Great Mullein, (Verbascum thapsus), Plug Plants
Our native Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), sometimes known as Arron's Rod, is a close relative of the cultivated verbascums. It is ideal for those who like their wildflowers big. It forms a great architectural plant, growing up to nearly two metres tall with a long spike on which the yellow flowers mature upwards toward the top. It is biennial, producing a rosette of leaves in the first year and flowering in the second. It is a great nectar plant, encouraging pollinators to visit your garden.
Most plants produce some sort of pesticide or other defence to prevent themselves from being decimated by insects. Great Mullein produces the very potent rotenone, often sold as a garden insecticide under the name of Derris Powder, although it is usually obtained from the non-native, Tuba Plant (Derris eliptica).
Value to wildlife
Despite the insecticide, it is attacked by a large number of different insects, and even has a moth named after it, the nocturnal Mullein Moth (Cucillia verbasci). At rest with wings folded it looks like a bit of dry plant stem. Although its camouflage means there is little chance of spotting the adult moth even during the day; its attractive yellow-spotted caterpillars are much easier to spot as they feed on the leaves of its host plant. Its pupa, enclosed in a sturdy cocoon, is formed underground and it can remain in that form for several years before emerging.
Now for a rather unexpected benefit of growing Great Mullein. It is a very hairy plant and the Wood-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), uses the hairs from its leaves and stems to line its nest. This bee, easily recognisable from the yellow spots down both sides is common in southern England but gets rarer the further north you go. It will also use the hairs on Yarrow and the cultivated Lamb's Ear.
Great Mullein is biennial, so it can be purchased at any time of year and will flower the following year.
Plug plants are supplied in biodegradable pots which can be planted directly into the ground, or into a larger pot, without disturbing the roots. Our sturdy plug plants will give your Great Mullein a head start. Plant out in a sunny area that does not get waterlogged.
It will pass the winter as a rosette of leaves and flower the following summer.