How to Plant & Grow


Many of you will be familiar with the tall, airy, violet sprays of Verbena bonariensis thanks to their popularity. They turn up at the Chelsea Flower Show every year without fail! 

Also known as Vervain, these hardy herbaceous perennials, from semi-woody to frost-tender varieties, provide unbeatable summer bedding displays. If you’re a novice Verbena grower, then hopefully this complete planting guide will help you learn how to plant verbena. 

What We've Included

Things to Know  |  Choosing the right Verbena  |  When to Plant  |  How to Plant  |  Overwintering  |  How to Care for Verbena  |  Problem Solving  |  Propagating  |  Inspiration

Things to know about Verbena

Verbena plants prefer lots of sunshine! Many of them can tolerate drought and will thrive in all soils including sandy soil and heavy clay. Some verbenas flower prolifically in spring and autumn while the modern verbena hybrids put on floral spectaculars all summer long. They attract super-pollinators with their nectar-rich flowers, including hoverflies, which do a great job eating up garden aphids. They’re practical as well as beautiful.    

Choosing the right Verbena

With plenty of choices available from frost-tender to hardier perennials, the task is this: choosing the right plant for the right place. These irresistible trouble-free plants vary widely in height, from 10cm to 1.5m tall. They can also be be trailing, creeping or upright in shape and come in appealing purple, red, lilac, violet, pink and white shades.

When to Plant

Verbena is best planted out in the garden from spring to autumn; the earlier the better to allow the plant to settle in for maximum benefit.  

How to Plant

Verbenas need a warm, sunny spot and free-draining soil. However, if you have heavy clay, you can improve it with grit. 
To plant verbena, give the pot a good watering before planting and let it drain whilst you dig a planting hole. 
Dig a hole that is slightly wider and deeper bigger than the pot it’s currently planted in. 
Upturn the pot to release the plant and gently tease the roots out as this helps the plant establish itself more quickly. 
Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole with soil, and water the plant again thoroughly. 
Plug plants are available from most garden centres and online in spring. However, they should be grown indoors on a warm windowsill or in a frost-free greenhouse, conservatory or porch before planting them out in the spring, after the last frost.  


Overwintering is the process of keeping plants alive during cold weather. Summer bedding verbena is short-lived and won’t survive winter temperatures. 
Hardy verbena can survive in mild gardens throughout winter with no special measures. However, Northern gardeners might need to protect the crown of the plant with a 2.5cm layer of mulch such as straw, leaf mould, organic material or homemade compost.

How to care for Verbena

There are a few things you should keep in mind when caring for and growing verbena.  
Verbena prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Don’t be tempted to plant them in shade or they’ll sulk. 
Verbena can be susceptible to powdery mildew, so avoid wetting the foliage by watering at the base of the plant. 
In cold conditions, even hardy verbena can suffer dieback if cut back in autumn. It's best to leave the plant and prune back old growth when you see the new shoots emerging at the base in spring. 

Growing Verbena: problem-solving 

Verbenas are resilient plants and don’t suffer from any serious pests or diseases, although they do self-seed freely which can be an advantage or a nuisance. Some gardeners love getting lots of new plants for free, while others dislike weeding them out. 
The only problem you’re likely to encounter is powdery mildew, which is largely triggered by hot, dry, or humid conditions. Here’s what to look out for and how to deal with it: 
Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that affects plants and fruit trees exacerbated by humid, dry weather.  


Symptoms: A grey dusty powder settles on the leaves.  

Treatment: Simply remove affected leaves and destroy them. If large areas are affected, spray with an eco-friendly fungicide. Avoid planting verbena too close together. 
Improve air circulation around plants by thinning out some of the foliage and avoid wetting leaves by watering at the base. 

Propagating Verbena

Of all plants, verbena cuttings are incredibly easy and reliable, even if you have never taken a cutting before. 
Propagating verbena by division: In spring, dig up a clump and divide it into several pieces with a sharp spade. Replant pieces into the final planting positions and cover them with garden soil and give them a good drink. 
Propagating verbena by seed: It’s unlikely you’ll need to propagate the self-seeding varieties as nature does the job for you. You can dig up self-seeded plantlets and grow them in pots until they are large enough to plant out in the garden from spring to summer.  
Propagating verbena by cuttings: If you live in a cooler part of the country, verbena  are more susceptible to winter losses, so it’s a good insurance policy to propagate verbena from either softwood or semi-ripe cuttings from August to September 
Here’s how to do it: 
 - Have a plastic bag ready that’s lined with a damp paper towel inside to collect your cuttings. Cuttings are best taken early in the morning when the stems and leaves are still full of water. 
- With a clean knife, snip a non-flowering stem just above a leaf joint - that’s the part of a stem from where two leaves grow.  
- Place cuttings in the bag to keep them fresh if you’re gathering more stems. 
- On a clean surface, cut a section of the stem above a leaf joint. Ideally, cuttings should be about 5-10 cm long.  
- Strip off any lower leaves so you are left with a bare stem with two leaves on top.  
- Fill a pot with fresh potting compost that’s mixed with grit and water well, allowing it to drain before inserting cuttings. Place each cutting around the edge of the pot, leaving a finger space between each, pressing them in gently. Putting half a dozen cuttings around the edge of a pot saves space, saves compost, and makes them easy to pry apart when they are ready to be potted individually. 
- Using a heated propagator helps cuttings root quickly but isn’t necessary in summer as new roots will form easily.  
- Once you see roots escaping the bottom of the pot, transfer them into individual pots and keep them warm/frost-free over winter. Plant them out in the following spring. 

Verbena varieties to try

There are few gardeners with enough restraint to plant just one verbena and sometimes you just have to spoil yourself.  Plants are non-fattening, guilt-free and great for your health so enjoy browsing our recommendations for the most captivating verbena for your garden. 

Hardy Verbena 
Verbena bonariensis 
Verbena Endurascape Pink Bicolour 
Verbena hastata Blue Spires 
Verbena hastata Pink Spires  
Verbena hastata White Spires

Summer bedding 
Verbena Quartz XP mixed 
Verbena Samira White 
Verbena Showboat 
Verbena Showboat Dark Red 
Verbena Voodoo mixed 

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