Mullein Verbascum species

This is:

A potpourri (below) of mullein/Verbascum species information as a supplement to other articles.

A plant-based page rather than our usual topic-based page. It's a pivot point, one list of links to ours and others' articles that involve mulleins.

We're just introducing this set of perennial info pages. This page is in process but Aster's page is complete. We hope you'll take a look there and comment. Let us know if the format was useful, share your suggestions, tell us we shouldn't have this page at all... anything helps.

If you have a dry, sunny area you should grow mullein. Most gardeners are familiar with the common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), a biennial that may come in as a weed and be kept for for its first-year appearance. That's when its huge, fuzzy, gray leaves form a basal rosette. In its blooming year it produces smaller leaves but its flowering stalk may reach well beyond six feet. Too bad it has only one or two tiny yellow flowers open at any one time.



Purple mullein, V. phoeniceum (above) is a whole 'nother story. It's biennial or weakly perennial (will usually bloom in its first year, and might be back in year three, especially if kept deadheaded), has green leaves, blooms in the cool season (spring, and may revive and bloom again in fall), is just 18" tall in bloom and each stem is loaded with purple, rose or white flowers.

Hybrid mulleins (right) such as the 'Cotswold' group ('Cotswold King', 'Cotswold Queen' etc.) and the 'Southern Charm' mix are gray-foliage, biennial, 36" tall early summer bloomers  in every yellow, orange, salmon and white, sometimes with a contrasting eye.

All the mulleins make great cut flowers. Cutting also keeps them blooming longer, as new flowering stems will form from the base of the cut stem, if the cutting is done before seed begins to ripen on that stem.


Deadheading mullein

Our rule of thumb for deadheading spike-type flowers such as mullein, hollyhock, veronica, and snapdragons is to cut each stalk back to basal leaves as soon as more than half that stalk's length is spent flower and developing seed. This means we cut when there are still blooms opening at the tip, sacrificing those in order to keep the whole plant in flower production. The cut stems still perform well in a vase. We strip off the spent flowers and pods so the flowers and buds at the top can shine.

Above, and in detail at right: A group of purple mullein ripe for deadheading. Arrows mark the stem we'll remove from the white member of the group. The lower, thicker arrow extends along the spent part of the bloom stalk.


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