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Genus Verbascum (Mullein)

Verbascum Verbascum 'Sugar Plum' Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
ver-BASS-kum Common Name: Mullein
Erect stems bearing profuse saucer-shaped flowers that are usually yellow, but also white, brownish-red, or purple. Individual flowers are short lived but numerous, and flowering takes place over a long time. Most plants in the genus Verbascum are biennials or short lived perennials and a few are annuals; some have semi-evergreen or evergreen rosettes. Most species self-sow, but not as a nuisance, and many seedlings vary slightly from the parent cultivar, thereby creating welcome surprises. Most species are found on dry, stony hillsides and open woodlands, but different species are well-adapted to cottage, gravel, rock gardens, or naturalized areas.
Noteworthy characteristics: Tall, upright flower spikes with small bright flowers bloom over a long period and create vertical accents in the garden. Leaves are often fuzzy and cast with a silvery sheen.
Care: Fuzzy-leaved species prefer full sun, others will tolerate partial shade. Grow in any well-drained soil. Verbascums tend to flop in fertile soil.
Propagation: Sow seeds of annuals and biennials in spring in containers under a cold frame. Divide in spring. Take root cuttings in winter. Take semi-ripe cuttings of shrubby species in late winter.
Problems: Powdery mildew and other fungal leaf spots. Caterpillars.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Verbascum

Verbascum 'Sugar Plum' Verbascum 'Sugar Plum'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This dwarf mullein is just 15 inches tall but it packs a big floral punch. In early spring, violet-purple flowers with dark purple anthers emerge unfazed by late frosts and continue into the summer.

Verbascum bombyciferum Verbascum bombyciferum
(Mullein, Nettle-leafed mullein, Turkish mullein)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This biennial or short-lived perennial has evergreen woolly leaves like silvery flannel that make sensuous-looking rosettes in the first year. In mid- to late summer of its second year, large sulfur-yellow blossoms open from the bottom up on flower stalks that reach up to 6 feet high. Blooming continues for many weeks. Verbascum bombyciferum has naturalized in regions of the U.S.

Verbascum chaixii Verbascum chaixii
(Chaix mullein, Nettle-leaved mullein, Mullein)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This is one of the few truly perennial species of mullein. Pale yellow blossoms with purple filaments bloom profusely on long flower stalks in mid- and late summer, reaching about 3 feet high. Individual flowers are short-lived but numerous, and flowering takes place over a long time. Verbascum chaixii's glossy, dark green rosettes are semi-evergreen. 

no image available Verbascum densiflorum
(Dense-flowered mullein, Large-flowered mullein)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This biennial or short-lived, semi-evergreen perennial forms rosettes of leaves densely covered with grayish-yellow hairs. In summer, its bright-yellow or occasionally white blossoms flower along erect, branching stalks up to 5 feet high. It has naturalized in regions of the U.S.

Verbascum phoeniceum Verbascum phoeniceum
(Purple mullein, Mullein)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This biennial or short-lived perennial species is one of the earliest mulleins to bloom. Its showy blossoms of dark-purple, violet, pink, or white open along slender 3-foot spires for about two weeks in early summer. Its shiny dark green leaves are ground-hugging and evergreen. It has naturalized in some regions of the U.S.