Q: For two consecutive years I have planted ‘Homestead Purple’ verbena and it dies without fail, even though I don’t cut it back until March. I love this plant and am having a hard time finding a substitute that blooms all summer but is not an annual. The site is on the side of my stone patio wall, sloped slightly, and is completely in the sun. Any idea why it dies?
A: You have the right planting spot for ‘Homestead Purple’. Maybe you need to help it establish more thickly during the summer. This verbena produces blooms at the growing tips of branches. As it elongates during hot weather, most of the blooms occur in a doughnut around the original center of the plant. Old stems become hard and woody. Hot, dry soil keeps the young branches from rooting vigorously.
Try this method to rejuvenate the verbena. In mid-July, make several light vertical “chops” with a shovel in a circle twelve inches out from the center of the verbena clump. This will cause young branches which have already started rooting to root further and establish themselves before cold weather. The old branches in the center will be shocked into forming new growth and eventually flowers. Water regularly for a few weeks, until you see new leaves near the center of the plant, then leave your verbena to its own devices for the rest of the season.