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Brazilian Verbena Leads The Class
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
At this time of the year when you start to pay attention to those plants that thrive with little care, there is a verbena that stands head above all other verbenas in more ways than one. The verbena I am referring to is verbena bonariensis.
The botanical name comes from its discovery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, it is known commonly as the Brazilian verbena, which further indicates that it is from South America.
The "head above all others" connotation refers to the tall growth habit of the plant. They are already four feet tall and still growing. You will find them in perennial gardens from the coastal South to the counties bordering Tennessee.
This tall height and the fact it is kind of naked at the bottom make it ideal for the back of the border or filling in vertical space. They bloom all summer right through frost, giving loads of purple flowers.
The Brazilian verbena has a delicate appearance, but in reality the stems are stiff and tough. This plant is a trooper in the face of high heat, humidity and wind. It will need no staking.
Not only are the Brazilian and all of the other verbenas some of the most colorful, long-blooming, useful plants in the landscape, they are treasured by both gardeners and butterflies.
You will find the best success by choosing a site in full sun. The Brazilian verbena performs best in deep, well-drained beds that are rich in organic matter, so spread 3 to 4 inches of fine pine bark or compost along with 2 pounds of a slow-release, 12-6-6 fertilizer and work to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.
It always pays to know your recommended spacing. Some verbenas are spreading plants and others are slightly compact, so space accordingly. Despite the fact that verbenas are rugged plants, water deeply to get them established and keep them mulched.
This has been a good year for verbena lovers. While the Brazilian verbena is pretty much the same as always, there are scores of hybrids showing up at garden centers. Biloxi Blue, a 1999 Mississippi Medallion winner, is much sought after again and continues to give outstanding performance.
One of the best new series is called the Temari Patio. There are several colors available in deep, saturated tones. I am growing Temari Patio Blue with last year's All-America Selections winner Profusion Orange Zinnia. I am also growing the Temari Patio Rose that is on the burgundy side of purple. The Temari Patio plants are more compact and not as spreading as the regular Temari verbenas or many of the other hybrids.
The Babylon series has been getting rave reviews by landscapers and almost everyone who has grown them. These are ground-hugging, spreading verbenas that come in hot colors like neon rose, pink, lavender and a new salmon.
Another group that is showing a lot of vigor and promise is the Tukana verbena series. There are three colors available is this series: Scarlet, Denim Blue and Salmon. The Scarlet has all the potential of being the best red verbena in the market.
The companion plants for verbenas are a delight themselves. The Brazilian verbena looks great towering above drifts of New Gold lantana, or pink or lavender verbenas like the Babylons. A bed with Homestead Purple verbena, New Gold lantana and Plum Delight buddleia would not only look good but be butterfly heaven. Verbenas like Biloxi Blue, Temari Violet and Temari Patio Blue look great with Black-eyed Susan's.
Side-dress with a light application of fertilizer when growth starts in the spring and every four to six weeks through the growing season. Your trailing-type verbenas will perform best if you cut back by one-third in midsummer to renew growth and blooms. Water during dry periods and keep a good layer of mulch in the bed.