Verbascum chaixii | Nettle-Leaved Mullein ‘Wedding Candles’
Mullein chaixii, also known as Nettle-leaved Mullein, is a tough, drought tolerant, long-lived, herbaceous perennial that flowers during the second year. Equipped with a deep tap root, it can thrive in many habitats, including disturbed sandy or rocky soils on roadsides, river banks, meadows, waste ground, forest margins, and rocky hillocks. Although it grows like a weed, Mullein chaixii ‘Wedding Candles’ is most often cultivated as an ornamental plant.
In the first year of growth plants are merely a low-growing, skinny-leaved rosette of leaves that are covered in hairs. Vernalization (exposure to cold temperatures) is required to induce flowering the following year. Returning reliably for a few summers, Nettle-leaved Mullein pushes up bunches 4-5 ft tall candelabra flower spikes that display bright white flowers with fuzzy purple stamens, which only open for one day each. The main flowering period is from June to September. The blooms last for about 6 weeks, but will continue well into autumn if weather conditions are favorable and are flower spikes are cut back when finished. Plants will die after finished flowering, but its lateral buds grow a new stem beside the root-stock and in this way the perennial survives each year. Will self-seed abundantly.
Mullein has a long history of herbal uses. The flowers and leaves are anodyne, antiseptic, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, pectoral and vulnerary. An infusion can be made that is used internally for the treatment of various respiratory complaints including coughs, bronchitis, asthma and throat irritations. An infusion of the fresh or dried flowers in olive oil is used to treat earaches, sores, wounds, boils etc. For nocturia (bedwetting), the root of Mullein is best, but some get fair results from the leaf, too.
The plant should be harvested while its in flower and dried quickly and with care so it doesn’t lose its medicinal qualities. To harvest, slice off the flower stalks when they’re at their whitest, or, if you have enough time, pick off the individual flowers one by one, as they open. Dry your harvest until it’s thoroughly dry (the thickest bits snap, instead of bending). It doesn’t matter what color the flowers are- Most all yellow mullein species work, including white flowered ones, with the exception of perhaps Mullien blattaria.
Verbascum chaixii ‘Wedding Candles’ value for wildlife is threefold. The flowers are a good pollen and nectar source for a wide range of insects, particularly bees. Numerous seed-eating animals including birds, like goldfinch, feed on the small seeds produced. And the dead flowering stems provide hibernation sites for over-wintering invertebrates. Weavils take residence in the flower towers to no detriment to the plant.
The tiny seeds are abundant and can remain viable for decades, or even centuries in soil. However, Mullien is easily managed by manually removing the plants before seed-set, not disturbing the soil, and/or by establishing dense vegetative cover that will prevent seed germination. Sow seed indoors, or direct-sow outdoors most anytime of the year.
Prefers full sun in well drained soils. Drought tolerant, low maintenance, deer resistant, and attracts a wide variety of insects.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 4-5 ft
Mature width: 2 ft
Hardiness zones: 5-10