Friday, October 3, 2008

Verbena 'Homestead Purple'

Butterflies, like this swallowtail,
absolutely love 'Homestead Purple' verbena
Verbena canadensis, also known as "Clump Verbena", is valued for its color, habit, and durability. Round clusters of flowers on all clumping verbenas generally last from summer until fall, contrasting the almost spherical flower-shape with the very prostrate habit of the plant itself. Reaching 9" in height at the most, this plant can be a vigorous spreader. In fact, Clump Verbena propagates itself easily by air-layering. That is, its stems grow so low to the ground, that given the right conditions the stems will start to grow new roots and spread even farther as a new plant. This plant does best in a well-drained soil and a full-sun site, but keep in mind that when this plant is happy, it can become incredibly difficult to manage because it will spread so vigorously. If planted in perhaps partial-sun, the plant should live but be less vigorous and produce fewer flowers. Also, if planted in soil that does not drain well, Clump Verbena becomes susceptible to powdery mildew. Be aware of what hardiness zone you are in when planting Clump Verbena, because it is only hardy as a perennial in zones 6 - 10. If planted any farther north from our East Tennessee location, Clump Verbena is considered an annual.

The story of Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' is one worth mentioning. It begins when two horticulturalists from the University of Georgia by the names of Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr (sound familiar?  You may see these names on your book shelf) were driving back to their university from Atlanta, GA. At one point, a brilliant purple in a yard they were passing happened to catch their eyes. They went to investigate what particular variety it was, but the homeowner only knew that it had always been growing in her yard. She gave them some cuttings which were later named 'Homestead Purple'. Today it is believed that 'Homestead Purple' is a cross between the traditional Verbena canadensis and some unknown variety that may not even exist anymore.

The cultivar of Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' is valued in today's market for its low spreading habit, rich purple flowers, and spring / early summer blooms that will last until frost. This specific cultivar is located in at least three areas of the University of Tennessee Gardens. Not only is 'Homestead Purple' valued for its long bloom period, but the coarse texture of its evergreen foliage can definitely add winter interest to your perennial garden. Also, if you want to attract wildlife such as butterflies, this plant is an excellent selection. One suggestion for 'Homestead Purple' is that it should be planted near taller, more shrubby plants. This way, if it grows vigorously, it will not suffocate other smaller plants and you won't have to worry about cutting it back so often.

Update (2013): 'Homestead Purple' is easily propagated by rooting cuttings, division, or just pulling up stem sections that have rooted by layering.  March of last year we planted 3 very small rooted cuttings of 'Homestead Purple' around the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum's new "Every Child Outdoors" Youth Vegetable Garden.  Each plant was just around 3 inches tall.  By May, each plant was so large many visitors believed the Verbana that were spilling out of the beds must have been there for years (We had only just built the garden!).

'Homestead Purple' is an impressive, reliable perennial that can't be beat in a "transition zone" garden.

North Creek Nurseries
Stills, Steven M. Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants.

Photo from:


  1. I think the Verbena is a very cool looking flower. It reminds me of the flaux and geraniums my great aunt used to grow.

    I will have to add this to our garden as we are trying to attract more butterflies to our yard.

    1. This would make a good addition. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the 'Homestead Purple' variety. It seems to be more vigorous than other verbenas on the market. Good luck James!

  2. Did you know that this is officially Glandularia canadensis!?!? CRAZY! I'd like to know when that move happened...

    1. WhawhawhaWHAT? What is up with those taxonomy people? Thanks for sharing Jared

  3. Awesome info about verbena Plante,
    I grow in it my Company gardens in vast area which mostly contains , White ,Purple, Dark red, light violet.