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 Veronica spicata, often known as spiked speedwell. There are several cultivated varieties of V. spicata, including 'Glory', which often sold under the trade name 'Royal Candles'.
Spiked speedwell is a clump-forming plant with flowers that grow on stalks of medium height. Like other species in the Veronica genus, it belongs to the plantain family. It is grown for its showy spikes of long-lasting flowers that begin blooming in late spring or early summer. The flower heads rise up 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. The leaves are narrow and lance-shaped, about 2 inches long.
This is a low-maintenance plant that works well in rock gardens, along foundations, in border beds, and any sunny spot in the landscape. It makes a good fresh-cut flower for arrangements. Veronica flowers attract butterflies and bees, but the plants are not of much interest to deer or rabbits. The best time to plant veronica is in spring, after the soil becomes warm enough to work easily. It's a fast grower and will rise from nearly ground-level (after being cut back for overwintering) to full height before the end of the growing season.
|Botanical Name||Veronica spicata|
|Common Names||Veronica, spiked speedwell, speedwell|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous flowering perennial|
|Mature Size||9 to 36 inches (depending on variety) with a similar spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Any average, well-drained soil|
|Bloom Time||Early summer through late summer|
|Flower Color||Purplish-blue, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||3 to 8, USDA|
|Native Area||Northern Europe, Asia|
Spiked Speedwell (Veronica) Care
Deadhead veronica flowers to extend their blooming season. The easiest method is to shear off the tops of the plants to remove many blossoms at the same time. It's not a problem if some of the foliage gets cut off; the upper leaves tend to become ratty-looking, anyway. After the first killing frost, cut back all foliage to within a few inches of the ground.
There are very few pest or disease problems with 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 light shade.
Loamy, well-drained soil is the best environment for spiked speedwell. These plants do not like to have "wet feet"; soggy soil can kill them. If you have poor or clay soil, amend it with compost before you plant. The compost will also add nutrients to the ground to give your young plant a good start. In future years, occasionally sprinkle more compost onto the ground around the plant and work it in by soaking the soil afterward with your garden hose.
Although they are drought-resistant plants once mature, speedwells must be watered regularly while they are young. Even as older plants, they will bloom better when given a moderate amount of water. They typically need 1 inch of water per week.
Temperature and Humidity
Spiked speedwell is tolerant of virtually any climate conditions found within its hardiness range.
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.
Varieties of Spiked Speedwell
- 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.
- V. spicata 'Giles Van Hees': This variety has pink flowers; at just 6 inches tall when in bloom, this is a good choice if you want a short plant.
- 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 plant has deep pink flowers growing from mat-forming foliage that grows 12 inches tall.
Propagating Spiked Speedwell
This plant lends itself to a variety of propagation methods:
- 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 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.
- Seeds can be sown directly in the garden in spring through mid-summer. Germination can takes 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.
Veronica Spicata vs. Other Veronica Species
- 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 stays 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.