COLUMN: Add verbena to the garden

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Verbena is a rock-star annual flower. It is at home in containers, planters, hanging baskets and in the garden. It can take on the hottest days of summer and never skip a beat. The colors are across the spectrum. More importantly, verbena is a pollinator magnet; butterflies and hummingbirds love this plant.

Verbena is native to Asia and the Americas. Symbolically, verbena represents healing, creativity and happiness. Verbena was used as a medicinal herb and sacred plant in Egyptian, Roman and Greek civilizations. Today, they are prized for their ornamental value. Each year, the National Garden Bureau chooses an annual plant as its superstar; for 2022 it is verbena.

Cultural requirements

Verbenas need full sun all day and well-drained soil. Shade and excessive humidity conditions will lead to plant death. Keep newly planted verbenas well watered, but once established they can tolerate drought. Avoid overhead watering so the foliage is not prone to disease problems. Vervains do not like a lot of fertilizer. One application of general purpose fertilizer when planting verbena in the garden is sufficient. In pots, remember to fertilize once a month.

Although these plants are drought tolerant, they will bloom better if you don’t let them stay dry for a long time. For prolonged flowering, trim plants by cutting or pulling off spent flower heads.

The right verbena in the right place

Vervains vary greatly in size and growth habit. Some are mound-shaped and more compact and compact, reaching 8 to 10 inches in height. However, they can stretch up to 18 inches wide. There are trailing and semi-trailing varieties better suited to hanging baskets; these plants can span two feet. There are even varieties that can be used as a ground cover.

Be sure to select the correct variety for the space or container. Read the label carefully; it will provide growth habit and adult size. Never hesitate to ask your gardening professionals to help you choose the verbena that suits your needs.

Problems

Powdery mildew can be a problem with verbena as well as root rot. Make sure the plants are in full sun all day, have good air circulation, and are in well-drained, not overwatered soil. Insects are not normally a problem for verbena.

The best thing about verbena, besides the color varieties, is that the plants are pollinator magnets. Expect plenty of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds to visit the flower heads full of verbena’s tiny flowers. Gardening with verbenas will enhance your landscape and bring beauty to containers.

These plants add interesting texture as well as color to patio containers. You’ll love their colorful branches and how they look with other flowers and landscape plants. Whether you have a terrace, a balcony or a large garden space, there is a verbena for your space.

Herb and Flower Festival

The annual Herb and Flower Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 at the grounds of Cornell Cooperative Extension and Parker F. Scripture Gardens, 121 Second St., Oriskany. For more information, go online to cceoneida.com and click on the Herb & Flower Festival image or call 315-736-3394.

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