Hebes are one of those plants that possess the “girl-next-door” looks. In fact, most gardeners may have a hebe plant or two but grow them as fillers rather than the focal plant in their beds. And it’s no surprise, they’re just one of those plants that go about their growing business without too much fuss.
But, don’t make the mistake of writing them off either. The Hebe, sometimes bundled in with the Veronica family, is a plant that deserves far more attention than it receives.
The reason for its omission on the front cover of gardening magazines is due primarily to its ovate foliage. Can you recall the last stunner that possessed ovate leaves? They’re the shape that kids draw when they first start depicting plants with leaves and, quite honestly, hold very little appeal to the masses.
Hebe flowers aren’t anything to write home about either. While they’re certainly pretty enough and hold some attraction for bees and butterflies they don’t last long and look hideous when they’ve finished performing against many of the other stunning blooms. And dead-heading them to encourage a second flourish just doesn’t seem worth the time, or the effort.
No, hebes were destined to be the “poor cousin” to your standard, floribunda roses, fragrant gardenias and impressive magnolias.
Yet with new hybrids starting to enter the market, the plain-Jane hebe may see a rejuvenated acceptance, possibly – dare I say it – desire, amongst gardeners. Their foliage is improving with more elongated ovate leaves and some, like my H. “Mary Antoinette”, offering burgundy undersides which look amazing contrasted against the deep green leaf. Even the flower colour is deepening from vivid whites through magenta pinks and dark purples.
Hebe Plant Care & Management Tips
If you’ve gone ahead and put a couple of these in the garden or ordered a few varieties through your local nursery, you will need to know how to keep them looking their best.
- They will grow great either in containers or directly in garden beds
- Apart from frost-prone areas, you can grow hebes in almost any climactic region – even tropical
- They aren’t susceptible to many pests or disease and are virtually maintenance free
- The hebe plant’s one major drawback is its inate desire to become ‘leggy’. After each flourish of blooms it’s recommended that you cut it back by about a third for it to retain its compact shape.
- Hebes prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil but still do well in those coastal alkaline sands – go figure!
- Propagating hebes can easily be achieved through semi-hardwood cuttings taken at the end of summer
Photo source: Scott Cresswell