What you should know about hebe plants: Planting, pruning, and maintenance

hebe plant
The hebe plant is a compact shrub known for its colorful leaves and blooms.

While your clients probably love the colors and scents that flowering shrubs provide to borders, they don't want fragile plants that take up their time. Named after the Greek goddess of youth, hebes are low-maintenance plants that maintain their decorative (often variegated) foliage all year round. Most hebes bear purple, pink, red, or white flowers that are similar to a bottlebrush's spike of flowers.

Hebes commonly have small rounded leaves and grow up to 1-3m in height and width. Originally from New Zealand, South America, and the Pacific Island, some hebe varieties are suited to coastal areas since they are able to withstand salty winds. These types of hebes are suitable for hedges. This article will show you how to grow and care for hebe plants. We'll also consider a few of the most common hebe species for landscaping uses.

Is hebe a winter plant?

A few species of hebes show a dramatic color change in foliage as winter approaches. Generally, large-leaved hebes are less hardy than small-leaved hebe plants. Hebes with large leaves are usually unable to withstand temperatures below 25 degrees. Hence, these hebe varieties have to be protected from winter colds. The majority of hebe species are only winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 or higher, which includes the southern United States and parts of the coasts. In summer, as well as during the dry spells of winter, water your hebe plants frequently.

What are the best hebe plants for landscaping?

There are a wide variety of hebe species to choose from. Hebe speciosa variegata has purple blooms and cream-edge foliage. It grows up to six feet high. This can offer a tall hedge for your garden. Hebes, with shorter heights, such as "Mrs winder" with its bright purple blooms, can be planted as ground cover, in containers, or used as borders.

You want to choose hebe shrubs based on your landscape design goals. The large-leaf varieties are great for adding dimension and color to an empty landscape while the small leaf varieties offer evergreen foliage of green, gray, whitish green, or variegated green, with flower blooms that come in a variety of colors, depending on the species.

  • Hebe Speciosa Variegata "Shrubby veronica"

Shrubby Veronica is characterized by variegated greyish green leaves with creamy margins. In early summer to early fall, it bears spikes of beautiful purple flowers. Hebe speciosa variegata can be planted in groups as a hedge or container plant. It grows up to

3 ft (90 cm) high and up to 2 ft in width (60 cm). When planting shrubby veronica, balance its fine texture with one or two coarse textured shrubs, e.g hydrangea to form a beautiful landscape.

  • Hebe Alicia Amherst

This is a hebe cultivar known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Similar to shrubby veronica, it grows up to 3-4 inches tall and as wide. And hence, it is suitable for use as a hedge. Hebe "Alicia Amherst", named after the English horticulturist Alicia Amherst, is frost hardy and thrives in coastal regions when maintained properly. It's coarse-textured with leaves of about 10cm in length. It blooms spike-like violet-purple flowers between late July to September.

  • Hebe "Grace Kelly"

This hebe cultivar, named after the American actress, Grace Kelly, was developed in 2007 in Cambridge, New Zealand and introduced in 2011 by Stephen Burton. It is famous for its variegated white and green leaves with yellow tinges at the tips and purple flowers blooming between June and September. The flower racemes are red-purple in color. Grace Kelly grows about 2-3 feet tall and wide.

  • Hebe Albicans "red edge"

Commonly used as a low edge or in containers for patios and terraces, hebe albicans are round, compact shrubs that grow up to 60 cm in height. They have oval, light green leaves arranged across the stems. Albicans is a Latin word meaning "off-white", denoting the color of its flowers. Its green foliage darkens to a reddish tint during winter. It is also a hardy shrub that can thrive in the NorthWest.

  • Hebe "Mrs Winder" or "Waikiki"

Hebe Mrs Winder is also sometimes called Shrubby Veronica. Under good maintenance, it reaches 1.3m in height. But generally, it grows to around 1m in height. It's usually used as a low hedge. It flowers from late summer to early winter, able to withstand cold. Its flowers are purple-colored with tapered spikes and its leaves are dark green with a reddish-brown color when young. It's a fast-growing plant suitable for planting in coastal areas. 

Planting hebes

Ideally, hebes should be planted in spring. You can also plant in autumn. However, ensure you can protect your young plants from the winter cold. Here are some things to know about planting hebe shrubs:

1. Use a pot filled with well-drained sandy soil and mixed with compost and some controlled-release feed fertilizer.

2. Position your hebes where they can receive full sunlight. In areas where the plant is shaded, it becomes leggy or stops growing.

3. Hebes are usually planted with seeds or cuttings. When using cuttings, dip the end of the cutting in hormone powder to encourage growth.

4. For potted hebes, you might need to transplant into larger pots after a year to give the roots more room to spread. Planting and transplanting shrubs can be tricky, and you might need the help of a local certified arborist.

5. When planting, stick the tip of the cutting deep into thoroughly moistened soil.

6. Keep young hebes indoors during winter and transplant in spring.

Hebe shrubs: pruning and maintenance

Hebe plants aren't commonly affected by pests and diseases. And they don't like high phosphate fertilizers. If your plant is dying, that could be because you applied this type of fertilizer. Cheryl Denham, owner of Arizona Florist, a family-owned florist company in Phoenix advises “when your hebe plant starts showing signs of feebleness, you can take cuttings from it instead of buying new plants. To promote growth, dip in cuttings and apply some controlled-release fertilizer around the base. At the end of winter, you want to inspect your hebe plant and prune away damaged stems”.

Conclusion

Hebe shrubs require delicate care when budding but once fully grown, are low maintenance plants with evergreen leaves. They make a nice, colorful addition to hedges and borders.

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