Scientific Name: Verbascum thapsus
Common Names: Mullein, Great Mullein, Common Mullein, Cowboy Toilet Paper
Mullein is native to parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa, is has become naturalised in parts of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand.
The large, soft, fuzzy leaves of mullein have commonly been used by hikers as toilet paper, it is referred to as cowboy toilet paper in the Western United States of America. There are many traditional medicinal uses attributed to mullein however the leaves contain rotenone, an insecticide, and coumarin, which prevents blood clotting, so care should be taken. The fine hairs can also be an irritant so any preparations should be strained before use. The yellow flowers are produced en masse on a central stalk with each individual flower opening only for a single day, these flowers attract insects pollinations including bees to the garden. A yellow dye can be produce by boiling the flowers in water, straining and reducing.
Provide at least 30cm between mullein plants to allow them room to grow. Mullein requires a full sun location to grow best. Mullein is hardy and will grow well even on poor soils, it prefers free-draining sandy or gravely soil and may struggle in soils that are too fertile or heavy with clay. Don't overwater. Mullein grows best on alkaline calcareous soils, most native soil is Australia is slightly acidic so an addition of garden lime may be beneficial if plants are struggling. Mullein may self sow readily in the garden under ideal conditions so be sure to regularly remove any unwanted seedlings that pop up.
When To Sow
In subtropical regions of Australia sow mullein seeds from March to April. In temperate regions of Australia sow mullein seeds either from March to May or during September and November. In colder regions of Australia sow mullein seeds during March, April, September or November. Mullein is unlike to grow well in the humid tropics of Australia.
How To Sow
Mullein seeds are tiny and require light to germinate so scatter them over the surface and mix them through just the very top layer of growing media. To ensure constant moisture is supplied to the seedlings during germination press the growing media down after sowing to reduce any air pockets and allow good contact between the seeds and the damp growing media.
Mullein can be slow to germinate, taking between 10 and 20 days for seedlings to emerge. The seeds of mullein can retain their viability for up to 100 years so they may be dormant if gemination is absent.
Time To Flowering
Mullein can take up to 18 months to reach maturity and begin flowering. Mullein flowers during Summer but the plants must have already grown through at least one full Winter before they will start flowering.