Is verbena a perennial or annual plant?

Is verbena a perennial or annual plant?

As the weather gets cooler toward the end of the growing season, you may wonder, “Is verbena a perennial that will come back every year?” The answer depends on the type of verbena you grow and your local climate. Although many species are technically perennials, gardeners typically grow verbena as annuals, purchasing the plants from a garden center in the spring, enjoying them all summer, and allowing them to die back with the arrival of fall frost. Here's how long you can expect your verbena plants to last.

Justin Hancock


Is verbena perennial?

Verbena is a diverse group of plants with annual and perennial species. Some are grown as ornamental plants that offer clusters of small, star-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, red and white. It can bloom for weeks and attract pollinators.

Plant labels or descriptions often list annuals as “semi-hardy annuals.” What does it mean? Plants listed as semi-hardy annuals are often technically perennials that do not have a high tolerance for frost and cold weather, so they are treated as annuals instead. Verbena plants are also referred to as tender perennials because they are sensitive to freezing temperatures and will likely not survive winter in cold climates.

Types of verbena

Most geraniums grown in gardens are hardy in USDA zones 8-11, although a few will tolerate cooler climates. Verbena perennials are primarily short-lived, lasting only a few years.

Verbena Garden

Justin Hancock

Verbena in the garden (Verbena s hybrid) is the most common type. It is available in single and bi-flowers in dozens of colors. Many of them have a trailing habit and do well in hanging baskets, planters and window boxes. Upright varieties of garden verbena are excellent for flower beds and large planters. It blooms reliably throughout the summer, although it may slow down a bit in hot weather and rebound again as temperatures drop. Newer hybrids tolerate heat and dry conditions well and require less deadheading.

Blue verbena

Andreas Trautmanndorf


blue verbena (Verbena spear) is a native wildflower that attracts pollinators. Its flowers are clustered in clusters of spikes that resemble candelabra. They bloom like snapdragons, with the lower flowers opening first and progressing up the stem. Unlike many verbenas, blue verbena will tolerate moist soil. It is hardy in Zones 3-8.

Purpletop Verbena

Matthew Benson

purple verbena (Verbena bonariensis) Hardy in Zones 7-11. Its wiry stems reach 3-6 feet tall and bear clusters of small purple flowers that are popular with pollinators, especially butterflies. It is native to South America and is sometimes considered a weed in warm climate countries, where it can be replanted vigorously. The tall stems and airy flowers make an attractive cut flower for the vase, and the plants grow easily from seed.

Rose verbena

Dean Shopner

pink verbena (Canadian verbena) It is native to much of the south-central United States. It is more cold tolerant than many verbenas and is hardy in Zones 5-9. It does best in drier, sandy soils and grows in a compact, spreading form along the ground. Rose verbena is excellent for rock gardens or the front edge of a perennial border.

Verbena tuberous

Marty Baldwin


Tuberous Verbena, also called Hard Verbena or Slender Verbena (Verbena is harsh), is a spreading ground cover. Verbena, native to South America but naturalized in the American South, spreads by rhizomes. It blooms in 2-3 inch clusters of purple flowers and does well in containers. It is hardy in zones 7 to 10, although it may need winter protection in the cooler part of the range.

Lemon verbena

Peter Cromhardt

lemon verbena (Aloisia citrudora) belongs to the same plant family as other verbena but belongs to a different genus, so it doesn't look very similar. It is actually a hardy woody shrub in zones 8-11. Its leaves are very fragrant and are often used to impart a citrus flavor to baked goods such as cookies and drinks, including lemon verbena tea.

When to plant verbena

Because most verbenas are sensitive to freezing temperatures, they should be planted after all danger of frost has passed in the spring. Plant them outside at about the same time as tomatoes and other warmth-loving plants. Don't forget to harden them for a week or ten days first, then put them outside for progressively longer periods and bring them in at night.

More about perennials for your garden

With our planting guide, you can make the most of your perennials and see which plants you can pair them with to make your garden as flower-filled as possible. If you have difficult clay soil, these 24 perennials are the best options for your garden. Avoid these common mistakes when planting perennials, and you'll be rewarded with colorful blooms. Start with this garden plan and add pink, purple and yellow flowers.

Frequently asked questions

  • Should I kill my verbena?

    Although not necessary, the faded flowers falling from your verbena plant will encourage more blooms and keep the plant looking neat. However, it will still maintain some amount of bloom even if you forget.

  • Will deer eat verbena?

    Grazing plants are deer resistant and are often overlooked in favor of other, tastier plants by ungulate browsers. It is also resistant to rabbits, especially as the plants get older and hardier.

  • Does verbena have an odor?

    Verbena flowers don't have much of a scent, but many people think that verbena leaves smell like lemon. Others report that the scent is clean and refreshing. And to some, it doesn't smell like anything.

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