Hebes are popular evergreen shrubs, mostly native to New Zealand although some are native to Australia and South America. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are suitable for growing in a range of sites and planting schemes. Hebes are excellent in shrub borders, and used as ground cover or low-growing hedging, and are relatively low-maintenance. Hebes flower over a long period – all year round in mild regions – with flower colours including pink, blue and white. They can be an important late source of nectar and pollen for bumblebees. Leaf colour varies too, from dark green to pink and variegated. Less hardy hebes can be grown in cool glass or alpine houses.
How to grow hebe plants
Most hebes thrive in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade, ideally in a sheltered spot protected from winds. They don’t need rich soils and will tolerate drought. Deadhead spent blooms to improve the look of your hebe and keep it flowering for longer. Prune back in late summer to encourage strong new growth and a good overall shape.
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Find out more about growing and caring for hebes below.
Where to grow hebes
Hebes are native to scrubland and, as such, are tough plants, however they do need protection from cold winter winds. Some hebes are hardier than others – as a general rule, the larger leaved varieties are more tender than the smaller leaved varieties. They’re tolerant of salt and can therefore be grown in coastal situations.
Choose a sheltered spot for your hebe, such as in front of a south- or west-facing wall. Hebes are tolerant of poor soils so will grow virtually anywhere. Larger cultivars can be grown at the back of a border while smaller varieties can be grown towards the front, or in pots.
Hebes work well with a range of other plants, including catmint and Japanese anemones (pictured), along with cranesbill geraniums, penstemons and other herbacesous perennials.
How to plant hebes
Plant your hebe in late spring so it can establish during the summer months. Dig a planting hole slightly wider than the pot it’s growing in. As hebes do best in poor soil, there’s no need to add organic matter, so simply place the rootball in the hole, ensuring it’s at the same depth it was growing in the pot. Replace soil around the rootball and firm around the plant gently. Water well. Repeat the process for planting in pots.
Hebes require very little care. Avoid feeding them as this can make them grow too quickly and develop floppy leaves. Cut back back dead flowers and up to a third of foliage in late summer, after flowering, to encourage strong new growth and a good bushy shape. Annual pruning will extend the life of your hebe, too. Hard pruning (pictured) can rejuvenate an old hebe plant and give it an extra lease of life.
How to propagate hebes
Hebes can be short-lived, so take cuttings in summer to replace dead plants. Simply remove shoots of non-flowering stems, remove leaves from the lower portion of the stem and push into a pot of moist, gritty, peat-free compost. Cover with a clear plastic bag or place in a propagator with a lid, to maintain moisture. Remove the cover when the cuttings have started to show signs of growth. Pot up your cuttings the following spring.
Growing hebes; problem-solving
Hebes are generally trouble free, but some of the less hardy varieties can suffer in exposed situations. Take care when choosing your hebe to make sure you can provide it with the conditions it needs – there’s no point buying a tender hebe if you intend to grow it in an exposed spot.
Best hebes to grow
Browse our pick of the best hebes to grow:
A half-hardy hebe, Hebe ‘Celebration’ forms a tight mound of variegated foliage, from which clusters of purple-pink flowers appear in late spring.
Hebe ‘Frozen Flame’
Hebe ‘Frozen Flame’ has greyish green leaves with a white edge, that turn a pinkish-purple in winter. In summer, blue flowers are borne in bright clusters.
Hebe ‘Green Globe’
Hebe ‘Green Globe’ is a compact shrub with a round habit and small closely packed branches.