Hebe Plant Care – When And How To Grow Hebe Plants
The Hebe plant is one of the most popular plants in Japan. It grows wild throughout Japan’s mountainous regions, especially in mountains with steep slopes. They are found from Hokkaido (north) to Kyushu (south).
They grow very fast and can reach heights of 30 meters or higher! The species name comes from the Japanese word “hebi” which means “mountain ash”.
In Japan, they are used mainly for making tea and medicinal purposes. They have been cultivated since ancient times. Their leaves contain high amounts of caffeine, but their other benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant activity and antispasmodic effects.
They are also known to reduce blood pressure and improve circulation in the body.
They prefer moist soil conditions; however they will tolerate dryer areas too. They like full sun and shade. Habe plants are not invasive so they do well in many habitats.
There are two ways to propagate hebe plants: seeds or cuttings. Seeds germinate quickly, but take time to develop into new plants. Cuttings require less water than seedlings and can be propagated easily by division.
New plants can be propagated either in late summer or spring. The easiest method is taking cuttings, which not only ensures you have a genuine plant, but also that the new plant will be healthy. Cuttings can be taken from mature stems and should include at least three nodes (leaves and buds) with four being even better.
Let the cut end dry out for one or two days and then plant it in moist (not muddy!) soil.
You can also plant the seeds, which will sprout in about a week. Cover lightly and keep moist. The seedlings are very prone to fungus, so make sure the environment is well ventilated, but not draughty.
Once they reach one to two centimeters high you can transplant them into individual pots.
Once the plants are 3 to 4 inches high you can separate and transplant them into their permanent positions.
Hebe plants like fertile, well-drained soil. They are very versatile and can grow in many types of soil but they do not tolerate water-logged soil at all. They also prefer light shade to full sun.
Hebes do not need much fertilizer, if at all. If you wish to give them a boost, a low dose of slow-release fertilizer would be best. Do not feed hebes during the summer.
Once planted, the biggest challenge is keeping the hebe plant from getting spindly stems and leaves. This is especially true for new plantings and those that have been cut back severely. The best way to deal with this is to either stake the plants or heavily prune them back.
Hebe plants grown in containers can be placed on specially-designed plant stands to give the appearance of a much larger plant. The design of these plant stands allow for good air circulation and access so that they are very easy to maintain. This is a great way to give your hebes the support they need without the need for staking.
During the hottest part of summer, hebes like plenty of water but not too much. During the winter, less water is needed. Fertilize only in the beginning and end of the summer.
These plants are fairly disease resistant and rarely suffer from anything worse than a bit of mildew or a spot of whiteflies. If you begin to notice any of these problems, treat with a suitable pesticide.
Hebes flower best if they are either planted into the ground or in very large pots (at least 16 inches across). They also prefer rich soil and partial shade. If grown in rich soil, they are fairly heavily-blooming.
Most hebe plants will begin to flower at some stage between one and three years after planting.
Many plants are male, female or a combination of both. Some plants will only be male or female no matter where they are planted. The male plants produce pollen and the female plants have a red pistil in the center of the bloom.
These are the only plants that will produce seed and several cuttings can be taken from them. It takes some experimentation to determine the gender of your plants.
After flowering, the plants will produce seed. As they are very fast growers, they can be cut back hard and often. You can harvest the seed from ripe fruit.
Hebe plants are very versatile and come in many different forms. They are great for hedging, topiary, low screen or windbreak plantings. They are also good for pots and containers.
Cuttings are easy to root and strike readily. Cuttings are taken from young stems, 4 to 5 inches long, with at least one node on them.
Soak the cuttings in water for half an hour before taking them. This helps the cutting take root more easily. Cut the stem with a sharp knife, just below a node and dust the lower end of the cutting with a mixture of rooting hormone and sand.
Plant the lower end of the cutting, just below the node, in a container of water with the sand and hormone mixture.
The upper half of the cutting will have roots in a couple of weeks. Once there are fine white roots showing on the stem, it can be potted up in rich soil.
Hebes are not fussy about soil type, but they do need good drainage. A standard potting mix is fine. Once the cutting has developed a few roots, transplant into a larger container.
Place in a partly shady position until the plant is established, then move into full sun.
Hebe plants grown from cuttings tend to stay smaller than those grown from seed. They also dont have the prickly leaves and are generally much easier to handle.
Sources & references used in this article:
Sex‐differential resource allocation patterns in the subdioecious shrub Hebe subalpina by LF Delph – Ecology, 1990 – Wiley Online Library
The effect of peat type and lime on growing medium ph and structure and on growth of Hebe pinguifolia ‘sutherlandii’ by MJ Maher, M Prasad – International Symposium on Growing Media and …, 2001 – actahort.org
Comparison of preplant and fertigated micronutrients on the growth of the Hebe ‘inspiration’ by KA Handreck – Communications in soil science and plant analysis, 1995 – Taylor & Francis
Intraspecific polyploidy in Hebe diosmifolia (Cunn.) Cockayne et Allan (Scrophulariaceae) by BG Murray, JE Braggins… – New Zealand Journal of …, 1989 – Taylor & Francis
Factors affecting intraplant variation in flowering and fruiting in the gynodioecious species Hebe subalpina by LF Delph – Journal of Ecology, 1993 – JSTOR