Variegated Hebe

"A bloomy pair of vermeil cheeks
Like Hebe's in her ruddiest hours,
A breath that softer music speaks
Than summer winds a-wooing flowers."

George Darley


The nearly succulent-looking green leaves with creamy-white edges make this broadleaf evergreen shrub a delight even when not in flower. The purple-violet blooms are set off very strikingly against the variegated leaves, & are long-lasting in summer & autumn.

It eventually reaches reaches four by four feet with a tendency to be rather rounded. If never pruned at all, it can reach six feet, but becomes leggy a dead-looking center, so it needs a good sheering every couple years to keep it compact & in prime condition.

This conservatory shrub is tender when grown outdoors on Puget Sound (Zone 8) & not guaranteed always to thrive. One of our local gardening celebreties, Cisco Morris, said that he liked Variegated Hebe so much that he replaced it every spring after it failed to survive the winter.

But the species is native to New Zealand with weather patterns rather similar to our own, & non-variegated cultivars like H. speciosa 'Autumn Glory' are very garden-hardy. If Variegated Hebe is given a location it greatly likes, it can sometimes be a successful showy evergreen, impervious to insects or slugs, so it is worth a try.

It's limited tolerance of cold is its primary achilles heal. To give it its best chance of survival, it needs a sunny location, perfect drainage in not too rich a soil, & protection from winter winds. Or it can be a container-shrub brought to shelter in winter. It is hardier in zones 9 & 10. When grown inland or further south it likes at least a little shade.

An occasional branch will lack the variegation, & such branches should be trimmed out of the shrub to keep it from reverting. It can be propagated from choice cuttings.


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