Verbascum bombyciferum | ‘Arctic Summer’
Bombyciferum Mullein ‘Arctic Summer, also known as ‘Polar Summer’, Ornamental Mullein, Turkish Mullein, or Silver Mullein, has quickly risen to one of our TOP 5 PLANTS OF ALL TIME … it could very well be #1 based on its architectural presence alone! There are no words adequate enough to describe the sheer ornamental garden value this plant offers in a garden. The ‘wow-factor’ is off the charts. Do you want to be the king gardener of your neighborhood…? Just grow this plant! Folks will stop-the-car, they’ll back-up-the-bus, or will do some serious rubber-necking-double-taking to get another look at what they can’t believe they just saw! We like showing off our good taste in plants, so there will never be a time where we are not growing this in our garden.
While the first year of growth is a beautiful, broad rosette of fuzzy-white leaves, the second year of growth really takes on a life of its own as the rosette reveals the first flowering spike that transforms into what will eventually become a full-on elegant octopus-plant, equipped with an abundance of wild, wavy arms, snaking their way towards you, reaching out to be touched. The flowering tentacles are completely enveloped in a thick, tomentous, cotton-type covering, so you’ll want to give them a feel. Bright yellow flowers peak out, blooming a few at a time, for months on end. To witness the flowering-arms swaying in the breeze is a beauty to behold. This plant is statuesque. Its commanding of attention, reaching 6-8+ ft tall and 5-6ft wide!
‘Arctic Summer’ Mullein is a tough, hardy, drought-tolerant, short-lived perennial that flowers during the second year, and thereafter. Equipped with a deep tap root, it can thrive in many habitats, including disturbed rocky soils on roadsides, river banks, meadows, and forest margins.
‘Arctic Summer’s value for wildlife is threefold… One, the flowers are a good pollen and nectar source for a wide range of insects, particularly bees. Two, numerous seed-eating animals including birds, like finches, feed on the small seeds. And three, the dead flowering (still attractive) white fuzzy stems provide hibernation sites for over-wintering invertebrates.
The tiny seeds are abundant and can remain viable in the soil for decades. Seeds germinate best in open disturbed soils. Mulliens can be easily managed by manually removing the plants before seed-set, not disturbing the soil, or by establishing dense vegetative cover that will prevent seed germination. Sow seed indoors, or late spring to summer to early fall outdoors.
Prefers full sun in well drained soils. Low maintenance, deer resistant, and attracts a wide variety of insects.