The Patagonian verbena (Verbena bonariensis) belongs to the genus Verbena, which comprises more than 250 species. This verbena is a perennial from South America, which is not sufficiently hardy in our latitudes and is therefore rather short-lived. This is why it is often used as a summer flower – even though it can stay in the garden for years by sowing itself.
The Patagonian verbena owes its botanical species name ‘bonariensis’ to the fact that it was first discovered by Europeans in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. For this reason it is often also called Argentine verbena. Like all verbenas, Verbena bonariensis belongs to the vervain family (Verbenaceae).
Patagonian verbena grows tightly upright and appears somewhat “prickly” due to its long, bare stems with terminal flowers. Although at first glance it may seem rather filigree, the stems are very strong and reach growth heights of up to two metres.
The green leaves are very far apart on the stem, which gives the plant an airy appearance. They are arranged in pairs opposite each other, unstalked, about 13 centimeters long, lanceolate and toothed towards the tip.
Verbena bonariensis carries flat, up to five centimeters wide violet umbels at the stem ends. They consist of many individual star-shaped flowers of a maximum size of 6 millimetres. The first flowers open already in July and remain until the first frosts. Patagonian verbena is equally popular with bees and butterflies.
After flowering, the Patagonian Verbena forms small seeds, which it sows itself.
Patagonian verbena prefers a full sunny location. Due to its low winter hardness, it can only survive our winters with appropriate protection. But even if the mother plant should freeze to death, it provides sufficient offspring by self sowing.
Verbena bonariensis thrives on nutrient-rich, sandy-humic and permeable soils, which should be as dry as possible, especially in winter, because verbena, like most steppe plants, reacts quite sensitively to winter wetness.
The best season to sow the Patagonian vervain is autumn, because the seeds need a cold stimulus to germinate. If you want to grow the perennial from seeds, it is best to do so in November. Sowing can take place directly in the field. The seed should be thinly covered with soil and kept moist for the first few weeks. Alternatively, you can also prefer Verbena bonariensis from February on on the windowsill or in the greenhouse, in order to plant it in specific places in the bed in spring. The seed at a temperature of 18 to 22 degrees Celsius within 14 to 20 days.
Since Patagonian Verbena is only conditionally hardy in winter, it should be planted in spring so that it can grow well until winter.
Patagonian verbena is very easy to care for in the right place. If you want to keep it in the bed by sowing it yourself, you should leave the faded stems until spring. Otherwise you can cut the shrub back to about 20 centimeters above the ground. In spring the dried stem remains are removed again. In order for this frost-sensitive plant to survive our winters, it needs a protective cover of fir twigs and autumn leaves.
At the latest since the prairie bed trend Verbena bonariensis should not be missing in any plantation: Airy and light, the small, densely filled, purple flower umbels dance over the bedding partners and gently surround them. The tall Patagonian verbena is an ideal structure builder and brings balance into the bed. It is particularly popular because of its sparse growth and its slightly stubborn appearance. Combined with foxglove, magnificent candle (Gaura lindheimeri) or brandkraut (Phlomis) it attracts all eyes. The big advantage of Verbena bonariensis: It has a very open growth, which means that the stems are mostly unleafed and allow a view of the flowering splendour of the other plants in the bed. The violet flower umbels seem to float above them and set pretty accents. Great partners are, for example, the coneflower (Rudbeckia), the sun bride (Helenium) or the girl’s eye (Coreopsis), whose bright flowers form a beautiful contrast to the violet umbels of verbena.
There is a variety of Patagonian verbena on the market called ‘Lollipop’, which is often referred to as the ‘little sister’ of the species: It remains with a growth height between 50 and 60 centimeters clearly smaller than the species, otherwise there are no noteworthy differences.
Patagonian verbena belongs to the short-lived perennials, but secures its continued existence in the bed through self-seeding – and that without taking the upper hand. If this is desired, you should leave the flower heads until spring so that the plants can seed. Also make sure not to confuse the seedlings with undesirable wild herbs in spring. Wait until the leaves of the plant offspring are clearly visible before weeding.
Diseases and pests
Occasionally it can come to an infestation with powdery mildew. A much bigger problem for the Patagonian verbena, however, is waterlogging, as it can quickly lead to root rot. Before planting, therefore, work some sand into heavy, loamy soils to loosen them up.
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