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What is a Hebe Plant and How to Care for It?

Here's an in-depth look at the hebe plant where you can learn about its characteristics, growing conditions, uses, and some of its species. We've also included interesting FAQs about these evergreen shrubs.

Incredible pink flower spikes and small evergreen leaves of the hebe plant

Genus Hebe

Get ready for a plant that will give you the hebe jeebies! Just kidding, it won’t. I just had to make that joke since I had the opportunity. Fear not! The genus hebes is the friendliest and largest genus of plants that are native to New Zealand and they are strangely enough part of the plantain family!

This genus contains 90 species, give or take, and the genus name is in honor of the Greek goddess of youth, Hebes. This is a true gem of a garden specimen, though it is often overlooked! Who knows why!

This evergreen shrub is valued because of their versatility from species to species, not only for their interesting flurries of flower spikes, but because of their stunning foliage that comes in a great variety of colors.

So whether you’re looking for a new ornamental shrub, a container plant, or a new type of evergreen border plant, take a minute to learn about the flowering plant: hebe.

What do Hebe Plants Look Like?

Bright purple hebe flower spikes contrasted against dark green foliage

Flowers

One of the more unique aspects of the hebe plant is its flowers. Flowers are arranged in a spiked inflorescence, which is basically a collection of tiny flower parts that make up one large flower that is shaped like a spike!

Each individual hebe flower is slightly tubular in shape and has long stamens which gives the flower spike a fuzzy appearance. Flowers will vary from species to species, but they will be either a shade of white, pink, blue, or purple. Species with a lavender flower color are quite rare.

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Also varying depending on the species, but a hebe flower will usually blossom throughout the late summer and fall. There are some varieties that have winter bloom times as well!

Leaves

A hebe plant can actually be rather difficult to identify when it isn’t in full bloom, so one way to help with identification is with their leaf growth habit! Hebe foliage is another very attractive attribute of the hebe plant.

Hebe leaves usually grow in four perpendicular rows occurring in opposite, decussate pairs. Each leaf is a small ovate shape with a pointed tip, and leaf color can also vary between different species.

The hebe plant has wonderfully colorful evergreen foliage. Evergreen plants have leaves that persist all year long and retain their color. In the case of hebes, foliage color can be anywhere from green to purple, maroon to gray, and sometimes a lovely blue/green color, and some even have variegated foliage.

Large hebe shrub growing in the garden

Growth Habit

The overall growth habit is greatly varying between the species. They can grow to be anything from a dwarf sized shrub of only a few inches, to a small evergreen tree up to 7 metres in height.

Their growth habit will vary depending on their growing region as well. Species that live at high altitudes will have smaller leaves and be shorter, whereas species that leave on the coast will have larger leaves and be far larger.

Reproduction

Hebe plants can reproduce either from sowing seed or from taking stem cuttings. A fertilized flower will produce seed capsules that are filled with tons of tiny seeds that are dispersed through wind and water.

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Stem cuttings can easily be taken from a healthy plant and potted in the spring. This is a faster way to propagate a hebe plant, as growing a specimen straight from seed can take up to 2 years to flower.

What are Some Hebe Species?

Beautiful hebe plant with lavender purple flowers and variegated leaves

Hebe Salicifolia

Known as the koromiko or willow leaf hebe in its native growing regions, h salicifolia is a plant that is native to the South Island of New Zealand as well as certain parts of Chile.

These large, evergreen shrubs can reach heights of around 2 metres and can be identified by their drooping growth habit of light green, spear shaped leaves that gives them a likeness to willow trees. Otherwise, identify them by the white or pale lilac fuzzy flowers.

H salicifolia leaves have been a long time medicinal secret for the Maori people of New Zealand. They have traditionally be chewed up and used to help clean open wounds, or ingested to help with digestion.

*Always do proper research and identification before ever ingesting a new plant.

Hebe Topiaria

Otherwise known as the Topiarist’s hebe, this is a hebe variety that is native to the high alpine regions of New Zealand (you can tell because of its tiny leaves!)

This compact evergreen shrub has a very tidy growth habit with foliage that is densely arranged and a lovely deep grey/green color with yellow edging. They also bear white flowers that have a very fuzzy appearance to them.

Hebe topiaria is a very popular ornamental variety of hebe plant and is commonly used for coastal gardens, cottage gardens, and for garden beds and borders as well.

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Hebe Speciosa

Commonly known as the New Zealand hebe or the showy hebe, this hebe variety is native to the lower coastal regions of New Zealand. This is a larger variety that can grow to be over 2 metres in height.

H speciosa can be identified most readily by its showy white flowers that have a very whiskery look to them (because of their long flower stamens). Otherwise, they are valued for their large, dark green and glossy, evergreen leaves.

Focus on lovely white flower spikes of the hebe plant

Hebe Pinguifolia

Hebe pinguifolia ‘Sutherlandii’ is a hebe cultivar that is highly valued as a ground cover plant. It is a very low growing shrub that creates an incredible mat of dark, evergreen leaves that are a beautiful olive green color.

This variety also bears lovely dense spikes of blue flowers that provide an incredible contrast to the dark leaves.

Hebe Rakaiensis

The shrubby veronica is an evergreen species that grows in a wonderfully natural dome shape and they can easily be trained and trimmed just like a boxwood hedge.

Hebe rakaiensis can be identified by of course its dome shape, but also by its bright green glossy leaves and dense white flower spikes that blossom all through the summer.

Shrubby veronica is also one of the hardiest of the hebe varieties, so they might be the best option if you live in a colder region! They’re also known for being great companion plants.

Hebe Albicans

Hebe albicans is one of those rare winter flowering hebe plants, and they bear beautiful white flowers that are in bloom from December all the way to April.

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They tend to grow at higher altitudes in New Zealand, and this is apparent by their short height – only 24 inches, usually – and their tiny, thick blue leaves as well.

Hebe Buxifolia

Hebe buxifolia, or the boxleaf hebe, is a wonderful hebe variety. It is known for having a growth pattern that resembles that of a boxwood, making it the absolute perfect garden specimen.

You can easily identify the boxleaf hebe by its small, dark green leaves that grow from bright red stems. They bear flowers of lavender purple flowers that fade to white as they mature, creating a stunning bicolor appearance.

What is Hebe a Native Plant?

Stunning image of variegated hebe plant foliage growing in the soil

Members of the hebe genus are originally a native plant to places like French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands and certain places in South America, though they mainly come from New Zealand. Outside of their natural growing range, they can exist in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11.

Hebe plants can be found growing wild in a variety of extreme places. They can tolerate an extreme environment which is the high alpine. In these conditions they will be a much smaller plant with smaller leaves as well.

They also have the ability to tolerate salt wind and extreme coastal conditions. This is where plants will usually have larger leaves and are in general a larger size. This type of plant can also be found growing along forest margins and in lowland scrub.

What are the Growing Conditions of Hebe Plants?

Isn’t it just so satisfying when a plant is not only beautiful, but is also very easy to care for? This is the case with the hebe plant. We can always count on them to stay beautiful all year long and to be completely tolerant of accidental neglect. So fear not gardener, you too can have your very own specimen if you follow a few simple, but also very loose steps.

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Focus image on amazing growth habit of hebe leaf growth

Soil Type

Hebe plants are not too picky about the soil type that they exist in, though they do have some preferences that will commonly result in a very happy and healthy plant.

Your new evergreen friend will prefer to live in soil that is loose, not too packed, and that is very well drained. It is important that soil is well drained because they also need moist soil, and well draining prevents root rot, leaf spot and downy mildew.

Additionally, hebes love to live in fertile soils. To help improve the soil health on your property, simply incorporate some compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season.

Sun Exposure

Hebes are sun loving plants. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They are tolerant or partial shade in the afternoon.

If a hebe plant lives in shade it will become very leggy, as it will grow in the direction of the sun. Planting in sunny spot will encourage the plant to grow in a neat manner.

Water Level

Hebes are also water loving plants. This is apparent by how they are found growing in the wild, which is always on a moist site, and in areas that receive plenty of humidity.

When growing in your garden, they should always have moist soil. Though drought tolerant for a short period of time, they perform far better in moist conditions.

Test out the moisture in your soil by sticking a finger into the earth. If the top couple of inches are dry but its still damp down below, your plant is properly watered.

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Beautiful white flower spikes in full bloom on the hebe plant contrasted against evergreen foliage

Temperature

The temperature tolerance of a hebe plant will vary depending on the species, and subsequently its growing location. For example, high alpine species will be far more tolerant of lower temperatures than those that exist in the high alpine.

They can tolerate high heat and mild winters, but they won’t be too happy about a Canadian winter. They can exist in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11, but if you live outside of that they will need to be kept indoors as a houseplant outside of the summer season.

Pruning

Another thing that makes a hebe plant amazing is its neat growth habit. They don’t require much pruning unless they happen to live in shade, where they will become leggy in search of sunlight.

Otherwise, deadhead the spent hebe flower heads after they are spent. This can sometimes encourage an additional period of flowering!

Fertilizer

Hebe plants respond very well to fertilizer. It is best to only apply it once in a year, either in the late winter or the early spring or late spring, right before the spring growth is about to occur.

Another way to encourage soil fertility is by incorporating compost into the soil at the beginning of the growing season.

Intolerances

As you can see, as long as you live in a place that isn’t too cold, the hebe plant will be completely happy even if you completely ignore it. Just remember that they aren’t tolerant of full shade and don’t care too much for frost.

How is the Hebe Plant Used?

Lovely hebe variety growing in a small container with blooming purple flowers

Ornamental Plant

Both in and outside of their natural growing region, hebe plants are a highly valued ornamental plant. They make for the perfect evergreen shrub and will add foliage interest all year long.

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They can be grown as a small tree with stunning flowers, as a hedge or border plant with wonderful glossy leaves, but also make a great container plant or an indoor plant (as long as you’re growing a smaller specimen). Growing hebe in a rock garden is the perfect marriage of space and flora!

FAQs

Are hebe plants evergreen?

Hebe shrubs are an evergreen species. This means that they have leaves that will persist all year long and remain green, or mauve or golden, depending on the lovely leaf color of the species.

Can I prune hebes?

Another thing that makes a hebe plant amazing is its neat growth habit. They don’t require much pruning unless they happen to live in shade, where they will become leggy in search of sunlight.

Otherwise, deadhead the spent hebe flower heads after they are spent. This can sometimes encourage an additional period of flowering!

What are the damaging agents of hebe plants?

Though there are a couple of issues that a hebe plant could possibly face, they can usually be solved rather easily by ensuring that the plant is not overwatered and lives in soil that is well drained.

Doing these things can help prevent issues like powdery mildew, downy mildew, and leaf spot. Simply plant hebe in loose soil and it will stay happy!

Can I grow hebe in a pot?

It is easy to grow a hebe plant in a pot as long as you choose a species that is on the smaller side. There are species that exist somewhere in between a large shrub and a ground cover plant that would be entirely happy living in a pot!

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Can I prune hebe in autumn?

The best time of year to plant a hebe is in the early spring before it is about to go into ins growing season.

Can hebe plants be propagated?

Hebe plants can reproduce either from sowing seed or from taking stem cuttings. A fertilized flower will produce seed capsules that are filled with tons of tiny seeds that are dispersed through wind and water.

Stem cuttings can easily be taken from a healthy plant and potted in the spring. This is a faster way to propagate a hebe plant, as growing a specimen straight from seed can take up to 2 years to flower.

Can hebes be grown in shade?

Hebes are sun loving plants. This means that they should be receiving a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They are tolerant or partial shade in the afternoon.

If a hebe plant lives in shade it will become very leggy, as it will grow in the direction of the sun. Planting in sunny spot will encourage the plant to grow in a neat manner.

How tall do hebe plants grow?

The overall growth habit is greatly varying between the species. They can grow to be anything from a dwarf sized shrub of only a few inches, to a small evergreen tree up to 7 metres in height.

Their growth habit will vary depending on their growing region as well. Species that live at high altitudes will have smaller leaves and be shorter, whereas species that leave on the coast will have larger leaves and be far larger.

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How long do hebes live?

A hebe plant can live indefinitely long as long as it is able to exist in its ideal growing conditions. Being an evergreen perennial, it will continue to blossom year after year.

Should hebe plants be fertilized?

Hebe plants respond very well to fertilizer. It is best to only apply it once in a year, either in the late winter or the early spring or late spring, right before the spring growth is about to occur.

Another way to encourage soil fertility is by incorporating compost into the soil at the beginning of the growing season.

When do hebe flowers blossom?

Each individual hebe flower is slightly tubular in shape and has long stamens which gives the flower spike a fuzzy appearance. Flowers will vary from species to species, but they will be either a shade of white, pink, blue, or purple. Species with a lavender flower color are quite rare.

Also varying depending on the species, but a hebe flower will usually blossom throughout the late summer and fall. There are some varieties that have winter bloom times as well!

Are hebe plants drought tolerant?

Hebes are also water loving plants. This is apparent by how they are found growing in the wild, which is always on a moist site, and in areas that receive plenty of humidity.

When growing in your garden, they should always have moist soil. Though drought tolerant for a short period of time, they perform far better in moist conditions.

Test out the moisture in your soil by sticking a finger into the earth. If the top couple of inches are dry but its still damp down below, your plant is properly watered.

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Are hebe plants deer resistant?

Hebe plants are only somewhat resistant to deer grazing. Though they aren’t the very first choice on snack for deer, they don’t avoid them entirely, and will certainly graze on them if they are the only plant in the garden.

What is the ideal soil type for a hebe plant?

Hebe plants are not too picky about the soil type that they exist in, though they do have some preferences that will commonly result in a very happy and healthy plant.

Your new evergreen friend will prefer to live in soil that is loose, not too packed, and that is very well drained. It is important that soil is well drained because they also need moist soil, and well draining prevents root rot, leaf spot and downy mildew.

Additionally, hebes love to live in fertile soils. To help improve the soil health on your property, simply incorporate some compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season.