Verbena bonariensis, tall verbena, is a long-flowering perennial native to South America. It has become a favorite of North American summer gardens with its tall, slender stems and lavender-purple flowers. Verbena bonariensis can grow four to six feet tall and yet is fantastic at the front of the border as a see-through plant. It will bloom all summer and generally does not need staking. It looks tender but it is tough.
Butterflies and bees love Verbena bonariensis. I love it too. I’ve wanted to write about it forever, but those tiny clusters of flowers are tough to photograph accurately. Finally, an overcast day with no wind arrived and here we are.
Widely adaptable, Verbena bonariensis prefers moist soil but is drought tolerant. Ours catch powdery mildew every year, a combination of too much shade and Georgia’s considerable summer humidity. We don’t bother spraying it, as it comes back every year. I tend to hack the verbena back and forget about it until next year.
Tall verbena is not aggressive in the garden. It intermingles with other species nicely. Verbena bonariensis will not crowd other plants out of your garden. It reseeds easily, perhaps too readily for some people’s taste, although in Georgia gardens I’ve never seen it become a pest.
Verbena bonariensis has, however, naturalized throughout parts of North America and is on several watchlists due to concerns about its potential to become invasive in native ecosystems. I’ve written about the unintended and potentially devastating effects of introducing exotic species to ecosystems. Still, with the undeniable benefit to butterflies, bees, and birds, I’m at present firmly on the side of Verbena bonariensis in our gardens.
When I was photographing this stand of tall verbena, the bees were everywhere. What can only be described as the heavy resonance of a helicopter came whirring by. Rumbling might be a better description. It was a hummingbird and it had come to visit the verbena. It’s unexpectedly impressive, the deeply resonant sound of a hummingbird flying by.
Verbena bonariensis is not bothered by deer or rabbits. The hairy, tough stems are probably the reason deer and bunnies leave it alone. Regarding the stems, they are generally tough enough to make staking unnecessary. I would under no circumstances stake Verbena bonariensis anyway. If strong winds come along and knock it down, it’s just the breaks. Cut it back and move on.
You can grow tall verbena as an annual in zones colder than zone 7. As mentioned it will reseed and come back the following year in colder climates.
|Genus/species||Verbena bonariensis syn. Verbena patagonica|
|Common name(s)||tall verbena, tall vervain, Brazillian verbain|
|Of note||gorgeous tall perennial – attractive to butterflies and bees – easy to grow but may get powdery mildew|
|Water requirements||drought tolerant, average, moist soil conditions|
|Soil quality||rich, average|
|Suggested use(s)||cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds, naturalized|
|Hardiness zone(s)||7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b|
|Deciduous or evergreen||deciduous|
|Bloom period||mid to late spring, summer, late summer|
|Exposure||full sun, afternoon shade|2 38