available at garden centers in the spring, but you can also grow some types from seed, with the exception of sterile verbena hybrids, which can only be started from purchased plants. Sow the seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area, and transplant the seedlings into outdoor beds once the soil warms up.
Although established verbenas can tolerate dry soil, you should water your verbena plants regularly during extended periods of drought, especially container-grown plants. It is equally important to ensure that your verbenas are well-drained in both containers and garden beds so the roots don’t sit in soggy soil. For the best results, pair verbenas with other plants that have similar water requirements.
In garden beds, application of a continuous-release fertilizer and enriching the soil with organic matter at the time of planting will usually provide enough sustenance to keep your verbenas blooming nonstop. Fertilize container-grown plants more often, either with a slow-release fertilizer or regular applications of a water-soluble fertilizer.
Pruning and deadheading:
Although most verbenas do not require deadheading to keep them blooming, you may want to trim back trailing varieties if they begin to overtake containers or crowd out other plants in the garden. Giving your verbenas a light trim every now and then will also result in fuller plants and more prolific flowering.
Get more verbena growing tips:
Succeeding with Superbena (from Proven Winners).
Superbena Royale® Peachy Keen — Buy now from Proven Winners
Verbenas in the Superbena Royale collection from Proven Winners bloom earlier in the season and are more compact and mounded than the original Superbena, making them a great choice for smaller containers and at the front of the border. Peachy Keen displays the full gamut of coral-peach tones, with the flowers gradually fading from deep apricot to a creamy peach shade. Also try Superbena Royale series top sellers Chambray and Plum Wine.
6 to 12 inches
18 to 24 inches
Superbena® Violet Ice — Buy now from Proven Winners
Verbenas in shades of purple are not uncommon, but what makes this one a real standout are the icy-white eyes that form luminous focal points within the star-shaped flowers. For a different take on the purple and white color scheme, try Superbena Stormburst, which has pale violet flowers with distinctive white stripes.
6 to 12 inches
18 to 30 inches
Meteor Shower® (Verbena bonariensis) — Buy now from Proven Winners
This compact cultivar of tall verbena is denser, more vigorous, and sets far fewer seeds than most verbenas of this type. It’s also a bit shorter so it works just as well as a thriller in containers as it does massed in garden beds.
20 to 30 inches
8 to 12 inches
EnduraScape™ Pink Bicolor
This tough-as-nails verbena tolerates drought, heat, and also survives temperatures down in the teens; winter hardy to Zone 7. Outstanding in a container or basket, as well as along a walk or border. Pink Bicolor has abundant pink flowers with darker centers and blooms from spring until frost.
8 to 12 inches
18 to 24 inches
Superbena Sparkling® Ruby — Buy now from Proven Winners
This is the va-va-voom I’m talking about! These breathtaking tricolored verbenas feature ruby red centers fringed in pink and white, with flowers so large they almost hide the dark green foliage. As with all Superbena plants, no deadheading is needed to keep the colorful display going all summer long.
6 to 12 inches
12 to 18 inches
Tapien® Blue Violet — Buy now from Proven Winners
Unfazed by heat, humidity, and light frost, this vigorous Tapien covers the ground with bluish-purple flowers all season without waning. Although most often used as a plush, weed-suppressing groundcover, our favorite way to display this lovely trailing verbena is at eye level in hanging baskets, paired with the silvery-green foliage of Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls'.
3 to 7 inches
12 to 36 inches
Lanai® Blush White — Buy now from Proven Winners
Although the Lanai series is notable for its vivid colors, it also has one of the loveliest white verbenas we’ve seen. Blush White features large 2- to 3-inch clusters of creamy white flowers with pale yellow centers. It looks gorgeous planted en masse, but is even more striking when combined with darker colors in the Lanai series, such as Lanai Dark Red or Lanai Royal Purple, which has prominent white eyes.
6 to 10 inches
20 to 24 inches
Temari® Burgundy — Buy now from Proven Winners
This broad-leaved trailing verbena hybrid from the Suntory® Collection Europe features velvety burgundy blossoms on branches capable of reaching 4 feet in length, making it a perfect choice for planting in hanging baskets or draping over a balcony. It’s also a fast grower, so you won’t have to wait long for a beautiful canopy of cascading flowers. Other equally stunning selections in the Temari series include Temari Bright Pink and the bicolored Temari Candy Stripe.
5 to 7 inches
Up to 4 feet
Violet-blue to magenta-colored flowers bloom on lacy foliage. This rugged plant spreads rapidly as a ground cover or trails from hanging baskets. It is also drought and heat tolerant. Winter hardy in Zones 9 and 10.
8 to 12 inches
12 to 24 inches
One of the most fuss-free flowering plants you can grow, verbena suffers from few pest or disease problems. When issues do arise, they are usually caused by lack of enough sunlight or poorly drained soil. Here are some stress signals to look for and potential solutions.
- Leggy plants and sparse flowering are often a result of too much shade. Move your verbenas to a spot in the garden where they can bask in the sun all day. Verbenas recover well after transplanting, so don't hesitate to relocate your plants to a better location.
- Powdery mildew is the most common problem seen in verbena, and even the newer mildew-resistant varieties aren’t immune. Be sure to give your plants adequate spacing to permit good air circulation and avoid watering from overhead. Also don’t water your plants in the evening, so the foliage doesn’t remain damp overnight.
- Yellowing leaves, anemic flowering, and root rot are all signs of poorly drained, water-logged soil. You can often salvage your plants by transplanting them into an area of your garden with better drainage or into elevated beds. If these problems are occurring in container-grown plants, add more drainage holes.
- Spider mites are one of the few pests that can pose a problem for verbena. If you notice spider-web-like netting on your plants and the leaves look discolored, try spraying the foliage with a strong stream of water or use an insecticidal soap. Because verbena is attractive to beneficial pollinators, avoid using chemical insecticides.