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Purple Mullein

Verbascum phoeniceum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Gardens, grassland, roadsides, wasteland.

Purple, 5 petals
Purple (sometimes pink), stalked, saucer-shaped flowers in flower spikes. The flower spikes branch off from the main stem like a candelabra. Flowers are sometimes white or pink. The fuzzy stamens are golden yellow.
Egg-shaped fruit.
A perennial garden escape species with broadly lance-shaped basal leaves in a rosette. The simple stem leaves alternate up the stem. The leaves measure up to 15cm (6 inches) long.
Other Names:
Red Mullein, Temptress Purple.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Verbascum phoeniceum, also known as purple mullein or red mullein, is a biennial or perennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family and can grow up to 100 cm tall. It has spikes of large, deep purple or red flowers that bloom in the late spring and early summer. The leaves are green and covered in fine, soft hairs, and the plant has a tall, densely branched stem. Verbascum phoeniceum is not considered an invasive weed and it can be found in waste ground, roadsides, and along paths. It is not commonly used in traditional medicine, but it's commonly grown as an ornamental plant for its showy flowers.


Purple Mullein, also known as Verbascum phoeniceum, is a stunning perennial herb that belongs to the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It is native to Europe and Western Asia but is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant worldwide.

The plant features lance-shaped leaves that form a rosette at the base and grow up to 12 inches long. The leaves are grayish-green and velvety to the touch. The plant produces tall spikes of flowers that grow up to 3 feet tall, starting from early summer to early fall. The flowers are arranged in clusters and are typically deep purple, though they can also be pink or white, with a yellow center.

One of the reasons why Purple Mullein is so popular among gardeners is its stunning appearance. The plant's tall spikes of flowers can add a dramatic effect to any garden or landscape. The flowers also attract bees and butterflies, making Purple Mullein a great plant for pollinators.

In addition to its ornamental value, Purple Mullein has several medicinal uses. The plant has been traditionally used as a herbal remedy to treat respiratory issues like coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. It has also been used to soothe sore throats and as a natural sedative.

Growing Purple Mullein is relatively easy. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun exposure. It can grow in most soil types, but it thrives in alkaline soil. Purple Mullein is drought tolerant and does not require much water once established. The plant can be propagated through seed or by dividing the root ball.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, Purple Mullein also has a rich history of cultural significance. It has been used for various purposes in different cultures throughout history.

In ancient Greece, Purple Mullein was used to treat respiratory illnesses and to make torches for nocturnal processions. In Roman times, it was used to create dyes for textiles. The plant was also used by medieval herbalists to treat respiratory ailments, as well as to reduce inflammation and heal wounds.

Today, Purple Mullein is still used in herbal medicine. The plant contains a range of compounds, including saponins, flavonoids, and iridoids, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.

The leaves and flowers of the plant can be used to make a tea or tincture, which is then consumed to treat various respiratory issues. The plant can also be made into an ointment or poultice, which can be applied topically to soothe skin irritations or wounds.

While Purple Mullein is generally considered safe, it's important to note that it may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. If you're considering using Purple Mullein for medicinal purposes, it's recommended that you consult with a healthcare provider first.

Aside from its beauty and medicinal properties, Purple Mullein also has some practical uses. The plant is known for its ability to stabilize soils and prevent erosion, making it an excellent choice for landscaping and restoration projects. It's also drought-tolerant and can withstand harsh weather conditions, which makes it ideal for gardens in dry or arid climates.

Purple Mullein can also be used as a natural dye. The flowers can be boiled to extract a purple dye that can be used to color fabrics, yarns, or even hair.

Another interesting aspect of Purple Mullein is its symbolism. In some cultures, the plant is believed to have magical properties and is associated with protection, love, and healing. It's also thought to bring good luck and ward off negative energies.

In addition to its practical and symbolic uses, Purple Mullein also has some interesting ecological benefits. The plant is known to attract a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These pollinators play an essential role in plant reproduction and ecosystem health.

Purple Mullein is also a host plant for the mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci), which lays its eggs on the leaves. The larvae of the mullein moth feed on the leaves of the plant, but their presence does not typically harm the plant.

Another interesting ecological aspect of Purple Mullein is its ability to grow in disturbed soils. The plant is often found in areas that have been recently disturbed by human activity, such as roadsides, quarries, and abandoned fields. In these areas, Purple Mullein can help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, which is essential for the health of the ecosystem.

Overall, Purple Mullein is a fascinating plant with a range of benefits. Whether you're interested in its beauty, medicinal properties, practical uses, or ecological benefits, Purple Mullein is a plant that's worth exploring. It's a testament to the resilience and adaptability of nature, and it reminds us of the many ways in which plants can enrich our lives and our world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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