How to Grow Blue Vervain Verbena Hastata

blue vervain verbena hastata flowerBlue Vervain Facts

Blue Vervain, or Verbena Hastata is a tall perennial herb with spiked purple flowers.  This native plant typically grows about 4’ tall, but I’ve grown them well over 6’ (2m). They love full sun and can thrive in a variety of conditions. Pollinators love them, and the blooms are long lived.  They often do well in wet conditions as well, as I’ve often encountered them growing at the edge of ponds. But, it isn’t uncommon to find them growing in the middle of a field or meadow with no standing water nearby.   Allegedly cows can pass the seeds through digestion, so birds probably do the same.  This will help them spread quite a bit. 

I’ve not had any trouble with disease or pests on these plants.  Nothing seems to bother them, and the only thing I see visiting are bees and butterflies.  This is an all-around easy, beautiful plant to grow.  I’ve read that others have occasional rabbit damage, but this has never been a problem in my garden.

My testimonial

So, although this plant mainly grows along ponds, etc.  I have witnessed it in pastures on top of hills with no visible spring or water source.  So, I tried growing six of these in my backyard micro prairie.  And…..they flourished.  I don’t know if it was my super simple compost, or just dumb luck.  But they grew 6′ (2m) tall.  They were happy-happy-happy in the full sun rocky-clay.  They would make a great tall border plant, or a focal point of a wildflower garden or micro prairie.  Be sure to check out how to make your own micro-prairie here, as it is key to bringing in the most wildlife to your yard.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom, where we have a thorough reference table summarizing all relevant information on this flower for growing and characteristics.blue vervain bloom leaf

Does Blue Vervain make a good cut flower?

Blue Vervain is an excellent cut flower.  It makes great ‘filler’ in bouquets.  So, if you have a variety of flowers that overlap in bloom times, you can make a beautiful bouquet, using this to fill gaps, etc.  We have cut flowers nearly all summer, and make some stunning bouquets with Echinacea, False Sunflower, and others – but mixing in Blue Vervain.  The clusters of small purple spikes add interest and really fill out the bouquet.  

DON’T FORGET TO PIN IT FOR LATER:

How to Grow Blue Vervain Verbena Hostata

Growing Requirements

This plant needs full sun to reach its full potential, but a bit of shade won’t hurt it too much.  More sun will equal more blooms though.  Since it is a native perennial, if you mimic the conditions it prefers, then it will require minimal care.

The first time I grew this plant I had six in front of some Monarda/BeeBalm.  And the taller Vervain being located in front of the bee balm meant that they had almost all available sunlight. These plants quickly shot up to 6’ tall, so I wasn’t able to enjoy my bee balm as much as I would have liked .  But, no worries.  I plant to relocate them to the back of the garden this Spring!

A wild specimen I found growing along the edge of a pond.

Growing from seed

Germinating Blue Vervain from seed is really easy.  I’ve had high germination rates with the following simple method…..put them on top of bare soil or in pots.  And do this in winter, or very early Spring. That’s it. This seed needs light to germinate, so covering it with dirt will likely prevent germination/sprouting.  Just keep the seeds moist, but not wet.  Mother nature will do the rest.

blue vervain seedling 1
Blue Vervain Seedling (Verbena Hastata)

How to harvest Blue Vervain seed

This is one of the easiest seeds to harvest.  All you have to do is wait until the purple spikes turn brown/dry a bit.  Then, snip off the spikes and store them in a paper bag in a cool/dry place for at least a week.  After a week has gone by, you just need to hold the base of the spike with one hand, lightly pinch the base with your thumb/index finger of your other hand and move in a motion going from the base to the ends.  The seeds will just fall off with almost no chaff. This is really one of the easiest, and cleanest seeds to harvest. You can then store them somewhere cool/dry in envelopes, baggies, etc.

verbena hastata seed head seeds
Blue Vervain Seed head and seeds

 

Is Blue Vervain edible?

Per the USDA, it has been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments (cough/fever, etc).  However, too much of this plant can cause diarrhea.  Additionally it is said that this plant can interfere with your blood pressure medication – so I would not recommend eating it.  In fact, I would suggest that you just avoid consuming it.  Better to let the doctors or pharmacy treat any ailments you have….

blue vervain seedling 2
Blue Vervain Seedling, planted in fall.

Faunal associations

This is one plant that the rabbits and deer seem to avoid.  I have never seen any damage to them, unlike many other nearby plants.  I’ve also not seen any pests that really damage this plant, and it seems to be very hardy all around.

But pollinators love this plant.  Since the flowers start at the bottom of the spike and bloom upward over time, you are sure to have plenty of visitors for a long time.

Reference Table

 

Common Name Blue Vervain
Scientific name Verbena Hastata
Bloom Time Mid-Summer, July/August
Bloom Duration Long, 4 weeks or more
Color Dark Blue / Purple
Bloom Size Tall spiked flowers at the top of the plant.  4-6” spikes
Characteristics Narrow, clustered spikes of dark blue/purple
Height Typically 4’, but up to 6’
Spacing/Spread 2’ (60cm)
Light Requirements Full sun, partial shade
Soil Types Almost any – very adaptable.  Does well in my clay soil
Moisture Moist to medium
Maintenance Minimal
Typical Use Borders, along ponds, back of a flower bed
Fauna Associations Bees, Butterflies.  Songbirds eat the seeds.
Larval Host Common Buckeye
Sowing Depth Surface
Stratification 60 days for a good germination rate
Native Range East of the Rocky Mountains
Notes Makes a great cut flower

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