Verbina 'Donalina Coral Pastal'
Verbenas are one of those classic bedding plants that offer gardeners the best of both worlds – not only do they offer masses of blooms for months on end, they are also very tough, thriving in those hot, sunny areas that would leave many others wilting.
Most verbenas are perennial by nature, but most gardeners’ treat them as an annual, replanting each spring for a carpet of colour right through to the first frosts. Generally verbenas on offer in nurseries are quite low growing, but taller varieties are can be found. Flowers can be mauve, purple, white, pink, apricot or red, with some of the modern hybrids even being bi-coloured. The trailing types work very well in hanging baskets and pots, although they also look striking in rock gardens or as an edging to pathways.
Of the approximately 250 species, most hale from the Americas, but some also call parts of Europe home. Verbenas have long been linked with the divine and supernatural. The ancient Egyptians knew them as “the Tears of Isis", while in Greece it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia, the Titan goddess of the dawn. In early Christianity, legend has it that common verbena (V. officinalis) was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after his removal from the cross and so was known as the "Holy Herb" or "Devil's bane". For those whose birthday is on July 29, this is your birth flower.
Verbenas are one of those garden troopers that will bloom for you from spring right through to autumn with very little fuss. Fortunately these charming little darlings are relatively carefree. In fact, the main cause of problems is over-pampering, especially overfeeding and overwatering. There are just four things you will need to do to keep your plants healthy, happy and blooming all season long.
Deadheading is picking off the faded blooms. If you don’t deadhead your verbenas, they will simply stop flowering. This may sound like a huge undertaking, but is really quick and quite therapeutic. Just clip off the top 1/4 of the stems that hold the faded flowers once the blooms have gone off. If you forget all is not lost, just clip off the tops of the stems to encourage your plants to re-bloom – usually in just 15 to 20 days.
Start by planting the seedlings in a well composted bed. Wait until they have established themselves and have grown to about 15cm tall. They then only need to be fertilised once, using a balanced, slow release fertiliser.
Only water your verbenas regularly well while they are establishing themselves. Once they have settled themselves and are growing happily water them only when the top centimetre of soil dries out.
4. Disease prevention
Verbenas perform at their best when they get between 8 and 10 hours of direct sunlight a day and are planted in well-drained soil. Plants that are kept too moist and don’t get enough sun are susceptible to powdery mildew and other diseases. Simply plant your seedlings in the sunniest position in your garden to prevent this problem.
Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. Go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za for more.