Renovating Frost Damaged Hebes
After visiting New Zealand, I couldn’t get enough of the genus Hebe. Hebes are evergreen, flowering shrubs native to New Zealand, Rapa in French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands, and South America. My garden overflows with varieties ranging from groundcovers to three-foot tall shrubs.
Hebe’s only Achilles’ heel is when the Pacific Northwest has an extended cold period. Fifty percent of my large leaf Hebe ‘Amy’, Hebe speciosa ‘Variegata’ and Hebe ‘Great Orme’ succumbed to winter’s freezing fingertips. From past pruning experimentation, Hebes can be rescued and spring back - dense and thick with flowers.
Winter Damage Exposed
If winter damage is extensive; try pruning first. Replanting might be necessary if the shrub does not produce new buds and shoots. Hebe winter damage is easy to spot. Leaves curl and turn brown. Side or lateral stems turn black. Characterized by areas splitting and cracking open, stem damage can run the length of main sections. Often Hebes suffer damage to an exposed side. Prune out any localized patches of brown, frost-damaged sections to the base of plant. Cutting the entire plant back hard will promote balanced regrowth and is worth sacrificing blooms for one season.
Hebes have a natural tendency to get long, spindly, often leafless stems over time. To maintain an overall compact shape, prune back one-third of growth after blooming. Hebes have dormant buds encircling the entire stem length. Cut directly above a rib at an angle facing outward. Pruning stimulates the sleeping node to awaken and produce new shoots and leaves. If the middle of the interior stem is dark brown, the stem no longer can take nutrients to the leaves. Slowly keep pruning towards the base of the plant until only lightly green colored material is exposed. Rejuvenation can take two to three growing seasons before the shrub regains it original size and shape. An exercise in patience, rejuvenating Hebes can be successful and a worthwhile endeavor.
In Greek mythology; Hebe is the goddess of youth and spring. The plants known as Hebe, (pronounced "hee-bee") are a genus – a group of plants with common attributes – from the family Scrophulariaceae with over 100 species native to New Zealand. To research more about the Hebe family, visit The New Zealand Hebe Society. The Society was founded in 1985 and promotes the cultivation and care of Hebes: http://www.hebesoc.org/
| Plant Profile
|| Hebe Plant Care Tips
• Rule of thumb: The larger the leaf, the more vulnerable the Hebe is to frost damage.
• Hebes prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soils.
• They are great additions to the landscape or in mixed container plantings. • Hebe’s are not susceptible to slugs or disease. Shrubs are virtually maintenance free.
• They loathe humidity, but love the sun and wind. The best-looking plants can tolerate the harshest wind-swept conditions.
• Hebes perform well in Oregon coastal conditions.
• When flowering, Hebes attract butterflies.
• Hebes reproduce easily from seed, softwood cuttings or layering.
(syn. Hebe ‘Purple Queen’) forms an upright, evergreen shrub with dark purple stems. In time, ‘Amy’ reaches 3 ft high by 2 ft wide. Leaves are deep shiny green, tinged with burgundy. Long spikes of rich, violet flowers grace stems in summer throughout autumn.
BeeDazzled Gardens & Designs Specializes in creating fragrant, organic, low maintenance garden vignettes that add value and pleasure to a home or business exterior and landscape. Our specialty is staged, perennial bed planting designs, seasonal potted containers and garden renovations. Learn more about Dawn at her profile on the Mulch.
Photo credit on all photos: Dawn Hummel