The Hebe shrub family is a favorite of many gardeners because of the plant's easy cultivation and care requirements. These mounded showy shrubs are broadleaf evergreens naturally found on the mountainsides and by the coasts of New Zealand, but their versatility has made them popular picks for landscaping and container gardening around the world. These compact shrubs are best known for their colorful leaves and blooms. They come in a wide range of foliage colors including green, purple, maroon, blue-green, and gray. Their spiked blooms can be found in red, pink, white, purple, or blue. With almost 100 species in the Hebe genus to choose from, there is a shrub to suit most landscaping needs and preferences.
|Common Name||Hebe shrub|
|Botanical Name||Hebe spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial, shrub|
|Mature Size||1-6 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Red, pink, white, purple, blue|
|Hardiness Zones||7-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||New Zealand|
Hebe Shrub Care
The striking appearance of the hebe shrub family can be enjoyed in almost any garden. These easy-to-care-for shrubs prefer mild conditions, both in the summer and winter. If you live in colder regions and would like to add these plants to your home, select hebe varieties with smaller leaves. It is not a steadfast rule, but generally the smaller the leaf, the more cold-hardy the shrub will be.
Hebe shrubs are great additions to a large garden but can easily be grown in containers as well. They love lots of light, well-draining soil, and don’t require much fertilizing. And if you’d like to add to your hebe family, they propagate easily to create more shrubs.
Hebe shrubs do best in full sun to partial shade. However, too much shade can make them leggy in appearance and may cause their blooming to stop.
Well-draining soil is a must for most hebe shrubs. They like moist soil, but never wet. The Hebe genus doesn’t do well with extremes in soil pH. Most can withstand slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil conditions, but neutral soil is generally best.
Though they are known for their drought tolerance, the hebe shrub still requires a good amount of water to maintain optimal growth and healthy foliage. A weekly watering schedule will keep in-ground plants happy, full, and bright.
Temperature and Humidity
The Hebe genus is quite hardy and can tolerate cold temperatures. However, heavy frosts or a deep freeze can really take a toll on these shrubs. The shrubs do best in a climate with warm summers and mild winters.
To add to their easy care, hebe shrubs do not require much fertilizing. If you would like to give your plant a boost, adding organic matter or compost in late winter or early spring will help encourage growth and flowering.
Types of Hebe Shrubs
There are close to 100 different species within the Hebe genus, and even more cultivar types. Be sure to do your research to make sure the type you select will work well with your garden conditions and design requirements. Below are just a few popular examples:
- Hebe 'Variegata': As this cultivar's name suggests, it has variegated leaves with a green-gray center and cream edges. When in bloom, purple flower spikes appear. This is a rather tall garden variety of hebe shrub, with a mature height of 5 to 6 feet.
- Hebe 'Western Hills': This hebe shrub has a frosty, clean appearance with a combination of silver-gray leaves and bright white or pale lavender-colored flowers.
- Hebe 'Red Edge': This eye-catching variety sports silver blue-green leaves. When flowering, the tips of the bush explode in beautiful red-maroon colors as the flowers bloom.
- Hebe 'Grace Kelly': Famous for its lovely variegated white and green leaves, this is a very popular hebe shrub. To complement its cheerful leaves, this variety boasts bright purple flowers when blooming.
Pruning hebe shrubs is easy and helps keep your plant looking full and beautiful. Once their flowers fade, trim them off to encourage more to bloom. Once your bush is done flowering, you can cut it back using the '1/3 Rule' for pruning shrubs to create a bushier look.
Throughout the growing season, you may find it advantageous to occasionally prune your shrub to maintain its polished look. This will keep it from taking on a leggy appearance.
Propagating Hebe Shrubs
Propagating hebe plants is simple. The best way to do this is through cuttings. Here’s how:
- Using clean snips, trim off a 3- to 4-inch-long section from your bush. Remove the bottom leaves of the clipping so the bottom inch of the cutting is bare.
- Dip the cutting into rooting hormone. Plant the cut end in a 4-inch pot filled with potting mix. Water it well.
- Place the pot in a location with bright indirect light and keep the soil evenly moist at all time but not wet. Once the cuttings have started to root, you will see new growth. Delay transplanting until the cutting has grown into a healthy-looking, vigorous new plant.
How to Grow Hebe Shrubs From Seed
Though it is possible to grow hebe shrubs from seed, keep in mind that it can take several years for the seedlings to establish and provide blooms in the landscape. Also, if you are using seeds from a cultivar, you will not get a plant that is identical to the parent. Therefore the recommended propagation method is from cuttings.
Potting and Repotting Hebe Shrubs
Hebe shrubs look fantastic in the garden, but also make lovely potted plants—and this means they can also be moved indoors during cold winter weather.
If you would like to keep your hebe in a container, keep in mind how large the mature size of the variety you select will become. Smaller varieties make the best potted hebe shrubs.
Be sure that the container is well-draining, and use well-draining potting mix, as hebe shrubs do not like wet soil. A terra cotta pot is idea because it lets excess moisture evaporate. The plants require repotting into a large container when they outgrow their pot, about every two years, or as needed depending on the growth rate.
In a warmer climate, established shrubs do just fine outdoors during the winter. Protect younger shrubs by wrapping or covering them before freezing temperatures arrive.
Below USDA zone 7, the plants need to be overwintered indoors.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Aphids and spider mites find this plant quite tasty. Take care of that problem with horticultural oil or an organic insecticide. Fungal issues might arise if the plant is too wet. Remedy this by keeping good air circulation around the shrub and keeping the soil moist, but not overly wet.
How to Get Hebe Shrubs to Bloom
If a hebe plant is not blooming, the most common culprit is a hard prune that removed new growth and nodes. But don't fret, as the hebe will take a season or two for recovery and present blooms again once new growth is fully established. However, if you haven't pruned the shrub in years, that can also be the problem. Take care to get on a regular pruning schedule.
Remember that it also needs full sun. If it has lovely foliage but no flowers, that means it's getting too much nitrogen. Correct this with the application of an appropriate fertilizer type; to be sure what that might be, take a sample of the soil to your local cooperative extension office for testing.
What are good companion plants for a hebe shrub?
Christmas or snow roses can look quite striking when planted alongside a hebe shrub.
How long can a hebe shrub live?
With proper care, these shrubs can thrive for up to 10 years.
Where should I place hebe shrubs in my house?
When grown in a container, hebe shrubs still need the benefits of full sun. Find the sunniest windowsill possible during the winter months; during the summer, taking the shrubs outside is ideal.