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Silver mullein shines in low-water garden

Garden Gems: Giant silver mullein makes a statement in the low-water garden with unusual flower stalks and silvery foliage.
Garden Gems: Giant silver mullein makes a statement in the low-water garden with unusual flower stalks and silvery foliage.

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Garden Gems” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region and that add sparkle to drought-tolerant landscapes.

Giant silver mullein

Verbascum bombyciferum

Size: Starts small with low mound of large leaves first year, up to 1 foot tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.

Bloom season: White and yellow flower stalks in second summer.

Exposure: Full sun.

Pruning needs: None.

Water needs: Low to medium water; once established, water deeply every other week.

Snapshot: This eye-catching and unusual plant rewards patience; it takes two years for this beautiful biennial to bloom. Native to Turkey, silver mullein starts out with large, white furry leaves that form neat low-growing rosettes. During its second summer, silver mullein shoots out narrow vertical wands of white and yellow flowers, up to 6 feet tall. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Another plus: Deer won’t eat it! After that big bloom, mullein dies to the ground, but it will reseed around the garden, assuring more mulleins to come.

For more on “Garden Gems,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

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