Verbascum phoeniceum Violetta is the smallest growing of the perennial Verbascums. Soundly perennial and very drought tolerant this Central Asian native is relatively new to cultivation and is by far the darkest flowered mullein available.
This reliable, easy-to-grow seed strain produces lovely delicate flower spikes, the waving stems carry whorls of tissue thin purple blooms that ascend to the finest point. Each flower sports a darker centre with golden stamens. Flat rosettes of oval-shaped, deep green leaves form a solid base to the plant. The flowers mature into attractive pearl-like seed pods, ripening to burgundy black in colour and extending textural interest late into the summer.
Violetta is smaller and more dainty than the usual species, growing to only 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) it is ideal for the smaller garden. It is great for dry sunny sites where it will self seed, and has a long flowering season between May and August. It associates well with soft grasses such as Deschampsia or Briza, and silvery perennials such as Lavendula, Stachys and geraniums.
Verbascum phoeniceum 'Violetta' has been in demand since it was featured in the Gold Medal-winning RBC Blue Water Roof Garden at Chelsea 2013 . Designed by Professor Nigel Dunnett, known for the 2012 Olympic Gardens in London, the garden explored the potential of ‘skyrise greening’, bringing trees, meadows and wetlands into the heart of the densest of cities, while addressing the important issue of urban water management.
The garden is in keeping with the goals of RBC Blue Water Project - a wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world’s most precious natural resource: fresh water.
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 2.5cm (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 5-7 weeks. Transplant into 10-18cm (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.
Border, Cottage Garden, Mediterranean or Gravel Garden. Exposed Coastal planting. Problem areas. Architectural. Drought, heat, deer, slug and snail proof.
Pick the flowers as required. For dried flowers, place the flowers face down on paper or racks away from light to preserve colour (and medicinal properties). Use in potpourri.
The leaves are sometimes used in medicinal teas, but should not be taken in excess as they are mildly toxic. Use the large velvety leaves in shoes or slippers to keep the feet warm and help ward off chilblains.
Native to the mountains of Greece. The word 'Verbascum' is likely to have been derived from two Latin sources – ‘ver’ meaning ‘spring’ and / or ‘barbascum', which means ‘bearded plant’.
Phoeniceum means 'purple-red' (bright red or scarlet) after the dye that came from Phoenicia. It is also known as The Purple Mullein
'Mullein' is from the Latin 'mollis' meaning soft.
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 10 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
Folklore and Facts:
Poachers of fish are said to have made their quarry drunk by feeding them the seeds. Cockroaches are allergic to one species. A concoction from the tissues is supposed to turn the hair as golden as a goddess's, and a tisane has been claimed to cure many ills, from gout to ringworm.
According to Pliny the Elder, it cures superficial abscess in a poultice made of pounded root, sprinkled in wine and wrapped in leaves but only if the patient fasts and the poultice is applied by a naked maiden who has also been fasting. The maiden must say ‘Apollo tells us that plague cannot grow more fiery in a patient if a naked maiden quench the fire’.
Mandragora is an alternative treatment for abscesses but does not require the involvement of a naked maiden so may not have been as popular.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25mg Average Seed Count 200 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 8,000 seeds per gram Family Plantaginaceae Genus Verbascum Species phoeniceum Cultivar Violetta Synonym Verbascum atro-violaceum Common Name Purple Mullein, aka Temptress Purple Other Common Names Candlewick plant Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Violet Natural Flower Time May to August. Foliage Low-growing rosette of large ovate, silvery-green leaves Height 100-120cm (36-48in) Spread 60cm (24in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Chalky/alkaline, Dry, Sandy