OK lets be honest. Vervain is not the prettiest plant you can grow. It can look a little weedy and given the right conditions can grow to quite a size. However it's a very delicate looking plant and given the right spot can enhance a flower bed with it's long flower wands and tiny lavender flowers that flower from the base of the wand to the top. It will grow on fairly poor soil and does not need much attention once it's established, it can easily thrive on neglect for many years. The butterflies and bees love it and birds will eat the seeds. It's a perennial hardy to zone 4 and deer don't eat it. For those who are interested in growing medicinal herbs this is a good plant to begin with. It has so many uses.
Vervain starts out as a small compact clump of fairly large leaves which are deeply divided almost forming leaflets. As the plant grows the leaves become smaller and more rounded and arranged oppositely on the stem. In late spring to early summer long thin stalks arise from the plant in a cloud up to about two feet. More like a ball of cotton candy. Each stem bears a series of tiny pale pink, lilac to light blue flowers starting at the base of the stem and working towards the top. The plant will flower for many months often until the fall frosts. It will easily flower in the first year from seed and grow to a fairly large size.
Care and Positioning.
Vervain likes a sunny position in reasonably well drained soil. It is hardy to zone three but does not do well in very hot climates. It can easily tolerate poor soil but does not like continual wetness. Once established it is fairly drought tolerant and can thrive on neglect beating out all but the most tenacious of weeds. It grows rapidly so ensure it has enough room, don't crowd it into a bed with other plants or it will out compete them. Works very well in a large flower bed where the long thin stalks make an excellent contrast to larger heavier leaves. It can also be placed in a semi wild habitat on a grassy bank or wildflower meadow. Bees and butterflies love this plant and birds eat the seeds. It will self seed to create larger patches but is not particularly invasive. Very easy to grow.
By seed. Best to start indoors and only just cover the seed. Germination takes about three weeks but can be more depending on temperature. Prick seedlings out into individual pots when large enough to handle and plant out in early summer. Can be direct sown but more care is necessary to keep weeds away since germination is longer.
Large established plants can be divided in spring.
The leaves are edible both raw and cooked. Can be used in salads or made into tea.
Leaves and stems are used both fresh and dry. The plant contains many volatile oils and has been used for centuries in Europe where it is native. It is used as infusions, tinctures, poultice and ointment depending on the malady.
It's most common uses are for insomnia, nervousness and anxiety. Infusions are used to enhance liver function and treat poor appetite and sluggish digestive performance. Tinctures are more commonly used for jaundice and liver function as well as stones and reduce uric acid in gout treatment. Poultices and ointments are used for animal stings weeping sores and to help with neuralgia or nerve pain. A mouth wash is used for ulcers in the mouth and soft, spongy gums.
These are just a few of the uses, it is also purported to be a sedative and diaphoretic, and used for treatment of coughs, colds, asthma and inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract such as bronchitis. There are also report of it's use to treat ME. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).
In the middle ages this plant was considered associated with the moon, most likely from it's use with sleep disorders. It was therefore used in magic ceremonies and considered a most important herb.
Verbena, Holy Herb, Herb of Grace, Herb-of-the-cross, Enchanters Plant, Herb of the Cross, Junos Tears, Van-Van, Fer Faen, Llysiaur Hudol, Enchanting Herb, Lustral Water, Holy Vervain, European Vervain, Simplers Joy, Herbine, Pigeon Grass, Pigeons Meat, Pigeonwood, Herb of Enchantment, Devils Hate, Wizards Plant, Ma Bian Cao