As a member of the Kansas Native Plant Society and the Plant Resources Council, I get the pleasure of helping to choose the native plant of the year for Kansas. We selected Verbena stricta, Woolly Verbena for the 2019 Native Plant of the Year. This verbena is one of my all-time favorite natives, being one of 2 plants I discovered growing on my family’s farm when I was little. The other was purple poppy mallow. Interestingly, the woolly verbena was growing between the cracks of the driveway-and it is still there some 30 years later.
Indeed, woolly verbena is a very long lived perennial; and extremely tough. In the 30 years since I first discovered it, that woolly verbena has survived fire, floods (1993), a tornado (1992), extreme drought, extreme cold, chemicals, and being run over by mower and vehicles. It is a great plant.
Woolly verbena is native across the Great Plains. It grows in prairies, open glades, savannas, and meadows. I have begun to add it gardens and landscapes, as it benefits pollinators and is a host to the common buckeye butterfly, the least skipper butterfly, and the verbena moth. Here at Grimm’s, we are also working on a pink flowering sport of the original purple. I have found several of these pink flowering verbenas across the state of Kansas.
Woolly verbena grows 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. The multiple floral spikes arise in early summer and may bloom and rebloom until frost. The flowers bloom up the spike from the bottom. Woolly verbena reseeds easily, but not aggressively. Use it in pollinator gardens, full-sun borders, and in cottage gardens.