Hebe is a huge genus of fairly low-growing, evergreen shrubs with many cultivars and recognized species. Most are native to coastal or mountain regions in New Zealand, this plant is a popular garden addition.
This perennial, which may have burgundy, bronze, green or variegated evergreen foliage, the hebe shrub is grown as an ornamental plant for its year-round interest.
This enduring perennial was named after Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth. Whilst the genus is native to New Zealand, it is possible that its true origin may be Australian or Asian.
Recent studies also appear to conclude that the species originated in mountainous regions and then colonized to low-lying land.
|Height||Up to 2 m|
|Width||Up to 2 m|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 7 to 11|
|Native to||New Zealand|
|Flower colors||White, Pink, Red, Purple, Blue|
|Plant specific features||Evergreen foliage, showy flower spikes in Summer|
How to Plant and Grow Hebe Plants
Where to Plant
Often used for container planting, hebes are a good choice if you are looking for an easy-to-care-for, tough evergreen shrub that retains a naturally attractive dome top.
One of the many reasons for their popularity is that hebe shrubs will thrive in many locations and tolerate diverse growing conditions.
Equally well-suited to in-ground planting, a hebe will be a good addition to a mixed border or shrubbery.
When to Plant
For best results, plant a hebe in the Spring. It will be able to benefit from a full growing season in order to establish a good, strong root network. A young plant should always be transplanted or repotted in the Spring, although it will need to be kept well-watered during the Summer.
If you are planting a nursery grown, containerized hebe, you can also plant this in the Autumn. But you will need to be vigilant to any forecast of exceptionally cold weather and be prepared to provide a little protection during the shrub’s first winter season.
Hebe Shrub Care and Maintenance
It isn’t difficult to grow hebe shrubs, but they will do best if you take the following growing tips into account.
Hebe shrubs are tolerant of different soil types and will thrive in both slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soil. However, they prefer neutral soil.
Need to ensure the soil is well-drained. A hebe will die if its roots are left standing in soggy soil. Keeping the soil moist, but not wet, is the key to a healthy hebe plant.
Once planted, keep the hebe shrub well-watered for the first growing season. During the first year after planting, the hebe will be developing its root network and shouldn’t dry out.
An established hebe is considered to be drought-tolerant; however, it will perform best if it is provided with regular and sufficient water. This will encourage a healthy plant, that will reward you with brightly colored foliage and plenty of showy blooms during the Summer.
Choose a fertilizer designed for evergreen shrubs. Hebes do not require much feeding, but an annual boost either with an appropriate fertilizer or organic material will encourage vigorous growth. The application should be in late winter or early in the Spring, and this will promote flowering.
It is important to select a balanced fertilizer; if you use a product that is too high in nitrogen content, it is likely to produce lush foliage, but fewer flowers.
Avoid applying fertilizer later in the season, as this will result in tender, new growth that may not be sufficiently robust to survive the onset of winter and cold temperatures.
All hebe shrubs will perform best if they are planted in a sunny position. They will still thrive in partial shade but have a tendency to become leggy if they do not receive sufficient sunlight.
Furthermore, if deprived of sunshine, a hebe’s flowering production will be greatly reduced.
Pruning and Repotting
An annual pruning will help to keep the hebe in an attractive shape. Deadheading promptly will encourage the production of more flowers.
Once the flowering season has finished, you can trim the hebe. Make sure you don’t remove more than a third of the plant’s branches. Pruning annually will ensure that the hebe doesn’t become straggly, but you can trim it lightly at any time during the growing season.
Keep an eye out for any diseased or damaged branches, and remove all dead wood promptly. This will help to prevent the onset of disease or pest attacks.
If growing hebe shrubs in containers choose a pot that is sufficiently large to enable the shrub to grow for a few years without the need to repot.
The easiest method to multiply hebe shrubs is by taking cuttings in the Spring or early Summer. Select pieces of stem from the current season’s growth. These should be around 10 cm long and if you use hormone rooting powder, your cuttings will root quicker.
The pots containing the cuttings should be filled with potting compost and watered well. Although the hebe cuttings should start to root relatively quickly, don’t be tempted to transplant them until they have become healthy and strong new plants.
Pests and diseases
Most problems with hebe shrubs can be controlled using either horticultural oil or an organic pesticide. Aphids and spider mites are the most common pests to attack hebe plants.
Providing you keep the hebe in well-drained soil, the fungal disease should not be a problem. However, to keep the shrub in optimum condition, always remove dead branches promptly.
Never allow an organic mulch to come into direct contact with the stem of the hebe as this can lead to rot. Keep good airflow through the shrub’s lower growth by cutting back the branches at the base of the shrub.
Temperature and Humidity
Whilst hebe shrubs are relatively hardy, they won’t do well if they are subjected to extended periods of frost conditions. A particularly hard freezing can cause significant damage to a hebe shrub.
A hebe prefers mild winters and summers that are not too hot.
Other Uses for Hebe
One of the many great things about hebe shrubs is their salt tolerance. This makes them a good choice for a coastal garden.
The dwarf species are good for growing in rock gardens or containers. Other low-growing varieties make excellent ground cover.
Hebe can be used to create a windbreak or low hedge – mostly, hebe shrubs will not grow more than 1 meter.
Hebe shrubs are native to New Zealand and have traditionally been used by the Maori people for culinary and medicinal purposes.
The large flowers, which resemble a bottle brush, make the hebe extremely popular with bees and other pollinating insects, so this is a good plant for a wildlife or nature garden.
Types of Hebe You Can Grow
Hebe is such a large genus of both species and cultivars that you will be spoiled for choice. Consider your climate and, as a general rule, you will find that the smaller the leaves on the hebe, the hardier and more cold-tolerant the shrub.
You can choose between plain and variegated types and varieties with leaf colors ranging from deep green to emerald. Then there are the dwarf or low-growing hebe varieties. Finally, you can select a hebe with the flower color of your choice from white, red, pink, or purple.
Hebe “Bowles Hybrid” produces purple flowers in the Summer and often will have a second flush of flowers in late Autumn, which in mild winters may continue into the winter. This is a hardier hybrid, although still susceptible to cold.
Hebe “Celebration” is an attractive variety that is not particularly hardy. It produces clusters of purple flowers in the early Summer. This variety has attractive, long leaves, and forms a dense and attractive domed top.
Hebe “Sapphire” produces delicate lilac-colored flower clusters that appear above the lance-shaped, evergreen leaves.
Hebe “Rhubarb and Custard” has distinctive gray-green and cream variegated foliage, which turns pinky-purple once temperatures start to drop at the end of Autumn.
The bright clusters of purple flowers are borne above the tightly compact dome top. This is a showy species that provide multi-seasonal interest in the garden.
Hebe is a neat and tidy garden shrub. Being evergreen, it will bring color all year and many of the varieties have showy flowers that are long-lasting.
These bushy shrubs come in a vast array of colors, leaf types, sizes, and shapes. Whether you decide to grow hebe as a hedging plant, or in a container, you won’t be disappointed by your choice.
*image by pstedrak/depositphotos