The shrub veronica or hebe plant (Hebe x andersonii) is a New Zealand shrub from the family of the brown-root family (Scrophulariaceae). Among the approximately 140 species of the genus Hebe, the leaf and flower ornamental plant stands out due to its cultivation. Apart from the attractive appearance, the breeding goals are also the winter hardiness. The plants in need of warmth have become known as tub plants and are often offered in autumn as flowering beauties for pots and balcony boxes. They are usually disposed of in winter, but you can also spend the winter and enjoy them again next year.
Usually one finds smaller hebe plants in the trade. The fast-growing, densely bushy small shrubs grow to 40 to 60 centimeters in height and almost as wide. On the other hand, the initial form of the crossings can become man-high in five to ten years. In width it measures 1.50 metres to 2.50 metres as well.
The elongated oval leaves are one of the main attractions of the evergreen tree. Variegated varieties have a special charm. A classic is the variegated ‘Variegata’ with a cream-white edge around the leaf.
The lip-like flowers appear from mid-summer to autumn and stand together on long ears. They are reminiscent of a perennial speedwell, also known as Veronica, from where the name Shrub Veronica comes. Depending on the variety, the colours cover a spectrum from red to violet blue and white.
Hebe andersonii loves it bright, but not full sunny. She needs warmth, but doesn’t like it too hot. Above all, the newer colorful-leaved varieties prefer cooler places in the semi-shade. If, on the other hand, they are too shady, they do not optimally develop the leaf pattern.
The planting season starts in May, after wintering or when the flowering pot plants are offered. Protect specimens planted out in the open from direct sunlight.
hebe plant loves a permeable soil. Mix normal potting soil with a third of sand and clay granulate in equal parts. If you plant out the New Zealander during the season, you can put the same mixture in the planting hole.
Keep Hebe andersonii moderately moist and avoid waterlogging. In hot summers you have to take care in tubs and balcony boxes that the soil never dries out completely. Once the root balls are dry, it is difficult for the tub plants to recover from the drought stress.
You can tell whether a shrub veronica needs fertilizer by the fact that it is stagnating as it grows. Potted plants usually have sufficient fertilizer in their growing medium for the first few weeks. After that, liquid fertilizer with as little lime as possible is added to the irrigation water every two weeks. From August you should stop fertilizing so that the plants do not go too mastig into the winter.
Top over wintered shrub veronica in March. The diameter of the container should be about twice that of the root ball of the plant.
In a hot summer you can pour Hebe andersonii quietly over the leaves from time to time. This increases the humidity. If one wants to increase the joy of flowering, one removes withered flowers. To keep the plants compact, you can prune the bushes a little in late spring. Shrub veronica is often bought as a flowering plant in autumn for one season. Then you land on the compost. With a little care you can cultivate the perennial plants for the next year.
hebe plant is wintered in a bright, cool place at five to ten degrees Celsius. A cold house is ideal. Outside, most varieties of shrub veronica taper off at minus five degrees Celsius. Depending on the weather, you can clear out the wintering plants from March onwards in order to acclimatise them slowly.
The Hebe andersonii varieties are popular potted plants and are ideal for seasonal arrangements on balconies and terraces. Due to their late flowering time they are a highlight for the second half of the year. You can also plant the colourful foliage and flowering plants as gap fillers in the flower bed. The colour play of the new “Magicolor” series opens up new design possibilities in stone and heather gardens or even in Asian-inspired paradises. Particularly in urban gardens, shrub veronica with their exotic aura create interesting aspects.
The assortment is huge. Among the many varieties, however, a more recent breeding series by the Hebe specialist Han van Niekerk stands out. Under the brand name “Magicolor Collection” you can find for example such beacons as ‘Frozen Flame’. Like all varieties in the series, the 60 to 70 centimeter high small shrub changes its leaf and flower colour depending on the incidence of light and outside temperature. Thus the striped leaves turn intensely red towards winter. The flowering period of the fresh blue flowers is from May to June clearly ahead of other varieties.
Hebe andersonii can easily be propagated over head cuttings. In late summer or autumn, cut semi-hard shoot tips and place them in the growing soil. The cuttings root quickly and can then be repotted. If you cut off the shoot tips regularly, the plant will branch out and grow beautifully bushy.
Diseases and pests
Aphids and spider mites can occur in poor site conditions, especially in winter quarters. Powdery mildew is not uncommon in warm and humid summers. The spray of water often helps against the pests. Where appropriate, biological pesticides shall be used.