How to Plant and Care for Mullein – Toilet Paper Plant of the North

Meet Our Friend Mullein!

Common names: Mullein, Common Mullein, Great Mullein, The Toilet Paper Plant

Genus and species: Verbascum thapsus

Leaves: Mullein has large, soft, fuzzy leaves, making it ideal for toilet paper. It has been used at TP for hundreds of years. Note, some people do find the fuzz a bit irritating on their bottom. Try it out for yourself. If you decide you don’t like it for toilet paper, work with it medicinally (more on this below).

Claimer from Robin: Although I have known Mullein personally for over a decade and have worked with it as toilet paper, I have never grown Mullein myself. Mullein grows prolifically and I’ve never had a need to grow it. It has been my toilet paper plant in the wild and on my travels across Turtle Island. I grew Blue Spur Flower as my Toilet Paper Plant in Florida and it is my number one choice of TP. I have a very close relationship with Blue Spur Flower and that was my inspiration to bring the Grow Your Own Toilet Paper Movement to the world. I quickly learned how many people outside of Florida wanted to grow their own toilet paper, too, so I teamed up with my friend Mullein! We are elated to provide you with the seeds of Mullein, ideal for all climates where temperatures consistently drop below freezing in the fall through spring seasons, to grow your own toilet paper anywhere on Turtle Island (the United States).

Order Your Mullein Seeds Here

How to Plant and Care for Mullein

We have not grown Mullein ourselves, as we have only worked with it in wild and freely growing settings. See the Claimer above by Robin. We have sourced this information from internet sources we trust.

Sun: Full sun is Mullein’s preference. Ideal locations will be warm, dry spots of your yard.

Soil: Mullein is resilient and can grow in many soil conditions. Mullein thrives in poor and average soils. Well-drained soil is preferred. 

Planting from seed: We have chosen Mullein as a plant to share because it grows very well from seed. Many consider it easy to grow from seed.

Direct sow: Sow seeds on the soil surface and lightly tamp them without covering them, as seeds need light to germinate. Seeds will germinate in 14-21 days. Thin young plants to 18” apart. ^2

Transplant: Sow seeds in containers ⅛” deep, covering only very lightly with soil as seeds need light to germinate. Seeds should germinate in 14-21 days. Transplant once the first set of true leaves form. Separate out plants and transfer to individual pots or harden plants off and transplant into garden. Transplant after risk of frost.

Space young plants 1-2 feet apart.  ^2

When to Plant: Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost OR direct seed outdoors in early spring. ^2 Seeds can also be planted in the fall for spring germination.

Stratification:  Cold stratification will significantly improve germination. Chill seeds for 4-6 weeks at 34-40 °F (2-4°C) before sowing. For more information on cold stratification, visit the Incredible Seeds Library. ^2

Water: We recommend watering the seeds every day for the first few weeks. Our recommendation is to keep the soil moist – the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Once the plant is established it can grow without any water. It is highly drought tolerant. If there is not enough rain, we recommend watering a couple times per week. 

Insect control: Mullein doesn’t tend to have any issues with insects.

Biennial habit: In the first year, Mullein will be a basal rosette, low to the ground. In the second year, it will grow into a tall flowered spike.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Native to: Europe, Northern Africa and Asia 

In the second year, flower stalks grow quite tall (anywhere from two to seven feet), bearing small, yellow (rarely white), five-petaled flowers grouped closely on a leafy spike. Blooming a few at a time from June to September, they mature from the bottom to the top of the spike in spirals. In addition to its especially soft, felt-like foliage, another characteristic that makes this plant unique is that each individual bloom opens before sunrise and closes by mid-afternoon. Flowers attract flies, butterflies, short- and long-tongued bees, and other insects. ^5

 

How to Use as Toilet Paper

Simply pick the leaves as needed and use them to wipe your butt. We’ll keep it that simple.

We recommend using a compost toilet!

For more information about compost toilets and ideas, see our main Grow Your Own Toilet Paper page.

We recommend growing it along your path to your toilet, so you can harvest the leaves as you walk to the toilet. However, grow it wherever you have space. Mullein can be picked up to a couple days before usage before it becomes brittle, so you can harvest a couple days’ supply at a time to store by your toilet.

 

How to Save Seeds to Plant Again

If you aren’t able to plant your first pack of mullein seeds this year, no worries at all. These seeds will last multiple years. Simply store them in a cool, dry place in your home. 

Seeds can last for decades, up to 100 years and sometimes longer. ^5

Every plant can make between 200 and 300 seed capsules, each having between 500 and 800 seeds, which equals a whopping 100,000‑240,000 seeds per plant. ^5

Wait until the flower stalks dry out and become crispy brown. On a dry day, cut the entire stalk below the lowest seed pods and whack the stalk in a bucket. Sift out the larger plant parts. ^4

Once established mullein is a prolific self-seeding plant, meaning your toilet paper supply will multiply!

Mullein as Medicine:

Mullein is commonly worked with as a medicinal plant, even more so than as toilet paper.
There are many medicinal uses. Get to know Mullein more by learning from the many herbalists who love this plant!

Sources

Southern Seed Exchange^1
Incredible Seeds^2
Mountain Rose Herbs^
True Love Seeds^4
The Spruce^5
My Green Terra^6

Where to Get Seeds

From us!
Southern Seed Exchange 
Incredible Seeds
Mountain Rose Herbs
True Love Seeds
Round Stone Seed for bulk
Harvest them from mullein you find in your environment!