Hebe Plants: A Guide to Growing Hebes

Hebe plants are attractive and versatile landscape shrubs that produce flowers in a wide range of colors. Along with their fragrant flower spikes, the foliage is often tinted with color or variegated, making them even more useful in any garden plan.

Hebe shrubs are mostly native to New Zealand, although there are a few varieties that are native to isolated areas of the South Pacific and Chile, South America. Since they’re so versatile, they’re also commonly grown in the British Isles, parts of western Europe, and North America. 

You’ll see Hebe plants sold at garden in July or August when they’re in full bloom. Most Hebes are hardy in USDA zones 7 through 11. If you live in a cooler climate, you can grow them in containers to overwinter indoors. However, when it flowers from summer to early fall, it is truly happiest outdoors. 

Hebe plants are difficult to identify unless they’re in flower. Hebes are easily recognized by their bottle-brush flower spikes, usually produced in large numbers. The floral spikes are made up of tiny flowers which fade to white with age. They’re highly attractive to butterflies, bees, and other insects.

Hebe shrub Hebe blue clouds

Taxonomy and History

One of the old common names for the Hebe shrub is “Veronica” or “Shrubby Veronica.” That’s because the many types of Hebe shrub were first classified in the genus “Veronica.” 

Then, in 1929, botanists Leornard Cockayne and HH Allen reclassified the 90 or more New Zealand species under their own genus, “Hebes.” 

However, a 2010 analysis of the plant’s DNA proved beyond a doubt that they are, in fact, Veronicas. This has proven confusing to many home gardeners and even a few professional growers.

Most gardeners still call them Hebe plants, however. After all, Hebe is the name of the Greek goddess of youth. 

Calling them “Veronicas” makes them sound a 90s pop group. 

As a native plant to New Zealand, you may find them under their Maori names: titirangi and napuka.

Whatever you call them, there’s no doubt that they’re a glorious addition to any landscape.

Hebe plants hebe shrub

Appearance and Characteristics of Hebe

Hebe plants vary in size, ranging from low-growing varieties about 12 to 15 inches in height to larger shrubs that reaches up to 6 feet tall. 

They generally have a compact and bushy growth habit, forming rounded or mounded shapes.

Some varieties exhibit a more upright or spreading form, offering a diverse range of options for landscaping purposes.

Foliage

The foliage of Hebe shrubs is one of their most notable features. The leaves are typically lance-shaped and arranged in an opposite or whorled fashion along the stems.

Leaf color varies greatly, ranging from vibrant green to gray-green, with some tinged pink and white, or red. Some varieties have foliage with variegated patterns or silver tones. Hebe andersonii, for example, have bright green leaves rimmed with yellow. 

SEE ALSO:   Oregano Herb: Aroma, Smell, and Taste

The leaves may be smooth or possess fine hairs, adding texture and interest to the plant’s appearance.

Large-leafed varieties are found in lowlands and coastal regions, while those at higher altitudes produce much smaller leaves.

Flowers

Hebe shrubs produce clusters of small, tubular flowers arranged in a spiked inflorescence. Hebes bloom in a variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, blue, and mauve.

The flowering period depends on the specific variety but generally occurs in late spring to summer, sometimes through early fall, attracting bees and butterflies to the garden.

The flowers are often fragrant, adding a delightful scent to the surrounding area.

Types of Hebe Shrubs

There is a wide range of Hebe shrub cultivars and varieties available, each with its own unique characteristics in terms of foliage color, flower shape, and growth habit. See the photos at the end of the article for a variety of examples.

Some popular varieties include: 

Hebe ‘Blue Clouds’

Hebe ‘Blue Clouds’ is an excellent hybrid with long spikes of bluish-mauve flowers from early summer until well into fall. The glossy evergreen foliage is deep green with tinges of maroon, which is reflected in the color of the stems. This color deepens over the winter months.

This variety is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11, and it appreciates full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. This slow-growing flowering shrub is also perfect for container growing in temperate zones and requires very little in the way of maintenance.

Hebe stricta

Often labeled “Veronica stricta,’ Hebe stricta is a commonly found New Zealand native, called Koromiko in the Maori language. It has long, light green, lance-shaped leaves and the white to pale purplish-pink flowers, borne on spikes up to 6 inches in length, that bloom during summer. 

This hardy species likes full sun and tolerates both drought and damp in the garden, as well as windy coastal locations. It grows about 6 feet tall and was used as an herbal medicine for stomach disorders.

Hebe salicifolia

Hebe salicifolia is an attractive, fast growing variety, often called “New Zealand Willow” because of its gracefully drooping growth habit. This species grows up to 6 feet tall and features long, thin, light green leaves. 

Its blooms are white or pale purple in color and they’re borne on drooping racemes when the plant blooms in summer and fall. This variety is also found in Chile and the Steward and Auckland Islands.

It grows best in sunny but sheltered locations with well-drained soil. It is one of the more cold-hardy Hebe shrubs and is hardy up to USDA Zone 6

Hebe andersonii

Hebe andersonii is an evergreen flowering shrub growing up to 6 ft high. Its most stunning features is it variegated leaves. This evergreen foliage features lance-shaped leaves with dark green centers and cream edging. The flowers are purple. H. andersonii requires some dappled shade to thrive. It is hardy in USDA Zones 9 and 10, and likes acidic, sandy soil with regular moisture. It’s a perfect landscape variety for the subtropics. 

However, with its rounded shape, it’s suitable for container growing in cooler climates. It makes a stunning specimen on a deck or lanai in the summer.

Hebe ‘Emerald Gem’

This compact and rounded evergreen shrub won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. It’s dense, rounded growth habit only grows about 12 to 18 inches tall, making it a real winner for small garden spaces and containers. 

SEE ALSO:   Fall Colors Of Flowers, Foliage And Berries

It’s more tolerant than other Hebe plants, and flourishes in both full sun and part shade. It does well in nutrient-poor soils, as long as they’re well-draining. Emerald Gem is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9.

This Hebe shrub requires very little maintenance. It won’t need frequent pruning to keep its rounded shape. It’s also rarely bother by pests or disease. 

It doesn’t bloom prolifically – but when it does, the flowers appear as cute small white puffs on the ends of the branches.

Hebe ‘Great Orme’

H. ‘Great Orme’ is elegant hybrid which has narrow green leaves and spikes of pale pink flowers that age to white. It flowers in the late summer and early fall. 

This species has a more open growth habit with spreading branches. It matures at around 5 feet high and 5 feet wide.

H. ‘Great Orme’ tolerates both full sun and partial shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil. It’s exceptionally cold hardy and suitable for outdoor landscaping in USDA zones 5 to 9.  

Hebe ‘Red Edge’

Hebe ‘Red Edge’ does just what it says on the label. It features dusky green leaves, shiny and oval shaped, edged in red, adding color in the absence of blooms.

It does flower, however, in masses of lilac purple blooms that rise above the foliage throughout the summer and into fall. 

It only grows about 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. This dense growing Hebe shrub is naturally rounded in shape and requires very little maintenance. You’ll want to prune it only after it flowers, in late fall. 

It makes an excellent garden edging or mass planting in Zones 7 to 9 because of its regular shape. It’s small size also makes it an excellent container plant.

Hebe macrantha

H. macranthais not one of the hardiest and requires a warm spot, but it is a good rock garden shrub as it grows to just 2 feet high. It features an open shape, however, spreading out to about 3 feet in width. 

The foliage is shiny with egg-shaped bright green leaves. The flowers are white and showy and particularly lovely. It blooms in summer with upright facing ice-white, cup-shaped flowers

Plant this variety in moist, well drained soil in partial shade or full sun. It’s hardy to USDA zones 9 and 10. It’s small size and stunning floral display make it a worthy container plant for indoors, patios, or lanais.

Hebe ‘Wiri Mist’

H. ‘Wiri Mist’ is another compact variety featuring white flowers on short racemes that give the appearance of showy clusters. The foliage is glossy and light green. 

It prefers moist, moderately fertile soil that is well-draining and does best in full sun.

It makes a beautiful low border plant or container specimen. While it tolerates light frost, it flourishes in USDA zones 8 to 10.

Hebe ‘Baby Marie’

Another popular dwarf variety is H. ‘Baby Marie’ — one of the first to flower in the spring and summer. Growing to just 15 inches tall, it has reddish brown stems and white flowers with red markings.

It prefers warmer climates and warmer winters and is hardy in USDA xones 7 thorugh 11. This open-branched variety likes full sun or partial shade and moist but well-drained soil.

Hebe variegata

H. variegatahas very attractive cream-edged foliage. It grows upright with a round shape and features gray-green leaves with white edges. 

SEE ALSO:   Breynia Plant

It’s a prolific bloomer, producing masses of purple flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. 

This Hebe shrub grows up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and its variegated evergreen foliage needs little pruning or other maintenance. It’s hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11.

How to Care for Hebe Plants

Hebe shrubs are generally hardy and adaptable plants that thrive in a variety of growing conditions. They’re easy to grow from cuttings or from Hebe seeds.

Most prefer well-drained soils and perform best in areas with moderate moisture levels.

Many Hebe varieties prefer full sun or partial shade, though there are a few varieties that can’t tolerate shade.

They are generally suitable for USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, but specific cultivars have different hardiness ranges.

The Best Hebe Plants for Your Garden

Hebe shrubs are highly valued for their ornamental qualities and are commonly used in landscaping and garden designs.

They’re ideal for creating low hedges, borders, or mass plantings, providing structure and color to the landscape.

Hebes are also suitable for rock gardens, container plantings, or as specimen plants in mixed borders.

Their evergreen foliage ensures year-round interest in the garden, while the vibrant flowers add seasonal pops of color.

When considering Hebe shrubs for your landscape, it’s important to select varieties that are well-suited to your local climate and growing conditions. Consulting with local nurseries provides valuable guidance in choosing the right Hebe species or cultivars for your specific needs.

Some of the showier cultivars include:

Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’

Features glossy dark green leaves edged in red, with red stems, and masses of purple flowers.

Hebe ‘Patty’s Purple’

Resembling boxwood, with dense foliage of tiny dark green leaves, red stems, and purple flowers.

Hebe ‘Wiri Charm’

Spreading out to 4 to 6 feet high, this compact cultivar features magenta blooms.

Hebe ‘Nicola’s Blush’

A low-spreading variety with white and pink flowers.

Hebe ‘Sapphire’

A dense Hebe shrub with red-tinged leaves and stunning bright violet colored flowers.

Common Pests and Plant Disease

Hebes are hardy plants that tend to be trouble free. However, no plant is completely immune to trouble.

Hebes can become affected by fungal diseases, such as leaf spot, powdery mildew, and gray mold. It’s important to ensure your plants have adequate ventilation, particularly when planted in containers. 

Specimens kept in containers are also prone to root rot, usually due to overwatering

They attract pest insects when they’re weakened by disease or weather. These include vine weevils, leaf cutter bees, and caterpillars 

These pests inflict aesthetic damage to your plant but are otherwise relatively harmless.

Conclusion

With their evergreen beauty, prolific flowering habits, and broad range of size and growth habit, Hebe plants are real workhorses in any landscape. 

With such a wide selection of species to choose from, you’ll find one for every spot in your garden – and in your home. 

They’re low-maintenance and provide food for pollinators and hummingbirds. So, adding a Hebe shrub to your garden is an easy decision to make.

 

hebe variegata

Hebe variegata

Hebe Great Orme

Hebe Great Orme

Hebe stricta

Hebe stricta

Hebe macrantha

Hebe macrantha

Hebe Baby Marie

Hebe Baby Marie

Hebe Wiri Joy

Hebe Wiri Joy

Hebe Blue Gem

Hebe Blue Gem

Hebe brachysiphon White Gem

Hebe brachysiphon White Gem

Hebe Buxifolia

Hebe Buxifolia

Hebe anomala Purpurea Nana

Hebe anomala Purpurea Nana

Hebe Silver Dollar

Hebe Silver Dollar

Hebe speciosa

Hebe speciosa

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and has been completely updated.

2 thoughts on “Hebe Plants: A Guide to Growing Hebes”

  1. I am new to this plant so not sure if I should keep indoors or if it is safe for me to plant in the garden. I live in London On.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top