How to Grow Verbascum Plants

Guide to Growing Mullein, Velvet plant, and Cowboy Toilet Paper

Verbascum plants may be hardy perennial, half hardy perennials, or hardy biennials.

They reach from 30 cm to 1.5 m (1 to 5 feet) in height.

They have downy leaves. Verbascum Plants bloom in the summer, when they carry yellow flowers on a spike.


Verbascum by wallygrom.

Some common namea for garden grown Verbascum plant species areMullein and Velvet Plant.

Commonly Grown Verbascum Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus
Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein / Great Mullein), photograph by Andreas Rockstein; CC.

Verbascum densiflorum

Verbascum densiflorum
Verbascum densiflorum (Denseflower Mullein), photograph by FJac. Janssen; CC.

Verbascum blattaria

Verbascum blattaria
Verbascum blattaria (Moth mullein), photograph by F. D. Richards; CC.

Verbascum phoeniceum

Verbascum phoeniceum
Verbascum phoeniceum (Purple Mullein), picture by xulescu_g; CC.

Verbascum Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Mullein, Velvet plant, Cowboy toilet paper.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial. Half-hardy perennial. Hardy bulb. Biennial, some annuals.
  • Height: 12 to 78 inches (30—200 cm).
  • Native: Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia.
  • Growing Region: Zones 5 to 9.

  • Flowers: Summer. Long lasting blooms, though in some species the individual flowers will last for only one day.
  • Flower Details: Yellow, orange, white, reddish brown, purple, or blue Multiple flowers carried on long spikes. Upright stem. Five-petals.
  • Foliage: Rosettes. Long leaves (16 inches (50 cm). Green or silvery-green. Followed by a tall stem with spiral hairy leaves. In Biennials the rosette occurs in the first year and a leafless stem is produced in the second year.

  • Sow Outside: Cover seed. Start of spring - before the last light frost, or towards the end of autumn.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: two to four weeks. Temperature: 55°F (13°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost or towards the end of summer. Space at 12 to 40 inches (30—100 cm).

  • Requirements and care: Most species in full sunlight, though some (e.g., Verbascum phoeniceum) prefer partial shade. Slightly alkaline soil pH. Ordinary soil. Can survive in dry soils. Winter mulch. Cut back stalk to the ground once flowering has completed. Propagate from root cuttings at the beginning of spring. Self-seeds freely.

  • Family: Scrophulariaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Figwort.
  • Miscellaneous: Verbascum thapsus (Great Mullein) has traditionally been used as a remedy for respiratory, skin, lung, and throat ailments. After being introduced to the Americas it was used by Native Americans to became used as a poison to paralyze fish.

How to grow Mullein and other Verbascum Plants

When growing Mullein outdoors from seed, it is best to sow in late summer or just before the last frost of spring.

Lightly cover the seeds once sown. The spacing at which to plant Verbascum is dependent upon their size. Plant small species with a spacing of 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) and large varieties 90 cm (3 feet) apart, or individually.

Ideally Verbascum should be grown in a sunny part of the garden. The soil should ideally be slightly alkaline and dry.

If starting off indoors, then sow seeds about 7 or 8 weeks in advance. The germination time is about two or three weeks at 12 to 15 degrees centigrade(54 to 59°F).

Once the Verbascum seedlings are ready, transplant outdoors either at the end of summer, or just after the last frost of spring.

Caring for Verbascum

It is quite easy to look after Verbascum plant species such as Mullein. They require a mulch in the winter for protection. Once flowering has finished cut back the stem.

If you require more plants then propagate by taking cuttings from the roots in the spring.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Verbascum plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Diascia, Iris, and Nemesia plants.