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What Is a Trailing Verbena?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Trailing verbena is a member of the Verbenaceae genus of flowering plants. It is often used as a ground cover because of its propensity to stretch out in spindly vines and its capability of directly rooting into the soil as it spreads. Trailing verbena is also a common addition to hanging baskets, as tendrils will spill forth creating a fountain of blooms during the spring and summer months. These vines are primarily used in decorative gardening and landscaping, and are particularly popular in butterfly gardens.

The Verbenaceae genus grows natively throughout most of North and South America, and has been successfully introduced in many other parts of the world. Trailing varieties are most common in warmer climates, but they have proved generally hardy and weather resistant. In warm areas, the plant is usually a perennial, which means that it blooms and thrives year-round. When exposed to cold winters, however, the vines adopt characteristics of an annual, typically dying off with the onset of cold, but growing anew in the spring.

Most verbenas are characterized by their vibrant and sweet-smelling blooms, and trailing varieties are no exception. Trailing verbena flowers tend to be deep violet in color, but sometimes look lilac or dark blue, depending on lighting and soil conditions. In most areas, they will bloom sporadically throughout the year. Flowers usually have a lifespan of only a few weeks, but most vines produce multiple bloom rounds each season.

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Growing verbena vines is usually quite simple. The plants should usually be planted in the mid-spring, once the ground has had a chance to thaw, else started in pots indoors. Once transplanted, they should be watered regularly. Ordinarily they can withstand drought conditions rather well, but right at first a lot of moisture is an important part of caring for verbena.

Trailing verbena are commonly planted in the soil as simple, fast-growing ground covers. A small starter plant will usually quickly spread in all directions, creeping across any available open spaces. The blooms, which appear near the ground, often form something akin to a carpet of color throughout the summer. Butterflies are particularly drawn to the nectar of these low-lying blooms, which makes trailing verbena an excellent addition to a butterfly garden.

Hanging baskets of trailing verbena cascades are also particularly attractive to hummingbirds. Nature enthusiasts who wish to attract wildlife to their gardens or yards often choose these trailing varieties rather than opting for other decorative plants. Blooms often carry a gentle, pleasing fragrance, as well.

There are some cosmetic uses for verbena, particularly where the flowers’ essential oil is concerned. Trailing verbena do not usually produce the most useful flowers for oil production. Smaller, more upright varieties often carry higher concentrations of oil, and are generally easier to cultivate in fixed rows, pots, and harvest schemes. The somewhat wild growing pattern of the trailing varieties often makes them more costly to commercially produce, though their oils are generally just as potent.

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