How to Grow and Care for Hebe Shrubs

Hebe shrub with spiked blooms of purple flowers and green spikes between leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Hebe shrub family is a favorite of many gardeners because of the plant's easy cultivation and care requirements. These showy shrubs are 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.

Botanical Name Hebe spp.
Common Name Hebe shrub, shrubby Veronica
Family Plantaginaceae
Plant Type Perennial, shrub
Mature Size 1-6 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Red, pink, white, purple, blue
Hardiness Zones 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
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 with green branches on rocky pathway

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Hebe shrub with green spiked leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Hebe shrub branch with white spiked blooms and buds closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Hebe shrub with spiky leaves and white spiked blossoms next to rock pebbles

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Hebe shrub with green spiked leaves clustered together in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

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.

Soil

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.

Water

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 it 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.

Fertilizer

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.
Hebe 'Variegata'
Hebe 'Variegata'
Hebe 'Red Edge'
Hebe 'Red Edge' mtreasure / Getty Images

Pruning

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 looked. 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, about 1 inch high.
  • Dip the cutting into rooting hormone.
  • Plant the cut end into potting soil and keep your cuttings moist, but not wet.

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. If you do choose to propagate from seed, plant the seeds directly in a container filled with permeable soil. Make sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Germination should occur within a matter of weeks, but don't be surprised as the seedlings grow very slowly.

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 you choose is well-draining, as hebe shrubs do not like wet soil. By keeping it pruned, watered, and in full sun, you will have a beautiful potted hebe.

Overwintering

In a warmer climate, established shrubs should do just fine during winter. In cooler climates or with younger shrubs, protect them by wrapping or covering them before the freezing temperatures arrive.

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.

FAQ
  • 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.