Large group of rosette-forming, summer-blooming plants that send up spikes closely set with nearly flat, five-petaled, circular flowers about an inch across. Both foliage and stems are often covered in woolly hairs. Taller mulleins make striking vertical accents. All mulleins self-sow freelyand some are downright weedy, such as the attractive roadside wildflower V. thapsus. Perennial species are short lived in hot, humid climates.
V. blattaria. MOTH MULLEIN. Biennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Europe to central Asia. To 24 ft. tall, 1112 ft. wide, with smooth-textured, dark green, cut or toothed leaves to 10 in. long. Pale yellow or white flowers have purple centers. A pink-flowered form has rose-pink flowers that open from red buds.
V. bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer' ('Polarsommer'). Biennial. Selection of a species native to Turkey. To 6 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with furry, gray-green leaves to 112 ft. long. Yellow flowers on powdery white stems.
V. chaixii. CHAIX MULLEIN. Perennial. From Europe. To 3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with hairy, green leaves to 6 in. long. Red-eyed, pale yellow flowers in narrow, often branching spikes. 'Album' and 'Wedding Candles' have white flowers with purple centers. 'Sixteen Candles' has bright yellow blooms with violet centers.
V. hybrids. Many hybrids are obtainable, either as blends or in single colors. Most must be grown from seed.
'Banana Custard'. Biennial. To 56 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Bright yellow flowers.
'Clementine'. Perennial. To 5 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with peacy apricot-to-orange flowers centered with violet-purple.
'Copper Rose'. Perennial. To 46 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with blossoms in buff, apricot, rose, or tan. Blooms the first year from seed sown in late winter or earliest spring.
Cotswold hybrids. Perennials. These resemble V. phoeniceum but come in white, cream, yellow, pink, and purple. Named selections are sometimes offered, including creamy yellow 'Gainsborough' and bright pink 'Pink Domino'.
'Helen Johnson'. Perennial. To 34 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Apricot flowers with purple centers; large, silvery green leaves. To propagate this sterile hybrid, take root cuttings in early spring.
'Jackie'. Short-lived perennial. To 1122 ft. high, 112 ft. wide. Purple-eyed blossoms are a soft orange, similar to the color of cantaloupe flesh. To propagate this sterile hybrid, take root cuttings in early spring.
'Sierra Sunset'. Perennial. Rosettes 8 in. high and 1418 in. wide produce flower stalks 112 ft. high that hold large blossoms in shades of melon and salmon, with rose accents.
'Southern Charm'. Perennial. To 23 ft. high, 1122 ft. wide. Seed strain in mixed colors, including cream, buff, lavender, rose.
V. olympicum. OLYMPIC MULLEIN. Perennial. From Greece. To 5 ft. high, 3 ft. wide, with soft, downy white leaves to over 2 ft. long. Bright yellow flowers are very showy; many flowering stems.
V. phoeniceum. PURPLE MULLEIN. Perennial. To 24 ft. high, 112 ft. wide. Dark green leaves to 6 in. long are smooth on top, hairy beneath. Slender spikes of purple flowers. 'Flush of White' has snow-white blooms; those of 'Violetta' are deep violet.
Grow in well-drained soil that is not too rich; fertile, acidic soil makes plants grow so tall that they may need staking. Cut off spent flowers to encourage a second round of blooming. Leave spikes of biennial species in place if you want plants to spread by reseeding.