Frequently Asked Questions
What is a hebe?
Hebes used to be called ‘shrubby veronicas’ and this is a very good description of them. Veronicas, commonly called speedwells, are herbaceous plants of the northern hemisphere, where there are about 300 species. Hebes are woody plants of New Zealand, and there are about 100 species. The flowers of hebes and veronicas are very similar.
New Zealand is surrounded by oceans and has a very even climate. This may explain why several groups of plants we know as herbaceous in the UK, are shrubs in New Zealand. There are daisy bushes (Senecio and Olearia), shrubby violets (Hymenanthera) and shrubby mallows (Hoheria).
Are hebes hardy?
In New Zealand hebes are found in most habitats, from sea-level to high alpine, from the high rainfall areas of Fiordland and Westland to the near desert of Otago, from the subtropical north to chilly Stewart Island, in the south.
In cultivation many of the more showy, large leaved hebes have Hebe speciosa as a parent. This species is found on seaside cliffs of the North Island of New Zealand – it is very tender. However there are many very hardy hebes that will come through an average UK winter unscathed, examples are Hebe salicifolia, Hebe rakaiensis and Hebe ‘Spender’s Seedling’. The general rule is the smaller the leaf, the hardier the hebe.
Where do I buy hebes in the USA?
At present known suppliers of hebes are on the west coast. Look at: Blooming Nursery, Bramble Bank Garden Nursery, Colvos Creek Nursery, Joy Creek Nursery, Lumberjack Farms Nursery, Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, and Windy Hill Farm Nursery, on the Nurseries Page. More will be added as they become known.
I have bought an unnamed hebe from a supermarket, how can I identify it?
The easiest option is to compare your plant with those in a garden centre. But many hebes in cultivation are wrongly named. For example Hebe rakaiensis was sold for many years as Hebe subalpina - they are distinctly different. Another option is to seek out a hebe collection (look at the page Gardens – where to see hebes and other New Zealand native plants).
You could try identifying your hebe with the help of a book. The best available for this is ‘Hebes Here and There’ (go to our books page), which has a large section on identifying hebes. However as hebes cross so easily, you might have a hebe hybrid that defies identification.
How do I prune hebes?
Frost damaged shoots should be removed in the spring, when the buds have started to grow. Cut to a bud that is growing further down the stem.
If a bush becomes overgrown, it is preferable to spread the cutting back over several months than to cut back all growths at one time. Again you should cut to a bud that is growing further down the stem.
After flowering is the best time to prune to shape and thicken the plant. Remove a few inches on small varieties and 6 to 10 inches on the larger ones. The pruned material makes good cuttings.
How do I take cuttings of hebes?
Hebes are easily propagated from 3–4 in cuttings taken in summer from the current season’s growth. Cuttings are taken just below a leaf joint. The bottom two pairs of leaves are removed and the cuttings dipped into a rooting hormone, although this not essential. These are then inserted into a soil-based John Innes Compost.
Young plants should be potted up in the spring. Remove the growing tip to induce a more bushy plant. Plants normally flower in the first year.
My Hebe ‘Mrs Winder’, or Hebe ‘Purple Shamrock’, does not flower
This is a common problem. There is nothing wrong with the plant, it just does not flower very often. It is often confused with other hebes, but it easily distinguished as the leaves diverge early, so it doesn’t form a leaf bud; also it flowers in autumn.
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