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A couple of years ago I saw a deal for a bundle pack of flower seeds for a very cheap purchase price. My garden was looking quite bare and I wanted some colourful flowers that would grow at all heights to create some interesting visuals. I also wanted flowers that would attract insects and in the catalogue where I bought these seeds it said that Verbena was particularly attractive to butterflies.
When I got the seeds I planted them in a small tub especially meant for seedlings with some fresh compost. I placed this in a warm windowsill and eventually I grew about five separate seedlings. I did expect more but I was happy enough with what I managed to grow.
I planted the seedlings outside when it became warm enough in the beginning of May and used a home-made cloche to protect the seedlings until they had adjusted to the climate and had grown substantially to be more sturdy. I planted them in a full sun spot in the garden and they were alongside a fence which they now lean against slightly since they have grown tall.
The variety I have (Verbena bonariensis) is extremely tall (around 6-7 ft) with thin spindly leaves that grow in a V-shape. They flower from June to September in a strong purple with tiny bunches of petals on little heads which you wouldn't think would be so attractive to insects. However, I can testify that both butterflies and bees absolutely love this plant! I especially see a lot of peacock butterflies on the plant. However I have also seen Red Admirals, commas, skippers and several white varieties on them. I also had a nest of tree bees frequently visiting the flowers this last year. The flowers have a rather mild fragrance to me but they must be very attractive to the insects! The head of the flowers are at eye level so you can get excellent views of the landing insects! The flowers really are a beautiful addition to any garden and look fantastic in a flower bed with other lower level flowers nearby.
The plants I cultivated have flowered for two years now. They are best trimmed back in the spring and there is some dead woody branches which usually need to be removed. However, they are very low maintenance in general. I would definitely recommend these to any wildlife gardener who might want to increase insect visitation to the garden.
A short lived perrenial that is great for garden borders.