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On Gardening: The early butterfly gets the verbena. Do you have them planted?

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Swallowtails were early at The Garden Guy’s house this year. Thank goodness I had Superbena verbenas in full bloom. It is as if they had been given the task of announcing the arrival of spring and the butterfly season. On March 22, I photographed an eastern tiger swallowtail on Superbana Royale Chambray verbena.

Your first thought might be, if it was in full bloom March 22 when did I plant it? The answer is in October. That is also when I planted Superbena Royale Plum Wine, which offers one of the rarest orchid colors in the garden.

Now before you start thinking you have missed the verbena boat, know that my Superbena Imperial Blue was planted in April 2021 and it is in full bloom. My Superbena Stormburst and Superbena Whiteout are 3 years old.

Another remarkable aspect to this year’s verbena bloom is that on March 13, nine days before my first swallowtail nectaring photo, our low temperature reached 20-21 degrees. Another freeze occurred the next day. My verbenas, which are planted in both containers and in the ground, showed there was no difference in their cold hardiness. Your first inclination would have been that those in containers would have been hurt badly, but it was simply not the case.

As a horticulturist on the speaking circuit, I mostly come face to face with garden club members and Master Gardeners who tend to be seasoned, if you know what I mean. Most of them have grown verbenas whether they are Superbenas or another variety.

My fear is the young gardeners may be passing by these verbenas, unaware of not only their blooming possibility, but their ability to bring in pollinators, including hummingbirds. They also may not realize the potential of a return performance for a year or two maybe more. Even if treated as an annual, their value to the garden is worth every penny spent.

Superbenas need a lot of sun with a soil that drains freely. This is one of the reasons they are so easy in containers. Good lightweight potting mixes by their nature drain well. Once you have prepared your planting beds as such, you will have one of the best blooming ground covers you can buy.

Superbenas need to be in an active state of growth to get the most riotous blooming performance. This requires you to get to know them, feed them occasionally and cut them back to generate new growth. Leaving woody, tired stems sprawling in the garden or hanging over the rim of your containers will rarely yield the performance you desire.

 

If Superbenas could speak, they would tell you they were created to grow and bloom. Cutting out tired stems and giving a light fertilization will reward you with lush green growth and weeks of blooms.

Superbena verbenas are vigorous plants that will grow 12 inches tall and up to 36 inches wide. The Superbena Royale group was bred to be compact and perform in smaller containers. They will also reach close to 12 inches tall but with a spread up to 24 inches. This was my first time planting Superbena Royale verbenas in October and I was thrilled they tolerated my zone 8a winter temps so well.

Both the Superbena and Superbena Royale verbenas have become an integral part of my container designs as I combine them with Superbells calibrachoas, Supertunia petunias, Lemon Coral sedum and all colors of heuchera. Spring is here, which means butterfly season is here too, so don’t procrastinate for a minute. Get the award-winning Superbenas incorporated into your containers and landscape beds.

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(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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