Vermont Garden Journal: The Tall And Sturdy Wildflower, Verbascum

Aug 25, 2017

This European native wildflower is in the snapdragon family but you'd never know from its shape and size. It has a tall flower spike, was used medicinally to treat respiratory problems and now has many showy hybrids created by plant breeders. I'm talking about Verbascum.

Also known as mullein, we often see Verbascum blooming in open woodlands and on eroded hillsides. It likes well drained soil and full sun. The flowers slowly open up the stock through the summer. The leaves are silver, large and hairy, and were once used to make torches. 

Newer hybrids of Verbascum have different flower colors and can grow from 18 inches up to eight feet tall. Taller varieties look great tucked in the back of a flower border to surprise you with their bloom stalks. The stalks are woody and don't need support.

Some Verbascum will self-sow making it easy to have flowering plants each year. Cut the plant back in fall and protect the roots with mulch in colder areas. 

Now for this week's tip: when harvesting basil for pesto making and cooking, cut individual stems to just above a lower set of leaves. This will encourage the plant to send up new stems with large leaves.