Tall plant fuzzy leaves yellow flowers

What Is Mullein: Learn About Growing Mullein Uses And Disadvantages

You’ve likely seen mullein plants growing in fields and along roadsides. They’re often attractive, with tall spikes of yellow flowering rosettes. This biennial plant, Verbascum thapsus, was historically used as an herbal treatment for coughs, congestion, chest colds, bronchitis and inflammation. Native Americans and soldiers during the Civil War era made teas from leaves of mullein plants to treat asthma. During the 1800’s, settlers used their compounds to treat tuberculosis.

Information About Growing Mullein

Common mullein plants are large, erect specimens with huge, furry leaves and tall stalks of yellow flower rosettes. The attractive foliage and flowers, as well as mullein uses, lead some to grow mullein in gardens. However, common mullein produces seeds prolifically, leaving them for decades before germination. Seeds often germinate in disturbed areas of roadways, fields and river banks.

This may lead the gardener to wonder, “What is mullein?” and “Should I think of growing mullein in gardens?” Common mullein in gardens is considered a noxious and invasive weed in many states, but more than 300 varieties of ornamental mullein plants can grow in the garden or natural area without abundant reseeding.

How to Grow Mullein in Gardens

Learning how to grow mullein is easy; just watch it grow once it has sprouted, if you have the common type. Varieties of mullein, or velvet plants, in gardens need a little more care.

Mullein plants of the common variety can grow as tall at 10 feet when flowering. Once you’ve planted mullein in gardens, expect to spend time removing fuzzy rosettes if you don’t want it to spread. Remove the flower stalk before seeds have dispersed to avoid abundant spread. Hybrid types of mullein in the garden are not as invasive as the common type.

Grouped together and called ornamental mullein, hybrid varieties are more suitable when growing mullein in gardens. Flower in colors of white, pink, lavender and yellow compliment the sunny garden. Wand mullein is another option for the sunny flower bed. Ornamental mullein uses include any area with good drainage and full sun. Flower stalks are striking when in bloom.

Allow plenty of space for plants to develop, although new cultivars reach only 5 feet, with some bred to be only 18 inches in height. Most hybrids are biennials or short lived perennials.

Now that you’ve learned what is mullein, you can make an informed decision before growing it or letting it stay in your landscape.

Herb to Know: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Versatile, fuzzy mullein is a gardener’s friend, an herbalist’s delight and an engineering marvel all on its own. A member of the snapdragon family, mullein has flowers that are flat and open, unlike the irregular “dragon faces” of snapdragons. Within the Scrophulariaceae family, the genus Verbascum consists of about 300 species native to Europe, West and Central Asia, and North Africa. Most are tall, stout biennials with large leaves and flowers in long terminal spikes. The species best-known among herbalists is the homely but useful common mullein, V. thapsus.
First-year plants form a rosette of large, velvety leaves up to 1 foot long. In the second year, a velvety flower spike grows to 8 feet tall. The stalk has alternate leaves that clasp the stem, a nifty arrangement that directs rainwater down the stem to the roots. From June to September, five-petaled yellow flowers 1/4 to 1 inch across bloom randomly in the dense, club-shaped terminal cluster. The three upper stamens, which are short and woolly, contain a sap that lures insects to the plant. The two lower stamens, which are longer and smooth, produce the pollen that fertilizes the flower.
Several mullein species with more attractive leaves or flowers are prized garden ornamentals. These include the moth mullein (V. blattaria), with light pink to white flowers; Olympic (or Greek) mullein (V. olympicum), with 8-foot branching stalks and golden yellow flowers; purple mullein (V. phoeniceum), a 3-foot perennial with long-blooming flowers; and nettle-leaf mullein (V. chaixii), with purple-centered yellow or white long-blooming flowers. Many beautiful and showy hybrids also have been developed.

Also Known As

The name mullein probably comes from the Latin word mollis, meaning soft, referring to the plant’s woolly stem and leaves. The name also might relate to the Latin malandrium, meaning malanders, a cattle disease for which mullein was used as a remedy.
A couple of folk names for mullein have more intriguing associations. “Candlewick plant” refers to the old practice of using the dried down of mullein leaves and stems to make lamp wicks. Some say mullein stems once were dipped in tallow to make torches either used by witches or used to repel them, hence the name “hag taper.” The custom of using mullein for torches dates back at least to Roman times.
“Jacob’s staff,” “Jupiter’s staff” and “Aaron’s rod” all have been used as names for the tall flower stalks. The plant’s soft leaves also are known commonly as “bunny’s ears” and “flannel leaf.

Traditional and Modern Uses

Mullein tea is a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, such as chest colds, bronchitis and asthma. Mullein leaf tea is slightly bitter; a tea of the flowers is sweeter. Both the leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins, which make coughs more productive. Research has shown that the herb has strong anti-inflammatory activity, and lab studies suggest that mullein flower infusions have antiviral properties, as well.
Many of mullein’s traditional medicinal uses were similar throughout the Old and New World, but whether European settlers learned to use the herb from Native Americans or vice versa is open to debate. Besides using mullein leaf and flower teas to treat respiratory problems, some Native Americans also used the plant’s roots. The Creek Indians drank a decoction of the roots for coughs; other tribes smoked the roots or dried leaves to treat asthma.
Topical applications were equally varied. The Cherokee rubbed mullein leaves in their armpits to treat “prickly rash.” Leaf poultices were used to treat bruises, tumors, rheumatic pains and hemorrhoids. Mullein flower oil (made by steeping the flowers in warm olive oil) also has been used for treating hemorrhoids, as well as earaches.
Mullein leaves have been used in cosmetic preparations to soften skin. “Quaker rouge” refers to the practice of reddening cheeks by rubbing them with a mullein leaf. And a yellow dye extracted from the flowers has been used since Roman times as a hair rinse as well as to dye cloth.
Like many other herbs, mullein is not entirely benign. Some people find the plant’s hairs irritating to skin and mucous membranes. It’s a good idea to see how you react to a small amount of mullein before consuming it or smearing it on your body. And always strain the tea through fine-weave cloth or a coffee filter to remove any stray hairs.

Mullein is drought-resistant and grows easily from seed. Sow a small pinch of seeds about 18 inches apart and 1/16 inch deep in ordinary, well-drained soil, toward the back of the border or bed. A location in full sun is preferable, but mullein will grow in light shade. Clumps of seedlings and low rosettes will arise the first year. By the second year, the mature plants will provide a tall vertical element in the garden. Mullein self-sows readily, so take care to pull out unwanted plants to keep your mullein patch tidy.

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Where to Buy Mullein

Family:

Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Other Names:

Origin and Distribution:

Common mullein is a native of Eurasia that was brought into North America by early settlers. Once introduced, it apparently spread rapidly and was so widely established by the early 1800’s that it was erroneously identified as a native species. Its present distribution includes all of the U.S. and southern Canada. Common mullein grows abundantly throughout Ohio. The weed is usually found in disturbed areas such as railroads, roadsides, fence rows, old fields, pastures, and agronomic fields. It prefers to grow on dry and stoney soils.

Plant Description:

Common mullein is a biennial that forms a rosette of basal leaves during its first year of growth. Rosette leaves can be over a foot long and are densely covered on both sides with soft hairs. As a result, leaves feel soft and wooly like flannel. Each rosette produces a solitary, erect, 2- to 8-foot tall flowering stem. Leaves located on the stem are wooly but smaller than rosette leaves and instead of having leaf stalks (petioles), they attach directly to the stem such that their base continues for a distance down the length of the stem producing a winged appearance. The top of the flowering stem is densely packed with 5-lobed, saucer-shaped, sulfur-yellow flowers. The species reproduces by seeds.

  • Root System:

    Common mullein forms fibrous roots and a deep taproot.

  • Seedlings and Shoots:

    The first two leaves are paired and minutely-hairy. Later leaves are alternate (1 leaf per node), wooly, and attached by way of flattened, hairy leaf stalks (petioles). During the first year, plants form a basal rosette that can be 30 inches wide and consists of many wooly, light green leaves.

  • Stems:

    The flowering stem is erect, rigid, up to 8 feet tall, and covered with wooly, branched hairs. Stems appear winged due to leaf bases that extend longitudinally down the stem. Although stems are solitary, they may have a few upright branches near the top.

  • Leaves:

    Leaves are densely covered on both sides with hairs giving them a frosted appearance and a flannel-like texture. Rosette leaves are oblong, 6 to 15 inches long, rounded at the tip, tapered at the base, and attached to the compressed stem of the rosette by way of short petioles. Leaves located on the flowering stem are alternate (1 leaf per node) and resemble rosette leaves except they become smaller and more pointed as their location gets closer to the top of the stem. Rather than having petioles, stem leaves attach directly to the stem such that their base extends for a distance down the stem giving it a winged appearance.

  • Flowers:

    The sulfur-yellow (rarely white) petals are united at the base and deeply 5-lobed at the top forming a saucer-like shape less than 1 inch in diameter. The top of the flowering stem is densely packed with flowers, which lack stalks so they attach directly to the stem.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    Fruits are downy capsules that are round and about 1/4 inch in diameter. Each capsule splits when mature into 2 cells filled with numerous tiny, dark brown seeds. The surface of each seed is marked with wavy ridges.

Similar Species:

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is a related species that is also a biennial and similar in appearance to common mullein. However, moth mullein lacks the densely hairy foliage that characterizes common mullein. Also, it is a more slender plant, its leaves are toothed, and its flowers are not as densely packed on the flowering stem.

Biology:

Common mullein blooms from June through September. Plants must reach a critical size before flowering is initiated, which normally occurs during the second year but may be delayed until the forth year of growth. An individual plant produces 100,000 to 180,000 seeds. Seeds have no special mechanisms for dispersal and usually fall close to the parent plant. Once buried in soil, they can become dormant and survive for years. In a study begun in 1879, common mullein seeds buried in soil remained viable for 35 years. Dense hairs on the leaves and stems tend to make the plant unpalatable to cattle and other livestock. The dense hairs may also inhibit moisture loss from leaves. Hairs covering the leaves can intercept herbicides and prevent them from entering the plant. Therefore, control measures other than chemical are often employed. Mowing can be used to inhibit flower formation, but if mowing is not repeated, then rosettes generally form another flower stalk. Cultivation is effective as a method of controlling common mullein. Also, various insects have been successfully used as biological control agents.

Toxicity:

The hairy leaves and stems can cause contact dermatitis. Common mullein foliage and seeds contain a mild narcotic and may induce sleep if eaten in large quantities.

Facts and Folklore:

  • ‘Verbascum’ was likely derived from ‘barbascum’, which is Latin meaning bearded plant.

  • ‘Mullein’ is from the Latin ‘mollis’ meaning soft.

  • Leaves of common mullein have been used as lamp wicks and Romans used plants dipped in fat as torches.

  • Leaves of common mullein were placed inside shoes for warmth.

  • Quaker women, forbidden to use makeup, rubbed the leaves on their cheeks to give the appearance of wearing rouge. The hairs on the leaf caused an allergic reaction to the skin, thus turning the skin red.

  • Common mullein leaves and flowers have been used medicinally to treat various ailments such as lung diseases, diarrhea, colic, migraines, earaches, coughs and colds.

  • Aristotle noted that fish were easier to catch after eating common mullein seeds, which contain a mild narcotic.

  • A yellow dye made from common mullein flowers was used by Roman women to color hair.

Learn how to grow mullein in your garden. Growing mullein is easy, especially in temperate climates, this medicinal herb also embellish with beautiful flowers.

Verbascum phoeniceum “Temptress Purple”

USDA Zones— 5 – 9

Difficulty— Easy

Other Names— Verbascum, White Mullein, Torches, Candlewick Plant, Golden Rod, Velvet Plant, Rag Paper

The impressive wild herb mullein is cultivated for centuries, it is native to Europe and Asia. It is an undemanding plant, which also adorn itself with impressive, colorful flowers. Mullein is a medicinal plant and considered as an expectorant and antiseptic, thus used in bronchitis, asthma and cough and cold.

Mullein is now no longer viewed as a roadside weed, raising on wasteland and fallow land. This is one of the most important plants preferred by landscapers and garden designers who appreciate the extraordinary beauty of its many hybrid cultivars occurring in various colors– from white to yellow and pink to strong purple and light blue. There are about 250 species of mullein, which are either biennials or perennials.

How to Grow Mullein

Propagation

It can be propagated from seeds and cuttings. For growing mullein from seeds, purchase them or if you are collecting them from plants, do it as soon as they appear.

Start mullein seeds indoors in the early spring. Sow seeds by scattering them at the top of the rich potting soil. They may take about two weeks to germinate. Divide the seedlings and transplant them into a larger pot or on the ground when they have grown their real leaves.

Spacing

Particularly taller varieties are planted at a distance of about one meter, shorter varieties are planted 30 cm apart from each other.

Requirements for Growing Mullein

Location

Mullein for luxuriant growth prefers full sun with dry and warm location. Plant mullein near the walls or large trees to provide shelter from wind, to avoid any damage to plant. You can grow mullein near borders, driveways and edges.

Soil

It grows in variety of soil types well-drained as well as in poor, calcareous soil. Soil should be dry and slightly alkaline for the optimum growth of the plant.

Watering

It has low watering requirements but at the time when it starts to flower you can increase watering. However, in any case never keep the soil constantly moist when growing mullein.

Mullein Plant Care

Fertilizer

It is not necessary to fertilize it. Although you can fertilize it at the beginning of the growing season with slow release 10-10-10 fertilizer for fast growth and prolific blooms.

Overwintering

Mullein is frost resistant. It tolerates temperature as low as 5 F (-15 C). Still, mulching is required before frost. Cover the surface around the plant with a thick layer of twigs, leaves and bark to insulate the roots from cold.

Harvesting

The flowers are harvested between June and October, early in the morning and dried in shade. Leaves collected earlier in the day are richer in essential oils, if collected afternoon they contain more glycosides.

Pests and Diseases

Mullein is extremely resistant to pests. Even so aphids attack it but rarely. A heavily compacted soil that is not well draining encourages root rot.

Mullein

Mullein Plants

Verbascum thapsus
Herb gardening for health with our large selection of medicinal herb plants.

Mullein is an easily grown medicinal herb, preferring less than ideal soil conditions, it’s often found by roadsides and in areas considered to have waste soil, such as gravel. Mullein grows to be a tall, erect plant producing flower spikes that yield beautiful yellow flowers. It stays anchored by a long fibrous tap root, much like a carrot, and produces only large hair covered leaves in its first year. Flowering in its second spring, Mullein is capable of self fertilization and produces hundreds of tiny brown seeds which are a favorite food for finches and other seed loving birds.
The plant’s down covering of hairs is irritating to the touch and makes this stout little herb a beautiful deterrent to deer, rabbits and other garden pests. A hardy ornamental plant, Mullein’s beautiful yellow flowers are a great attractant for bees and butterflies. Mullein seeds have been used by fish poachers to stun fish who eat them, as they contain a mild toxin not found to affect humans.
Herbalists recommend mullein leaves as one of the safest and most useful herbal lung tonics. The plant’s natural antiseptic and analgesic properties make this a highly effective yet gentle herbal remedy. The leaves have an expectorant and soothing action on the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Take mullein for easing the symptoms of asthma, chronic bronchitis, dry coughs, and laryngitis. Mullein is also a useful lymphatic cleanser, and you may find it effective for helping to relieve skin problems like psoriasis.
For a calming cure for respiratory distress try mixing Mullein with Lobelia and Horehound.

Common mullein.

In midsummer, the tall flower stalks of common mullein, Verbascum thapsus, begin to poke up, making this common weed in the family Scrophulariaceae highly noticeable in the road cuts and waste areas where it thrives. Native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia, it was probably introduced to North America several times as a medicinal herb. In the mid‑1700’s it was used in Virginia as a piscicide (fish poison). It spread rapidly and had become so well established by 1818 that a flora of the East Coast at that time described it as a native. It had reached the Midwest by 1839 and became widely naturalized on the Pacific Coast by 1876. Today common mullein is distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada wherever the growing season is at least 140 days and rainfall is sufficient (50-150 cm), especially on dry sandy soils.

Common mullein is typically found in neglected meadows and pasture lands, along fence rows and roadsides, in vacant lots, wood edges, forest openings and industrial areas.

A dense infestation of common mullein.

This plant, also known as wooly mullein, is an herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial with a deep tap root. In the first year plants are low-growing rosettes of felt-like leaves. The whorl of leaves emerge from the root crown at the soil surface. The bluish gray-green, oblong to lanceolate leaves are 4-12″ long and 1-5″ wide, and are densely covered in hairs. Vernalization (exposure to cold temperatures) is required to induce flowering the following spring.

A first year rosette (L) and the “wooly” underside of a leaf (R).

In the second year plants produce a flower stalk 5-10 feet tall. The inflorescence is a spike-like raceme, usually singular, but sometimes branched. The alternate leaves on the flower stalk are larger at the base and decrease in size toward the top. The stalk’s growth is indeterminate, and the length of the flowering period is related to stalk height, with taller stalks blooming longer. Small yellow, 5-petaled flowers are grouped densely on the leafy spike. White flowers are seen only rarely. They bloom a few at a time throughout the summer, maturing on the stalk from the bottom to the top in successive spirals. Each individual flower opens before dawn and closes by mid-afternoon. The flowers attract a wide variety of insects (bees, flies, butterflies and other insects, only short- and long-tongued bees are effective in cross‑pollination. Flowers are also autogamous, so self-pollination occurs at the end of the day if the flowers were not cross‑pollinated.

The tall inflorescences of common mullein, with the flowers blooming in a spiral up the stalk. Individual flowers have 5 petals.

The fruit is a rounded capsule that splits into two valves at maturity. Each contains dozens of tiny brown seeds. The six-sided seeds are pitted and rough with wavy ridges and deep grooves. Individual plants produce 200-300 seed capsules, each containing 500-800 seeds, so that 100,000‑240,000 seeds are produced per plant. Most seeds fall within a few feet of the parent plant, falling from the capsules when the flower stalk is moved by wind or a large animal. There are no adaptations for long distance dispersal.

The old flower stalks are persistent and conspicuous.

After flowering the entire plant dies – there is no vegetative reproduction. The dead flower stalks are rather persistent, so it easy to detect colonies of this weed at most times of year.

Common mullein is found in many different habitats, occurring primarily in disturbed soils in full sun. The tiny seeds remain viable for decades in the soil (viable seeds have been found in soil samples archaeologically dated from A.D. 1300!), so it is difficult to eradicate completely from an area. Seeds do not germinate well without light, so only those seeds which lie at or near the soil surface will be able to germinate. Populations can reappear quickly after many years when seeds are brought to the surface by soil disturbance. Most seedlings emerge almost entirely on bare sites, such as openings created by animal digging or road construction machinery.

Although common in some areas, it is generally not an aggressively invasive species (except in certain parts of western North America) because its seed requires open ground to germinate. Because individual plants are easy to destroy by hand, it is rarely a problem in gardens and manicured yards, but can be quite numerous and conspicuous in other areas at times. It is intolerant of shade, so is easily outcompeted by other plants and agricultural crops. Populations are short-lived on undisturbed sites, “disappearing” into a dormant seed bank within a few years – until the next soil disturbance.

The small seeds of common mullein.

Common mullein is easily managed in smaller areas by manually removing the plants before flowering, preventing soil disturbance and establishing dense vegetative cover that will prevent seed germination. In larger areas, such as nature reserves, single plants and small groups on the edge of the infestation should be targeted first, then working deeper into the infestation. Plants should be pulled, hoed or dug by hand (easiest when the soil is moist) as soon as they are big enough to hold onto, but before they go to seed. Herbicides are generally only used when infestations are very dense, but may not be effective because the hairy leaf surface reduces absorption of chemicals. Prescribed burning can also be used during wet weather and when there is snow cover. Mowing is not effective, as the rosettes just increase in size and then bolt once mowing is stopped.

There are a number of beetles that feed specifically on this plant and could be useful for biological control, but only one has been introduced into North America. The curuculionid weevil Gymnaetron tetron was accidentally introduced into Canada before 1937 and has since spread across the continent. The larvae develop in the seed capsules, destroying all the seeds in a seed capsule, but not all the seed capsules on a plant are infested. About 50% of the seeds are destroyed by larval feeding, but enough seeds remain that populations are not heavily impacted.

Although thought of primarily as a weed, common mullein has been used as an herbal remedy for coughs and diarrhea, and topical applications against a variety of skin problems. The flowers were also used to make yellow, green or brown dyes, depending on how they were processed.

Common mullein is sometimes grown as an ornamental. Sow seed in late spring to early summer.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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Mullein

A favorite plant of hummingbirds and pollinators, mullein attracts the attention of non-winged garden visitors too. This showy cottage garden favorite makes a joyful statement in the early summer garden as it sends up a tall flower spike and then begins to open pretty blossoms in shades of yellow, pink, white, and purple depending on the variety.

Sometimes called verbascum, this group of plants is made up of many different varieties. Most types of mullein are perennials, coming back year-after-year, some plants are biennials and come back for a couple of years, and a few mulleins are annuals. Add several types of mullein to a cottage garden and enjoy their diversity.

genus name
  • Verbascum
light
  • Sun
plant type
  • Herb,
  • Perennial
height
  • Under 6 inches,
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet
width
  • 6 inches-2 feet wide, depending on variety
flower color
  • Blue,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Chartreuse/Gold,
  • Gray/Silver
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom,
  • Winter Interest
problem solvers
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Cut Flowers
zones
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10
propagation
  • Division,
  • Seed

Plant Partners

Mullein grows well alongside many kinds of plants. Pair it with peonies, Russian sage, lady’s mantle, sedum, coneflower, and ornamental grasses in a perennial planting. Plant annual varieties of mullein in the cutting garden and enjoy armloads of fresh bouquets.

Mullein Care Must-Knows

Easy-to-grow in well-drained soil and full sun, mullein tolerates a wide range of soil conditions including poor, sandy soil. One requirement for good growth is well-drained soil. It does not tolerate wet or poorly drained growing conditions. Start plants from seed planted indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring or sow seeds directly in the garden in late spring. Mullein is also easy to grow from transplants purchased at the garden center. Water plants regularly for the first growing season after transplanting.

Transplant seedlings in your garden with these tips.

More Flowers

Mullein, like many perennials, will produce more blooms if the faded flowers are snipped away. The process of removing faded, or spent, flowers is called deadheading. To deadhead mullein, cut the flower stalk off the plant just below the lowest blossom. Removing the flower stalk spurs the plant to produce new flower buds in an effort to produce seeds for the next generation. The second and subsequent flushes of bloom are often not as bold as the initial one, but ample flowers will continue to unfurl as along as the growing conditions are conducive.

Here’s how to thin and deadhead your mullein plants.

More Varieties Of Mullein

Common mullein

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Verbascum thapsus is a biennial often found growing wild in fields and ditches. The yellow flowers are borne at the tips of 6-foot-tall stems. The leaves are gray-green, fuzzy, large, and thick. Zones 3-9.

Olympic mullein

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Verbascum olympicum grows an impressive 6-8 feet tall when in bloom. The first year, it produces a rosette of silvery-gray foliage, which persists through the winter. The following year, it sends up branched candelabra of yellow blooms. Olympic mullein may die after blooming, but it usually self-sows to come back in future years. Grow in well-drained soil. Zones 5-11

‘Southern Charm’ mullein

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This selection of Verbascum is a seed-propagated variety that bears spikes of flowers in shades of lavender, rose, cream, or buff. Peak bloom occurs in late spring, but the plant may bloom sporadically throughout the summer. It is a short-lived, self-seeding perennial that often blooms the first year from seed. Zones 5-8

White nettle-leaved mullein

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Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ has saucer-shaped white flowers accented with rosy purple stamens. These are carried on long spires, sometimes branched. The woolly stems rise to 3 feet. It is hardy in Zones 5-9.

‘Summer Sorbet’ mullein

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This Verbascum variety bears hot-raspberry-pink blossoms on 24-inch-long stems. It is one of the most floriferous mulleins and continues to bloom all summer if it is deadheaded. The plant grows 12-15 inches wide. Zones 5-9.

Plant Mullein With:

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Yarrow is one of those plants that give a wildflower look to any garden. In fact, it is indeed a native plant and, predictably, it’s easy to care for. In some gardens, it will thrive with almost no care, making it a good candidate for naturalistic plantings in open areas and along the edges of wooded or other wild places.Its colorful, flat-top blooms rise above clusters of ferny foliage. The tough plants resist drought, are rarely eaten by deer and rabbits, and spread moderately quickly, making yarrow a good choice for massing in borders or as a groundcover. If deadheaded after its first flush of blooms fade, yarrow will rebloom. If left to dry on the plant, flower clusters of some types provide winter interest. Flowers of yarrow are excellent either in fresh or dried arrangements.

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Miscanthus is one of the most prized of ornamental grasses, and one particular cultivar, ‘Morning Light’, sums up much of its appeal: This grass is stunning when backlit by the sun, either rising or setting.Statuesque miscanthus makes dense clumps of arching grassy foliage in an assortment of widths, decoration, and fineness, according to variety. Erect, dramatic plumes of flower spikelets rise among the leaves or well above them and last beautifully through the winter. Site miscanthus with good drainage and plenty of space in sun or light shade.

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Daylilies are so easy to grow you’ll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant.The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.Shown above: ‘Little Grapette’ daylily

Garden Plans For Mullein

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Learn About Verbascum

Common Disease Problems

Bacterial Wilt: This causes yellow streaking on the foliage. It is soil borne and spread by flea beetles. Burpee Recommends: Control flea beetles. Remove infected plants.

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for insecticide recommendations.

Lygus Bugs (Tarnished Plant Bug): Lygus bugs are ¼ inch long and are green or brown with yellow markings. Nymphs are flightless and smaller than the adults. They suck on stem tips and flower buds and inject a toxic that deforms roots, stems and ruins flowers. Burpee Recommends: Because lygus bugs over winter in garden debris, remove all debris after the first frost. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for insecticide recommendations.

Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

History And Folklore

Dioscorides, a Greek physician pharmacologist and botanist, practicing in the 1st century in Rome, who authored the herbal De Materia Medica, was one of the first to recommend mulleins use in lung conditions around 2,000 years ago. It was used as a hair wash in ancient Roman times; the leaf ash to darken hair, and the yellow flowers for lightening it. The leaves were dried, rolled and used as wicks for candles and the entire dried flowering stalks were dipped in tallow and used for torches, hence the names ‘candlewick plant’ or ‘torches’. According to Maida Silverman in her book A City Herbal, ” The great respect and love formerly accorded to mullein can be inferred from the number and variety of the folknames for it.”

Mullein leaf, flower and root, with its litany of folk uses ranging from ‘nature’s toilet paper’ to an effective apotropaic (fancy word meaning that which wards off evil spirits), have been used extensively in folk medicine. Its magical qualities were numerous, going way beyond simply warding off evil but also was thought to instill courage and health, provide protection, and to attract love. In fact, it was believed that wearing mullein would ensure fertility and also keep potentially dangerous animals at bay while trekking along in the wilderness. Further, allegedly a practice for men in the Ozark mountains to attract love consisted of simply pointing the mullein’s flowering stalk towards the direction of his love’s house and seeing if the stalk went upright again indicating her reciprocated love. Mullein, like so many herbs of European origin, were introduced by the colonists and then incorporated into the Native American healing tradition. The root was made into a necklace for teething infants by the Abnaki tribe, the Cherokee applied the leaves as a poultice for cuts and swollen glands, and other tribes rubbed the leaves on the body during ritual sweat bathes. Additionally, the flowers were used internally as teas and topically as poultices. The Navajos smoked mullein, referring to it as “big tobacco” and the Amish were known to partake as well.

According to King’s American dispensatory (a book first published in 1854 that covers the uses of herbs used in American medical practice), “upon the upper portion of the respiratory tract its influence is pronounced.” Mullein was prescribed by Eclectic Physicians (a branch of American medicine popular in the 1800-early 1900’s which made use of botanical remedies) who considered it to be an effective demulcent and diuretic, and a mild nervine “favoring sleep.”

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