Mulleins, like the related foxglove, bear spikes of colorful flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, yellow, and orange during the summer months. A number of mulleins grow from rosettes and have attractive felted, gray foliage.
- Common name: Mullein
- Botanical name: Verbascum spp.
- Zones: 3 to 10, depending on species
- Size: To 10 feet tall, depending on species
- From: Areas of Europe and Asia
- Family: Scrophulariaceae (foxglove family)
- Sun: Full sun or partial shade
- Soil: Well-drained alkaline soil is important. Most mulleins adapt well to poor, rocky soils.
- Moisture: Many types are drought tolerant, but some require moisture during times of drought.
- Mulch: A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants will help prevent weeds.
- Pruning: Cut down dead stalks in autumn after they freeze or in early spring before the plants begin to grow.
- Fertilizer: Extra fertilizer isn't usually necessary.
- Staking: Taller types may need staking when in bloom. To avoid harming the root system, sink a tall stick into the ground a short distance from the plant. Use a figure-eight pattern to tie the plant, with the stem in one loop and the stake in the other. This helps prevent excessive rubbing, which can leave a wound and allow diseases to enter the plant.
- Seed: Sow seed in spring. Seeds germinate best at about 60°F. Note: Seeds from hybrids rarely grow into plants that look like their parents. Purchase new hybrid seeds instead of collecting them.
- Powdery mildew: This disease appears in mid- to late summer. Affected leaves develop a gray powdery covering and fall off the plant. To deter the disease, prune the plant to maintain good airflow, and avoid wetting foliage in afternoons and evenings.
- Rot: Plant only in well-drained soil; in soil that doesn't drain well, the plants will rot and die.
- In many gardens, mulleins self-seed readily. In some parts of the country, certain species are considered weeds. Check for local restrictions before planting.
- Most mulleins are short lived, so they're best treated as biennials. To have blooming plants each year, plant seed every year. Plants usually flower the second year from seed.
- Verbascum bombyciferum: Short-lived perennial with a rosette of felted leaves and summertime spikes of deep yellow flowers. To 8 feet tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- Verbascum chaixii: Short-lived perennial with a rosette of felted leaves and summertime spikes of light yellow flowers. To 3 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum chaixii ‘Album': Similar to the species, except it bears spikes of white flowers. To 3 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum ‘Helen Johnson': Short-lived perennial with a rosette of felted leaves and summertime spikes of light peach flowers. To 2 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum ‘Jackie': Short-lived perennial with velvety green leaves and early spikes of peachy pink flowers. To 2 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum olympicum: Short-lived perennial with a rosette of very hairy, felted leaves and summertime spikes of yellow flowers. To 6 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum ‘Pink Domino': Short-lived perennial with a rosette of felted dark green leaves and early summer spikes of rosy pink flowers. To 4 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Verbascum thapsus: Biennial with a rosette of off-white, felted leaves and summertime spikes of yellow flowers. To 6 feet tall. Zones 3 to 9.