Verbena – Verbena x hybrida

Verbena produces some of the best summer flowers. It thrives in an open sunny position, but will also do well in partial shade, although flowering may not be as profuse.

The beautiful Verbena hybrids are the result of careful cross-breeding by skilled horticulturists. The attractive foliage is medium to deep green, with toothed edges. Dense fragrant flowerheads are held above the leaves; individual flowers are rather similar to those of the Primrose.

Verbena x hybrida is a rather fast-growing plant that eventually reaches a height of 15-45cm (6— 18in). The hanging Verbena has long stems.

Colours and forms

There are more than 200 varieties of Verbena, the majority of them perennials. However, for colour, fragrance and a long flowering period, Verbena x hybrida is among the best. It includes a group which grow relatively tall — up to 38cm (15in) high—and dwarf forms which are up to 30cm (12in) in height. They are available in a range of colours — white, red, pink, blues and purples — and it is possible to buy packets of mixed coloured seed.

Display ideasVerbena - Verbena x hybrida

You can grow Verbena hybrids in a variety of containers on the patio or balcony. Use them in window boxes, tubs or pots where you want a profusion of foliage and flowers. The dwarf forms are also suitable for hanging baskets or for planting under container-grown shrubs.

For a striking display, grow only single-coloured hybrids such as ‘Amethyst’ or red-flowering ‘Blaze’.

A large wooden tub makes a very suitable container for Verbena, particularly when planted with a single-coloured variety.

Other varieties

Verbena peruviana is a low-growing variety that is suitable for use as ground cover or for growing in a hanging basket. It is only 8-10cm (3-4in) high and produces tiny, bright red, star-shaped flowers.

V. rigida, which produces velvet-blue flowers on long stems, grows up to 60cm (24in) in height. A white form, ‘Alba’, is also available.

One of the tallest varieties, growing up to 1.5m (5ft) high, is V. bonariensis. This plant would be suitable for growing in troughs against a sunny wall.

Growing from seed

1 Sow seeds in shallow trays at any time between January and March. Cover with a thin layer of compost.

2 Cover with a sheet of glass and put the tray in a dark spot. Keep at a temperature of 18°— 21°8C (65°-70°F).

3 The seed should germinate in about 3-4 weeks. Bring the seedlings into the light and grow on until they are large enough to handle. Prick them out into pots and harden off before planting out in the flowering position in May.

Pests And Diseases

Distorted, discoloured leaves and stems are a sign of the tarsonemid mite. This pest feeds on the tissues of young plants.

Treatment: It is not possible to eradicate these mites completely, but their detrimental effects can be limited by dusting the plant with sulphur, taking care to treat the undersides of the leaves.

White, floury deposits on the leaves and stems indicate powdery mildew, which is caused by a fungus disease.

Treatment: Spray the plants at intervals of 14 days with a fungicide.

PLANT CARE

This plant is very undemanding and easy to look after. Remove dead blooms to prolong the flowering period.

  • Potting: Use a rich soil-based potting compost. Once plants are established there is no need to repot.
  • Water moderately in summer and sparingly in winter if you are planning on growing the plants on for another year.
  • Feeding: Feed occasionally during the growing period with a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light:The plant likes an open position in full sun.
  • Temperature: It likes a warm position and will thrive at normal summer temperatures. Plants to be grown on for a second year should be brought indoors before the first frosts and overwintered in a dry, brightly-lit, frost-free place until spring.

Buying Tips

  • Bedding plants are sometimes available from garden centres or nurseries in early summer. Alternatively, raise from seed sown January—March.
  • Choose compact plant‘ with healthy green leaves. If buying seed, check the date stamp on the packet to ensure that the seed is fresh.
  • Verbena x hybrida is a perennial that is often grown as an annual.

With its fragrant clusters of bright flowers, Verbena is a popular plant suitable for growing in any sunny position outdoors. It flowers from June well into the autumn.

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