Verbascum are a wonderful plant for making a garden feel uncontrived, producing masses of flowers without taking up lots of space on the ground. Their vertical flower spikes help any border succeed visually, leading the eye up to the sky and breaking up the boring hummocky look.
Verbascum blattaria f. albiflorum, often marketed as ‘White Blush’ is one of the most popular varieties. Growing to a height of around 100cm (36in) with basal rosettes of glossy oak-like leaves, the graceful flowers have dark crimson buds that open to reveal large white flowers with deep purple stamens.
Very easy to grow, Verbascum blattaria are hardy to around minus 18°C (0°F). They are tolerant of most soil types and conditions, from wet clay through to dry sand, and grow well in sun or shade.
They are most successfully grown in a sunny position in a lean well-drained gravelly soil where a meager diet avoids the need for staking. They are more than strong enough to stand on their own but when grown on rich soil and in windy areas the flower-laden stalks may benefit from a little gentle twiggy support.
Verbascum don't last well as cut flowers so are best left for the garden. They bloom throughout the summer, with a few sporadic flowers still in September to early October. They work well with many planting schemes and are a good subject for the sunny border, cottage-style plantings and gravel gardens.
Sowing: Sow in spring or in autumn
If started as early as January, this strain usually blooms the first year from seed. Later sown seedlings will provide blooms the following year. Germination 7 to 21 days.
Seeds can be sown directly where they are to flower in either spring (two to four weeks before average last frost date) or in autumn (up to two months before first autumn frost) Sow thinly and thin seedlings to an eventual spacing of 38 to 45cm.
Sow 6 to 8 weeks before planting outdoors in April to May. The plants have a long tap root, so you may wish to use root trainers or long pots. Take care when transplanting. Sow in trays, pots, etc of good seed compost. Space 25mm (1in) between the seeds. Cover the seeds lightly with compost or medium-grade vermiculite to help keep the seed moist during germination. Avoid direct sunlight by shading seeds after sowing. Place in a propagator or warm place to maintain an optimum temperature of 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F). Keep soil slightly moist but not wet.
Following germination, reduce the moisture levels somewhat, allowing the growing medium to dry out slightly before watering to help promote rooting. They are usually ready for transplanting in 5 to 7 weeks. Transplant into 10 to 18cm (4 to 7in) pot. Harden off and plant out when all risk of frost has passed 45cm (18in) apart in full sun.
Verbascum grows best under full sun in locations with moist but well drained soil; sites with poor drainage will most likely lead to plant mortality. They require a mulch in the winter for protection.
Verbascum is a moderate feeder. Growing them under high fertility regimes generally causes them to become very lush and delay flowering. Don't fertilise after mid Sept.
To encourage the plant to repeat bloom or extend the bloom season to late in the year, cut off the centre stalk after initial flowering, just to where you see side shoots emerging. Approx 4 to 5 weeks to the second flowering. It will also extend the life of your plant
These are evergreen plants; they keep their leaves year round, losing the aerial part during the coldest months of the year. As spring begins, stems and leaves quickly start to reproduce.
Being a biennial, Verbascum blattaria are naturally short-lived but in good conditions will gently self-seed. Deadheading the spent large stalks insures reflowering, but it's a good idea to let some go to seed so that even when the parent has reached the end of its biennial life, there'll be new ones appearing for the future.
Once you can recognise the small plants, they are easily transplanted to other parts of the garden. Use a trowel to scoop up a clump of seedlings, and then transplant the whole clump rather than fiddle with a single plant or two. Keep the patch watered for a few days and let the roots settle in. After a week or two, look for the strongest seedlings and then weed out the extras.
Border, Cottage Garden, Mediterranean or Gravel Garden. Exposed Coastal planting. Problem areas. Architectural. Drought, heat, deer, slug and snail proof.
Verbascum don't last well as cut flowers so are best left for the garden but they do make wonderful dried flowers. Pick the flowers as required and place the flowers face down on paper or racks away from light to preserve colour. They can also be used in potpourri.
There are about 300 species of Verbascum, including annuals, biennials and short-lived perennials, native mainly to Europe and Turkey, where they grow on poor, dry soils or recently disturbed ground.
Verbascum blattaria has a Eurosiberian Southern-temperate distribution; it is naturalised in Europe north of its native range and in parts of North America.
The species, which has a yellow flower and purple stamens was being cultivated in Britain by 1596 and has been known from the wild since at least 1629. It was described as `scattered irregularly - over the central and southern counties of England` by Dunn (1905) and this still summarises its overall distribution.
Native to the mountains of Greece. The genus name is likely to have derived from two Latin sources – ‘ver’ meaning ‘spring’ and / or ‘barbascum', which means ‘bearded plant’.
The species name blattaria derives from the Latin name blatta for moth.
The common name 'Mullein' is taken from the Latin 'mollis' meaning soft, referring to the leaves of the plant.
The flowers of the species are usually yellow and have furry purple stamens that resemble moth antennae, hence the common name of this species, the 'Moth mullein'. Interestingly and conversely, the Mullein moth, is a species of Lepidoptera which feeds on Verbascum and other plants.
One of the old common names is ‘the candlewick plant’ because the large soft furry leaves were cut into strips, dried, and used as wicks for candles.
When a plant sheds its common name and becomes known only by its official Latin title, it is a sure sign that it has come up in the world. The Verbascum has shrugged off as many as ten downmarket pseudonyms as it has ascended the horticultural social scale, moving from the disorderly surroundings of the cottage garden to elegant colour-themed plantings. This stately plant, which combines architectural form with beautiful colouring, deserves this elevation
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 400 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 8,000 seeds per gram Family Scrophulariaceae Genus Verbascum Species blattaria f. albiflorum Cultivar White Blush Common Name Moth Mullein Other Common Names Candlewick plant Hardiness Hardy Biennial Hardy Hardy to minus18°C (0°F) Flowers Large white flowers with deep purple stamens Natural Flower Time June to September Foliage Basal rosettes of glossy oak-like leaves Height 100cm (36in) Spread 40cm (16in) Position Full sun preffered. Soil Well drained, lean well-drained gravelly soil