Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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When grown in the middle South, perennial verbenas form a flowering groundcover in sunny spots in the garden.

Invaluable Verbenas

Thanks to watchful home gardeners and flower breeders in Texas, middle South gardeners can choose from a growing palette of perennial verbenas. These low, spreading plants grow like flowering groundcovers and they're hardy enough to withstand winters in our region. Varieties that bloom red attract hummingbirds, while butterflies flock to all colored flowers to sip nectar from the clusters of tubular blossoms.

Easy to Share Plants

Like the well-known 'Homestead Purple' variety, perennial verbenas that bloom pink, lavender, red, or white spread along the ground and develop roots where stems touch the soil. If a neighbor offers you a start from their bed, you can expect a well-rooted cutting to take off quickly as long as you keep it well watered for the first few weeks after planting. Container-grown plants are even easier to grow and require only a sunny spot with good drainage and average soil to thrive.

Verbena Care

While you're waiting for your verbena to spread, mulch plants to deter weeds. Should flowering stop, shear the plants back by about one-third, removing all old flower clusters. Give plants a light feeding with an organic or controlled-release fertilizer and water them deeply. Within two weeks they should be back in bloom.

Improving Winter Survival

Some verbena varieties are hardy only to USDA zone 7 because of their shallow roots; a cold winter can cause serious losses. However, this isn't likely to happen if you allow the foliage to remain on the plants through winter. The foliage acts like an insulating mulch. First thing in the spring, either mow or clip off the old leaves, rake the area clean, and stand back and let them grow. Verbena surges back to life by mid-spring and is usually ready to burst into bloom as soon as the weather turns warm.

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