To add depth and color to your garden without working too hard, consider putting in hebe shrubs. These hardy, easy-care plants are pretty in every season, thanks to numerous blooms and evergreen foliage in a variety of hues. Plus, hebe—pronounced HEE-bee—is versatile enough to be used as a border, grown in containers, or fit in just about anywhere your landscape needs livening up. Read on for a hebe how-to now, since summer planting will give roots ample time to settle before cold weather hits.
About Hebe Shrubs
Original to New Zealand, hebe shrubs can thrive in U.S. growing zones 7 through 11, doing best in locales with warm summers and mild winters. Though they’re in a genus of their own now, the plants formerly belonged to the Veronica genus—hence the still-used common name of shrubby veronica. There are some 100 species of hebe, plus many cultivars. Flowers may be white, red, pink, purple, or blue. Leaves, too, run the gamut from bright green and blue-green to maroon, purple, and gray.
Tips for Growing Hebe Shrubs
Select a species
Choose hebe shrubs that best suit your garden design goals. For a tall hedge up to six feet high, consider Hebe Variegata, with its rounded shape, purple blooms, and cream-edged foliage. The Grace Kelly cultivar has similar flowers and leaves but is shorter, topping out at three feet. Wiri Blush sports dark green leaves and striking hot pink blooms, while more demure Western Hills has silver-gray leaves and white or pale lavender flowers. Also keep in mind that compact varieties with small foliage, such as Baby Bush and Baby Marie, fare better in colder climates than large-leaf species.
Pick an area that gets lots of light or at least partial sun. Too much shade will likely yield a leggy look and poor flower production. If your area is prone to freezing winters, plant hebe where it will be sheltered but not crowded by other plants or a structure (e.g., close to the house). Moist (not wet), sandy soil that drains well is ideal, and the more neutral the pH, the better.
Don’t worry about water
Hardy hebe shrubs are fairly drought-resistant during much of the year. The exception is summer: Quench their thirst with about an inch of water weekly to encourage bountiful blooms.
Given the right growing conditions, low-maintenance hebe shrubs don’t need much in the way of fertilizer. However, adding organic matter (some combination of compost, green manure, leaf mold, and/or animal manure) or slow-release fertilizer in early spring may help foster growth and blooms.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Hebe isn’t particularly prone to insect damage yet will attract beneficial pollinators. Franciscana Blue Gem and Midsummer Beauty are especially tempting to bumblebees, butterflies, and other desirable garden guests. Hebe plants are also stoutly disease-resistant, though they may suffer downy mildew or septoria leaf spot in damp locales where circulation is poor. Smart planting can preempt these issues.
Prune post flowers
Once hebe shrubs have finished flowering, it’s time to prune to ensure that next year’s blooms will come back robustly. Aside from that, the plants’ naturally full, appealing form shouldn’t require much trimming. If a bush starts to get spindly, cut back about one-third to encourage a denser, bushier quality.
Want more hebe shrubs? Simply snip a healthy three- to four-inch section and remove about an inch or so of leaves from the bottom. Moisten the end of the cutting and dip into rooting hormone to stimulate root growth, then plant in soil-less potting medium. Tamp down around the cutting, water lightly, and keep warm while avoiding direct sun at first.