Updated: Nov 22, 2021
Recently, I posted about Verbena bonariensis, a rigid, upright perennial that's character is more aligned with our subject today, V. rigida. The flowers, too, are so similar to the untrained eye that both can be further confused. Seeing them side by side, it is clear that they are different plants. Unlike V. bonariensis, this species is more casual, no more than two feet tall spreading up to four feet when in bloom. These distinctions between the two are why I enjoy using them in designs.
The first photo below was from an old commercial project where I spiraled up a mound dwarf boxwoods interspersed with V. rigida. As you can see, the verbena was very happy, engulfing the slow growing shrubs. Once blooming was finished, gardeners pruned them to contour with the boxwood hedge creating a green and purple spiral. A fun design in a large commercial courtyard using two easy plants to grow. Even Sunset suggests their use in low maintenance gardens (p. 646).
Proven Winners is well-known in the industry for their introductions, and here are two cultivars of V. rigida. The presenter includes general information about the species.
Botanical Name: Verbena rigida
Verbena: Latin for sacred bough, however the reference may not be linked to the species we know today.
Rigida: Inflexible, stiff
Common Name: No common name
Family Name: Verbenaceae
Origin: South America
Positioning: Foreground, drifts, slopes
Garden Themes: Mediterranean/dry, rock, coastal, courtyard/patio, meadow, pollinator, cottage
Uses: Border, mass, ground cover, accent, specimen, embankment cover, container
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Form: Mound, spreading, erect when in bloom
Size: 2' tall by 4' wide at full bloom
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Stem: Green, square, tomentose, may easily root at bud nodes
Arrangement: Opposite with sessile attachment (no leaf stem)
Color: Dark green
Surface: Scabrous above, tomentose underneath
Flower: Summer to Autumn. Cylendrical cluster of spiked, tiny, tubular, purple flowers. Showy.
Fruit: Autumn to Winter. 4 one-seeded segment mericarps (nutlets) with the potential to readily reseed.
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 3-24
USDA Zones: 7-10
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low
Texture: Sand, silty loam, clay, rocky, chalk
Moisture Retention: Well-drained but performs better with moisture without extended dry periods
pH: Slightly acidic to neutral
Tolerances: Drought, deer
Problems: Reseeding, may be invasive
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: White flies
Disease: Powdery mildew
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Extension Gardener. "Verbena rigida." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on September 17, 2021, from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/verbena-rigida/.
Invasive Species Specialist Group. "Verbena rigida (herb)." International Union of Conservation of Nature, Species Survival Commission, Gland. Accessed on September 17, 2021, from http://issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=1371&fr=1&sts=&%20ang=EN&ver=print&prtflag=false.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on September 7, 2021.
Feature flower detail: "Verbena rigida 'Hardy garden verbena' (Verenaceae) flower" by Magnus Manske is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic.
Rooted stem: "Verbena rigida plant4" by Harry Rose is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
All other photos by TELCS.