Royal candles (Verbascum), also called torches or woolly herbs, are a plant genus of the family of the brown-root family (Scropulariaeae). There are about 300 mostly biennial to short-lived species. The original home of the plants extends from Southeast Europe via Asia Minor to Central Asia, where they grow in rock steppes and on dry mountain slopes. In the European gardens there are about eight different species and some hybrids. King candles are also very important as medicinal plants. Flower teas have an expectorant effect on colds and colds and the plant sap promotes wound healing.
Appearance and growth
The mostly biennial plants flower from May to August and most species die when the seeds ripen, but sow themselves. The seeds germinate very quickly, form a wintergreen rosette of leaves in the same year and then flower in the next or the year after next. If the location conditions are right, king candles can be surprisingly long-lasting. They then often flower several years in a row before they die.
The impressive plants grow to a height of 150 to 200 centimeters, only the long-lived Phoenician royal candle (Verbascum phoeniceum) remains considerably smaller with a height of 50 to 70 centimeters. Unlike most other species, it does not flower yellow but purple. The strong stems of royal candles are usually two-thirds leafy at most and are densely covered at the end with flower buds that open successively from bottom to top. The elongated-oval, mostly grey-felt leaves become smaller and smaller towards the top. The candelabra king candle (Verbascum olympicum) is the only species that forms a branched inflorescence. The garden hybrids of the king candles (Verbascum x cultorum) are slightly smaller than the pure species and their varieties. They surprise like the Phoenician king candle with unusual flower colours from amber yellow (for example ‘Cotswold Queen’) to pink (for example ‘Pink Domino’).
Location and soil
King candles need a full sunny, warm location and a stony to sandy, very permeable soil.
King candles are suitable for natural gardens on lean, permeable soils as well as for steppe, heathland and prairie gardens. As the well-known shrub breeder Karl Foerster put it, they belong to the so-called “hikers” in the garden – so you never know exactly where they’ll hit next year. This gives the design a natural character. In principle, the plants also feel at home in the rock garden. Here, however, there is a great danger that they will displace the less competitive upholstery perennials by sowing themselves over time. It is also possible to place the plants as guiding shrubs in normal garden beds, but it is important to know that they are short-lived on nutrient-rich and humus-rich, moist soils. Decorative combination partners are ornamental grasses with similar location requirements such as pipe grass (Molinia). With lavender and catnip (Nepeta) the mostly yellow flowering plants form beautiful colour combinations. Important: Always use only one species or variety in the garden. King candles cross each other and many of the offspring lose the positive qualities of their parents.
If you want to prevent self-seeding and prolong the life of the plants, cut off the inflorescences as soon as they begin to wilt. If possible, however, you should leave them until spring, as they are still very decorative even when dead.
The plants usually propagate themselves by sowing themselves abundantly. If you wish, you can also collect the mature capsules and sow the seeds in growing trays or individual pots in late summer. Important: Use a sandy substrate and water very gently, preferably with a sprayer. Some royal candles form daughter rosettes, over which they can be propagated by variety. They are excavated in spring and placed in the desired place. The hybrids and the Phoenician royal candle are best grown from root cuttings.
Diseases and pests
King candles are by nature very robust and not very susceptible. As the plants rejuvenate themselves again and again by sowing, diseased specimens or specimens infested by pests are simply removed from the bed.
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.