Hebes are great little evergreen shrubs that originate from New Zealand. There are over 100 species in this genus, and for a long time they were mistakenly called Veronica. They are grown for their compact shrubby form and the great variety of foliage.
There are two distinct foliage groups, the first being oval to lance-shaped leaves, and the other being flattened, scale like leaves that look like conifers. The oval-leafed hebes have opposite pairs of leaves that are oriented at 90 degrees to each other which lends a great textural look. This textural quality encourages playful creativity with different plant combinations.
The scaly-leafed hebes are a good substitution for small conifers and have some great growth habits and textures. These plants also have a variety of leaf colors and variegations. They usually bloom in the summer with flower spikes ranging in color from white through pink to deep purple and crimson.
Most hebes will grown well here in the Pacific Northwest provided they have good drainage, but sometimes in Portland, we get that little stint of cold weather which takes a toll on them. They do not like winter cold, although some are more frost-hardy than others. In general, the bigger leaved varieties are more tender, so they would appreciate a sheltered location close to a house or protected by a larger tree or shrub.
Planting them in the spring, rather than the fall, gives them time to root in and get established before the winter cold season. Protection from wind also helps them thrive here in Portland.
One of the reasons we love hebes is because they make great container plants, especially the smaller varieties. They add year-round interest to containers with a great structural element, and they bloom!!
They are the perfect plant, with a little bit of everything. The wide range of hebes mean there is certainly one to fit your container and style. A golden green conifer-looking hebe would complement a rock garden container, while a bigger-leafed purple foliage hebe would add fabulous texture in a modern clean-lined container planting.
If you are not familiar with hebes, come in and check them out and see for yourself what great plants these are.
Hebe ‘Amy’This stunning hebe boasts rich violet flowers above deep purple leaves for a striking plant. It keeps a nice, round form and is an excellent choice for a centerpiece in a container. Grows to be 3’ by 3’ and is a zone 8. Photo credit to Blooming Nursery.
Hebe buxifolia ‘Nana’ (also known as Hebe odora) The common name for this hebe is the Boxwood Hebe because it looks like a boxwood but grows faster. It is a bushy upright shrub with oval dark green leaves. In early spring to midsummer bears small white flower spikes. Can grow to 3’ tall and 5’wide with a hardiness of zone 8.
Hebe cuppressoides One of the whipcord or conifer looking hebes with dense, upright foliage and green scale-like leaves that looks like a small cypress. In early spring to mid-summer it bears small pale lilac-blue flowers in spikes to about 1” long. Grows to be 4’ tall and wide in zones 8-9.
Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ This cute little shrub is a favorite around here at the nursery. Tiny silver leaves with dark stems and small purple flowers make this a great container plant, especially with a white and purple or silver color theme. Eventual size 18” by 18” and with a hardiness of a zone 8.
Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ Low-growing hebe with oval blue-gray leaves on purple stems and white flowers. The new growth gives a nice contrast with red margins. Great for containers or as a ground covering shrub in the garden. Grows to be 9” tall and 5’ wide with a hardiness of zone 8.
Hebe ‘Red Edge’ This fabulous container hebe looks great year-round with lilac to white flowers from summer on to fall and tiny blue-green leaves with a rosy red margin that brighten up a winter day! Another one of our favorites!! Grows to be 18” tall and 24” wide with a hardiness of zone 7.
Family: Scrophulariaceae (figwort or foxglove family)
Origin: New Zealand
Culture: Grows in full sun and can tolerate a wide range of soils, but need excellent, perfect drainage. Also would appreciate a regular mulching schedule, and most do best with regular summer water.
Pests and Diseases: Leaf spot and downy mildew can be a problem in humid areas.
Maintenance: Prune after bloom by cutting back branches that bloomed by ½ to maintain a compact form, as a bloom on their new growth. Also, a good thinning every couple years keeps Hebe in good shape. They can be rejuvenated by cutting back severely, as they will sprout from old, leafless wood as long as not all the green growth is removed.