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The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support
or recommend plants featured in "Plant of the Week." Please consult your local Extension
office for plants suitable for your region.
Perennials have captured the hearts of gardeners throughout the nation. Hundreds of
new plants have appeared in our gardens in the last decade, including Homestead Purple
verbena. It’s such an outstanding plant that it was selected as an Arkansas Select
plant for 2001.
Since its introduction in the early 1990s, Homestead Purple has sparked widespread
interest in all things verbena and has spurred the introduction of over 40 new hardy
This rampant perennial grows to 3-feet wide and a foot tall and is topped with a mass
of bright purple blooms that start in the spring and continue until frost. Its leaves
are deep green, scalloped, coarse-textured and up to 4 inches long.
The plant’s stem trails across the ground and turns up at the tips. Flowers are borne
in finger-like spikes that are held above the foliage. The flowers grow to 3 inches
long and are crowded with individual five-petaled, trumpet-shaped florets.
Homestead Purple is listed as a cultivar of Verbena canadensis, which grows wild throughout the southeast, including all of Arkansas, and ranges
as far north as Zone 5 in Iowa. The species is a perennial, but a temperamental one
that is very particular about its exposure and drainage, especially during the winter.
In all probability, Homestead Purple is a chance hybrid with another verbena species
because its identifying characteristics and vigor are not characteristic of the straight
The discovery of the plant is due to the keen eyes of two University of Georgia horticulture
professors, Alan Armitage and Mike Dirr. Armitage is one of the nation’s foremost
authorities on perennial plants, while Dirr is the undisputed woody plant guru.
The two were returning to Athens, Ga., when they drove past a purple mass of flowers
neither recognized. They did a U-turn and asked the lady who lived on the homestead
about the plant. She didn’t know much about it – apparently it had been growing there
for years. They collected cuttings and the plant went on to fame and glory.
Since 1998, the University of Arkansas and the greenhouse and nursery industry, now
combined into the Arkansas Green Industries Association, have met and selected plants
to designate as Arkansas Select plants. The criteria for selection are that the plant
be relatively new, that it be adapted throughout the state, and that it be easy to
grow. Homestead Purple meets these criteria admirably.
Purple is a color that may scare some gardeners, but the vivid rich purple of Homestead
Purple combines well with most other colors. It’s an especially good foil for pastel-colored
flowers when it’s used at the front of the border or in a rock garden.
Homestead Purple should be placed in full sun in a well drained soil. Like most fast
growing perennials, it responds well to good soil preparation and occasional fertilization.
This past winter, gardeners in the northern part of the state did lose the plant,
probably as much due to wet soil during the winter as the cold. But it should overwinter
successfully nine out of 10 Arkansas winters.
Homestead Purple is such a rampant grower that it will quickly fill in any open space.
Occasionally it will have a small amount of insect damage on its leaves, but its impressive
growth rate and abundant flower production quickly hides any signs of injury.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals Extension News - June 1, 2001
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists
of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery
or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing