Veronica is a robust genus of flowering plants that includes more than 500 species, several dozen of which are cultivated as landscape flowers. Of these, one of the most popular is the easy-growing perennial Veronica spicata, often known as spiked speedwell, which is often called just speedwell. It is grown for its showy spikes of long-lasting flowers that begin blooming in late spring or early summer. The flowers rise on stems from dense mounds of foliage to form tapered, spike-like racemes covered by tiny, star-shaped flowers in a striking shade of violet-blue. Their height varies greatly depending on the variety, from a compact six inches to three feet.
The best time to plant veronica is in spring after the soil is warm enough to work easily. Spiked speedwell is a fast grower, but is not invasive, and it grows from nearly ground level after being cut back for overwintering to full height before the end of the growing season.
|Common Name||Veronica, spiked speedwell, speedwell|
|Botanical Name||Veronica spicata|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||6 in. to 3 ft. tall, 6 in. to 2 ft. wide (depending on variety)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Flower Color||Purplish-blue, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||3 to 8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia|
Veronica Spicata Care
This low-maintenance plant is well-suited in rock gardens, along foundations, in border beds, and any sunny spot in the landscape. It makes a good fresh-cut flower in floral arrangements. Veronica flowers attract butterflies and bees, but the plants are not of much interest to deer or rabbits.
Deadhead Veronica spicata flowers to extend their blooming season. There are very few pest or disease problems with spiked speedwell, but soggy soils can cause root rot. You can divide the plants every few years to limit the size of the clumps or simply for propagation.
Speedwell does best in a full sun location, but it will tolerate some partial shade.
Loamy, well-drained soil is the best environment for spiked speedwell. These plants do not tolerate soggy soil, which can kill them and cause root rot.
If you have poor or clay soil, amend it with compost before you plant. The compost will also provide nutrients to give your young plant a good start in your garden.
In the future, occasionally sprinkle a layer of compost around the plant and work it in by irrigating the soil afterward with your garden hose.
Although they are drought-resistant plants once mature, spiked speedwells must be watered regularly while they are young. Even as mature plants, they will bloom better when given a moderate amount of water. They typically need one inch of water per week.
Temperature and Humidity
Spiked speedwell is tolerant of virtually any climate conditions found within its hardiness range. However, take care to protect the plants from strong winds because they can be easily damaged; plant them near a structure for protection.
Spiked speedwell blooms well even if rarely fed. At most, a single annual feeding will suffice; many gardeners omit feeding altogether or fertilize just once every other year.
Types of Veronica Spicata
- Veronica spicata 'Glory': This variety has low-growing foliage (about 12 inches tall) from which 10- to 12-inch blue-violet flower racemes rise in late spring through mid-summer. Sometimes this variety is sold under the trade name of 'Royal Candles'.
- V. spicata 'Giles Van Hees': This compact variety has reddish-pink flowers; at just six inches tall when in bloom, this is a good choice if you want a short plant for the front of a border.
- V. spicata 'Icicle': This plant bears white flowers and is 2 feet tall when in bloom.
- V. spicata 'Sunny Border Blue’: This hybrid grows to 20 inches tall with spikes of dark violet flowers that bloom into late fall.
- V. spicata 'Rotfuchs' (Red Fox): This compact variety has deep rose-red flower spikes growing from mat-forming foliage that grows 12 to 18 inches tall.
Several other Veronica species also make excellent garden plants:
- V. longifolia 'Sunny Border Blue': Not only does it have longer leaves than V. spicata (as the Latin species name longifolia suggests), but it is also a taller plant, reaching 3 feet in height when in bloom.
- V. teucrium 'Royal Blue': This plant is similar to V. spicata, but the individual blooms on the flower spikes are bigger.
- V. umbrosa 'Georgia Blue': This creeping form of veronica grows less than 6 inches tall, making it useful as a flowering ground cover.
- V. repens 'Sunshine': Another short creeper, this variety has golden leaves.
- V. austriaca subsp. teucrium ‘Crater Lake Blue’: This mat-forming perennial grows 12 to 18 inches tall with beautiful, deep gentian blue flowers in early summer.
- V. prostrata 'Dick's Wine': A low spreader (4 to 6 inches tall, with a spread of 18 inches), this variety produces dense clusters of pink flowers in spring and summer.
During the bloom season, deadhead individual faded flower spikes to generate more branching and blooming. You can shear off the plant down to the foliage if it begins to look straggly. After the first killing frost, cut back all foliage to within a few inches of the ground.
Propagating Veronica Spicata
This plant can be propagated through dividing, cuttings, or seeds.
Lift and divide the plants every three or four years in the early spring or early fall. This will keep the plants vigorous, and the outer portions can be replanted. Take your divisions from the outer edges of the plant. They are more likely to root than the inner parts of the plant.
Take softwood cuttings in late spring or summer. Root them in a potting medium, and grow them in pots until they are large enough to transplant into the garden.
How to Grow Veronica Spicata From Seed
Veronica spicata is rarely grown from seed, but it can be sown directly in the garden in spring through mid-summer. Germination can take two or three weeks. These plants sometimes spread by self-seeding in the garden, or you can collect the seed heads and plant the seeds where you want.
Potting and Repotting Veronica Spicata
Taller varieties of Veronica spicata serve well as a vertical focal point in container gardens. It thrives in a pot with well-draining soil. Tall spiked blooms might need staking, even in a pot. Try not to disturb speedwell's root system by transplanting too often or the plant can start to decline.
Reduce watering in the winter. To protect the plant from a wet winter, shelter it with something that will divert or block excessive precipitation. Very moist winter soil can kill the plant. Your best defense is to start with well-drained planting beds to prevent water pooling and soggy soil.
Veronica can be susceptible to snails, slugs, and aphids. Eliminate snails and slugs with bait, and get rid of aphids by spraying with neem oil.
Can Veronica spicata grow indoors?
Veronica spicata grows well container garden if it receives ample sunlight and warmth, six to eight hours of sunlight per day. However, the root system might become too big over the years to allow the plant to truly thrive indoors.
How long does Veronica spicata live?
Expect this plant to live for five to six years.
How should I use this plant in the landscape?
Spiked speedwell make a good addition to sunny rock gardens and borders, and is also a common plant in foundation beds. It has long-lasting flowers, making it a popular choice for cutting gardens.