Types of verbena: overview of the most beautiful verbena varieties


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

With the numerous verbena species and varieties, it can be difficult to choose. However, the differences lie not only in the appearance, but also in the characteristics of the species.

American vervain inflorescences
Verbena hastata is just one of the verbena species suitable for the garden [Photo: Ziga13/ Shutterstock.com]

The genus verbena is versatile, and sometimes the differences between the species is subtle. To give you an overview, we have compiled the most common verbena species and their varieties here.

How many verbena varieties and species are there?

The verbenas (Verbena), also called vervains, include around 87 different species. However, not all of them are used as ornamental plants. Verbena species are found throughout the world and differ accordingly, for example, in their winter hardiness. Among the most popular verbena species, there are now also varieties of verbena that are distinguished by growth characteristics and flower colours.

Verbena species and varieties at a glance

To make it easier to choose the right verbena variety for your own garden, we have put together a small selection of the most beautiful verbena species and varieties. The best known is certainly common verbena (Verbena officinalis), which is used in medicine. Many other species, however, are more attractive because of their ornamental value for the garden.

The care instructions for the verbena species listed here correspond to the care of common verbena. They only need to be watered during longer dry periods and, in good locations, fertilisation at the beginning of the growing season is sufficient. This supports abundant flowering. A slow-release fertiliser, such as our Plantura Flower Food, is ideal for growing and caring for verbena – simply work it into the soil. The nutrients are released gradually and are sufficient for verbena for the entire growing season in ideal locations. All species are self-seeding and can be propagated by sowing.

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Tip: Despite its name, Greek verbena (Sideritis scardica) does not belong to the verbena genus at all, but to the ironworts (Sideritis).

Purpletop verbena

Purpletop verbena (Verbena bonariensis) is also known as Argentine vervain, clustertop vervain or tall verbena. It is an annual or biennial, herbaceous plant that produces many small, purple flowers that sit together in umbellate inflorescences. The flowering period is from July to October. It grows as an upright clump and reaches heights of up to 120 cm.

This bee-friendly verbena species is best planted in full sun. Otherwise, the purpletop verbena makes hardly any demands on its location. The soil should ideally be well-drained and fresh or slightly moist. You can propagate the Patagonian verbena by seed or simply leave the inflorescences so that it can self-seed.

About eight to ten plants will fit on one square metre, creating an attractive scenery. Other plants that go well with purpletop verbena are Mediterranean semishrubs, such as rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), that have similar site requirements.

Is purpletop verbena hardy? Verbena bonariensis can survive temperatures down to – 12 °C, but should always be protected with a layer of mulch. The above-ground parts of the plant die in winter, and even if the below-ground part of the plant does not survive the winter, it usually survives by self-seeding.

The purpletop verbena ‘Lollipop’ is a well-known variety. It remains considerably smaller than other verbena species and reaches a height of about 60 cm with compact growth.

American vervain

The American verbena (Verbena hastata), which comes from North America, has a noticeably different inflorescence when it flowers from July to September. The small purple flowers of this species are arranged in spikes, similar to those of common verbena. The lance-shaped leaves and the upright growth give this species its Latin nomenclature ‘hastata’, which means spear-shaped.

The species reaches heights of about 100 to 150 cm and is hardy down to – 30 °C, so it does not usually need any additional winter protection. As the plant dies above ground in winter, it should be cut back before winter or at the latest when new shoots appear.

Verbena hastata grows best in sunny locations with well-drained, fresh or moderately moist soil. When planting, make sure that there are no more than seven plants per square metre. In early summer, cuttings can be taken from mature plants for propagation.

Of the Verbena hastata species, four varieties are well-known:

  • ‘Blue Spires’: blue-purple flowers
  • ‘Pink Spires’: white-pink flowers
  • ‘White Spires’: white flowers
  • ‘Rosea’: pink flowers

Slender Vervain

Native to South America, slender vervain (Verbena rigida) reaches heights of about 60 cm and forms spike-like inflorescences. The flowers, however, bloom in a hemispherical arrangement. The pink flowers can be enjoyed over a long flowering period from June to October. Slender verbena blooms best in moderately nutrient-rich, well-drained soils and in sunny protected locations. Plant about three to five plants per square metre. The following varieties of slender verbena are available:

  • ‘Venosa’: strong, pink flowers
  • Lilac Blue’: blue-purple flowers and grows about 40 cm high

In contrast to the other verbena species, slender verbena does not tend to self-seed generously – we suggest collecting the seeds and sowing them yourself for the best propagation results.

Is the slender vervain hardy? This plant loves warmth and is only hardy to an extent. It tolerates temperatures down to about – 5 °C. Therefore, in places with cold winters, it is generally kept as an annual plant. With suitable winter protection, such as a thick layer of mulch, it can certainly survive a mild winter. When slender verbenas grows perennially, they develop a broad, sprawling habit.

Hoary Verbena

Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) is native to North America and can also be planted in our gardens. Compared to other verbena species, it produces large individual flowers that are arranged in spikes or cylinders. The spikes blossoms from bottom to the top during the flowering period from July to August. The flowering period is comparatively short and only lasts about four weeks. This annual to biennial, herbaceous plant grows about 60 cm high. It needs a sunny, warm location and well-drained soil. This species is hardy, but not particularly long-lived and can tolerate temperatures down to – 30 °C.

Although it does not belong to the same genus, a distant relative of Verbena is the lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora). Tips on caring for lemon verbena as well as many other articles on the medicinal plant can be found in our magazine.

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