Verbena Bonariensis

The Towering See-Through Plant

Verbena bonariensis: Brazilian verbena, Purpletop vervain, Purple top vervain

Verbena bonariensis is a tall see-through butterfly plant that attracts a wide range of pollinators to the garden. It is both a perennial and a fast growing annual in colder regions. It's also a favorite nectar flower for monarch butterflies.
Spikes of Purple Goodness

Plant Specs:

  • Perennial: zones 7-10 (lows -17.7 °C or 0 °F)
  • Fast growing annual in colder zones
  • Full sun for full height
  • Below average water needs; drought tolerant
  • Height: 3-4 feet ( up to 6 ft in optimal growing conditions)
  • Width: 1 to 3 ft
  • Flowers: small purple flowers on spikes
monarch butterfly on purple top vervain spike
Coming Out Of The Dark

Pros:

  • Easy ‘no care’ plant
  • Long bloom period – extended with deadheading
  • Easy to view other plants and wildlife ‘through’ it
  • An easy care annual for those in colder garden zones
  • Tall plant that does not require staking
  • Can often be found at nurseries or plant sales
  • Good ‘plant’ to purchase since seedlings start slow

Cons:

  • Flower heads die out earlier without extra care
  • Can start to bend slightly if exposed to high force winds
  • Susceptible to powdery mildew and white flies – (I’ve never had these problems in our northern garden)
Verbena bonariensis is a preferred monarch migration energy drink if you keep up with deadheading over the summer. More Photos and Info...
Fueling Up for the Monarch Migration

Tips:

  • Start with plants for a longer bloom season
  • Deadheading will promote more flowering
  • The see-through quality of this plant makes it a great combo plant idea for lots of butterfly garden plants
  • Works well in combination with some milkweed species…gives egg laying mamas a convenient station to refuel
One of the Many, Many Butterflies drawn to Verbena bonariensis each Summer is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
One Tailed Male

Pollinator Plus:

Verbena bonariensis also attracts bumble bees, commas, eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries, giant swallowtails, hairsteaks, honey bees, hummingbird moths, hummingbirds, painted ladies, red admirals, skippers, sulphurs, and more. (If you know of others, please comment below.)

Resources:

1.  Find Verbena Bonariensis Plants & Seeds at Joyful Butterfly

2. Find Brazilian Verbena on Etsy

3.  Find Verbena on Amazon

I recommend planting 5-6 together  to achieve maximum butterfly attracting effect.

Click Here to Find More Butterfly Plants.

Please post below if you have any questions or comments about growing Verbena bonariensis in your garden:
Share the Joy of Butterflies

49 Comments

  1. Was very happy to have found some ragged looking six packs on sale in late May. No one else wanted them! Even happier to have them this year with the heat and drought in lower plains 6b. They have been one of the best plants in the garden under those conditions. Pretty much every butterfly in the garden visits them. The skippers are on them all day. Others we’ve had on the verbena include painted ladies, fritillaries, common buckeyes, hairstreaks, sulphurs, cabbage white, marine blue, hummingbird moths and just in the last week monarchs (egg laying females do indeed like having them near milkweed and will go back and forth). Strangely the black swallowtails and tiger swallowtails haven’t really used them. We have two patches of 4 plants and 1 patch of 8 in 4-6 hours morning sun. Amazing plants that can be so easily incorporated!

  2. I may be wrong, but mine seems to have bloomed twice. I thought the blooming was done during summer to fall (it’s still fall though) and I was ready to prune the long stems when a second bloom began. It’s fully in bloom again. Either that or I’m hallucinating.

    I wonder if anyone else can confirm this.

  3. Hi, I live in Mpls and been looking for a climbing host plant for my butterfly garden next year. I am new to all this and saw you are from Minnesota and might have some tips on which ones will he a nice host plant and wont take over the garden. Thanks

  4. hello, do you know how to clip them and grow new plants (what I call Mama Method) from the same plant? I have one, but I want to have two Verbenas… without spending more $….
    Any help would be appreciated…

    1. After initial blooms, they grow and seed quickly…we’ve never tried cuttings from this plant before so hopefully someone will share their experience

    2. If you have only ONE plant you will have a thousand next year. In zone 6, USA, they die back and reappear each yr. Do NOT use heavy mulch and they will reappear faithfully year after year, One seed will produce one 3 foot plant with branches all along the main stem. Strong winds never bothered mine. Every butterfly and teeny butterflies, and good flying bugs will entertain you.

    3. That is no problem. They drop their seeds and produce babies all throughout your garden. For years I was pulling them out thinking they were weeds. Only then did I realize that they were babies. So you really don’t need to worry in fact you might get tired of pulling them out because they can spread everywhere if you let them. Just take a good look at the leaves and you will soon be able to spot them and have enough for your friends.

    4. It seeds readily in my stone pathway. Also in the garden soil but nowhere as exuberantly. Maybe even put a cluster of pebbles nearby

  5. I love this verbena – it comes back every year, takes no care, and is beautiful. In addition to attracting butterflies, yellow finches love it (piedmont of NC). It’s very easy to pull up if you have more in an area than you want.

    1. Very true! My socal garden has lots of FInches who feat on them, dangles gracefully and carefree!

  6. I received Verbena Bonariensis seeds from a friend. When is the best time of year to plant them in NW Indiana?

    1. Hi Susan, I would plant ASAP…June is on the late side to plant seeds.

    2. Hi Susan, depends on where you live, I am Zone 9, hot sunny summers; as long as there is water in the soil, my Verbena Bonariensis germinate year round (mild winter here). The seeds fall scatter all over the ground, and I have to ‘weed’ them out. Annually, I salvage baby ones into pots, and literally, I send them as presents with dozens in each pot! It’s really easy in our soil and temperatures.

    1. TRANSPLANTING QUESTION

      Several of Verbena Bonariensis plants came up in my yard this year. I have no idea where they came from as this was a lawn three years ago and I never planted them, but I do like them now that they’re here. They’re in the front of my garden, however, and quite tall. I’m wondering how I can move them toward the back. Do they transplant well? Is there an ideal time to move them? Or am I better off collecting the seeds this fall and dropping them toward the back and just pulling the plants that are in the front?

      I love in Milwaukee, WI, in zone 5.

      1. Hi Sheila, they will seed, but they are not perennial here…seeds are your best option for having some back yard plants. Seedlings transplant easily.

  7. Please don’t recommend invasive plants. They should not be sold or planted. There are plenty of native plants that are loved by pollinators. I spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to kill this plant and preventing it invading native habitats and displacing native plants.

    1. Hi Heather, there is room for both native and non…the climate is changing and so must our attitudes about some non-native plants. If verbena is invasive in your region, don’t plant it. It’s a fantastic northern annual.

      1. I’m in Michigan, in metro Detroit. I planted the verbena once and they come back every year. Last winter we hit 15 degrees below zero in winter.

        I manage them by simply pulling them out. No big deal. The monarchs love them. There are hundreds of monarchs on them around the Grand Hotel in the upper Peninsula. Quite a sight.

    2. I find plants that are invasive in some areas are not necessarily invasive in others. Crocosmia is certainly a nuisance in my nieces garden in the PNW but not in my garden. It just helps to understand your own garden.

  8. Hi, I have just planted several verbena B in my Melbourne garden in a very sunny position. We know them here as “thrillers and fillers” and I’m loving the continual blooming, but I am encountering powdery mildew on the leaves. I’m wondering whether this is a result of over watering. I water every second day because we have had such a long hot summer. The plants are quite juvenile 40cm high.
    Can you suggest a remedy

  9. In California, I have a large plant f Verbena. It is going well. However, during it now has a white coat on the bottom part of the pant? How do I treat it?

  10. What do you mean by “commas”?

    “Verbena bonariensis also attracts bumble bees, commas, eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries” (….)

  11. So happy to see about the verbena. I have had it for years. Really don’t know where I got my first ones. Does reseed in northern IL. They reseeded along my front sidewalk. I do have some in back but will definitely move some by my butterfly weed. I did have two caterpillars last year. Even a video of one eating… Can’t wait to see what happens this year. Glad I find so much info on here…

    1. Hi Steve, I’ve never started Verbena indoors before, but would probably try starting seeds 2-4 weeks before planting…from what I’ve seen outdoors, it grows quickly from seed.

      1. Verbena Bonariensis was very attractive to our Common Buckeye butterfly. The gathered seeds Winter Sowed very good in the milk jugs too.

  12. Verbena Bonariensisis: I am able to get locally the Buenos Aires which will grow 3′ tall, Meteor Showers 2′ tall and Lollipop 2′. Will any of these varieties work for the Moarchs or are there better choices out there?

    1. Hi Bill, we mistakenly purchased one of the dwarf varieties last year (I think it was lollipop) and all pollinators completely ignored it…I would plant the regular variety if you can find it.

      1. Is Buenos Aires considered one of the regular varieties at 3′ tall?If not do you know the common names of the ones that are.
        Thanks for your help Tony.

        1. I did some research on the Verbena Bonariensisis Buenos Aires and the plant height itself is around 2’ and the flower heads will be 4’ tall. If I am not able to find any other varieties, that is the one I will be doing this year. Will let you know how it does.
          Thanks again for all your info on your site.

    1. Hi Terry, lilacs aren’t a favored monarch nectar source, but they’ll use it if other nectar sources aren’t available.

  13. Love the info. I’ve started them from seed and hope to get good blooms from them. I’m in zone 8, have only lived this far south for 3 years. Have lots of butterfly attractors. Coreopsis, zinnias, Mexican sage, other perennial sages, lantanas, cone flowers, rudbeckias, some shrubs, etc. Now I need to learn the butterfly species found here. Betty

  14. Hi, Tony,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful website. We grow verbena bonariensis in central Florida, and the Queens and Zebra Longwings spend all day working it over, as do also the species you listed. You’re right about growing for monarchs, and ending up with all kinds of butterflies. Just today, I counted 9 species in our garden.

  15. Hi Tony. Have a question on the Verbena Bonariensis. I have some plants that grew last season that are still alive after some very cold weather. Would it be best to leave the tall stalks or cut them back. If I do cut them back, do I cut back to the base where the new growth is? Thank you so much for your help.

    Jo Lynn

    1. Hi Jo Lynn, in Minnesota I have actually been able to grow some perennially and they grew back from the roots. Keep in mind OE spores could also be present on resused nectar plants, so I would cut them back to about 6″ and let fresh grow emerge for the returning butterflies.

  16. Hi Brian, I plant the see-through plant all over the garden because so many pollinators like it and it doesn’t crowd out other plants. I have leaf mulched it before and it did come back. However, if spring is cool it takes them too long to come back. We buy plants every season at a plant sale and having blooming verbena the entire season.

    We always have lots of volunteers come up later in the season…there’s still a lot of viable verbena seedlings out there now, and the bees and stray butterflies are still enjoying them.

    We typically get 12 plants…the most I put together is 4. I do it different every year. I like spreading them out. I’m sure they would love a patch of 6 together too.

  17. Hi Tony,

    We live north of Detroit, so our winters are probably as cold as yours (maybe a little warmer). We grew verbena bonariensis for the first time this year and found it did best in a full sun location. The monarchs and black swallowtails loved them.

    My question is, does the plant reseed well in your area, or do you end up buying new plants and just enjoy the volunteers as they pop up? If you do replant, how close should I space a six pack of verbena bonariensis to get the maximum effect?

    Thanks

  18. DEADHEADING QUESTION

    Since my v. bonariensis has a three-foot tall stalk (mine are three feet tall) and a short / small head of flowers, where should I cut / deadhead? At the ground level, at the flower level, somewhere in between?

    I planted six very healthy one-gallon plants (propagated by Grandiflora, in Gainesville, FL) last September and they began blooming profusely and beautifully in April — the “first nectar magnet” for butterflies in my garden.

    In early July their flowers became spent and I’m pleased to have found your blog / website.

    I will appreciate your help with this deadheading question.

    I live in Charleston, SC.

    1. Hi Jock,

      verbena should be cut toward the top. From the spent flower, just go down to the first node below it where you see two leaves starting to grow. Cut right above this node. New flowers will develop from there. Hope this helps!

  19. Hi! I’m a newbie and wanted to know if this verbena can survive in a partial shady area that gets late afternoon sun. I know it was stated that for full height, it likes full sun. I’m not too concerned about the height, but wanted to know if it will flower less if it doesn’t get full sun. Thank you so much for your time!

    1. Hi Brenda, congrats on your new butterfly garden! I plant verbena (and it also reseeds) in different areas of the yard that receive varying amounts of light. It grows most vigorous in full sun, but it will do just fine in partial shade and still attract butterflies. Remember that you can also deadhead verbena to promote new flower growth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.