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Plant Profile: Brazilian Vervain (Verbena bonariensis)

This is not a plant that will catch your eye the first moment you look at a garden but it creates a subtle mood especially when planted as a “see through” plant at the front of the border. A member of the verbena family, Verbenaceae, that also includes teak and lantana, Brazilian verbain has tall wiry stems with a few leaves and a small clusters of tiny lilac purple flowers. The result is that lots of light passes in and around the plant and you see the plants beyond it; a very nice effect. Alternatively, you can mass the plants in groups for a very different but pleasing look. If you want a more shrubby look, cut the plant back early in the season to encourage branching. Brazilian vervain blooms all summer right up until frost and is easy to grow if you give it full sun, average soil, and good drainage.  It is an heirloom plant that is right at home in a cottage garden and a good cut flower too.  The generic name, Verbena, is the Latin word meaning leafy branch or twig and refers to the leaves and twigs of some plants used in sacred ceremonies. The specific epithet, bonariensis, comes from the city Buenos Aires where it was first discovered; it was brought to Europe in the 18th century and introduced thereafter to North America where it has naturalized from South Carolina to Texas. 

Type: Herbaceous perennial often grown as an annual

Bloom: Small clusters of lilac lavender flowers are borne in mid-summer until frost.

Foliage: Basal rosette of leaves; a few pairs of widely spaced 4” long leaves clasp the stem.

Size: 3-6’ H x 2’ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, well-drained

Fertilizer: Tolerates low fertility; fertilizer may result in taller plants

Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Care: Cut back to encourage branching and create shrubby habit

Pests and Diseases: None of significance; susceptible to mildew with no loss of vigor

Propagation: Seeds, reseeds readily; division

Companion plants: Roses, orange-red cosmos, black eyed Susan, daylilies.

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